Sept. 20, 2010
RDH eVillage Director Kristine Hodsdon provides a list of five things you wished your dentist knew.

The dentist-hygienist relationship is tumultuous. I will even expand that sentiment to include office manager-hygienist relations.

There’s no need to take my word for it. The following link from recent RDH eVillage survey and the sagas submitted by hygienists confirm the reality.

Bad blood? Survey results indicate a struggle for doctors and hygienists to be respectful toward each other

Five things you wished your dentist knew ...

For many dentists and practice managers/supervisors, in their leadership roles, it is an developing skill to ask appropriate questions and listen effectively, as well as to set the conditions for true team growth within a private practice. If you find yourself in leadership position, the following could serve as guidance, and, if you are an employee/dental hygienist, the same advice prevails, just practice within your context.

1. Make team members see that you understand their perspective. Too often, dentists/hygienists have one perspective — their own. They may act as if they’re only talking in the best interested of the practice, but players know better. Everyone has an agenda.

2. Show team members that change is important for the practice. Dentists face resistance when they give advice that hygienists don’t see as relevant to improving patient care, and hygienists face resistance when their ideas don’t seem relevant to increasing the financial bottom line.

3. Show team members how making changes can make a difference for their own future. If a dentist/ practice manager threatens or tosses out an ultimatum, the staff only pretends to change. If a dentist is requesting changes that are good for the practice, the staff needs to see the changes as being good for them as well. Likewise, when hygienists present changes and/or new ideas at a team meeting, they need to position it as being beneficial for the practice — not just the hygiene department. When team members can attach personal meaning to the change vs. forcing the change, they are more willing to try to change.

4. Be specific. Learn not to speak in generalities such as “you always.” Dentists/hygienists should stick to specifics. Instead of saying, “You never respond to my requests for a exam,” say “It took about 15 minutes to get you to respond to my exam request with my 9 and 2:30 patient.” When you can be specific, people are much more likely to listen and be open.

5. Avoid comparisons. Dentists/hygienists should use ‘I” when giving feedback, make it clear they’re speaking for themselves, rather than speaking some universal truth. “I think we should review the process for hygiene exams.”

When many of us began our dental hygiene careers, we were passionate, highly energized professionals who wanted to continue to develop our skills. Yet, we feel “ruined” if employers and management mainly act as fault-finders. We will shut down and dismiss it all. If we can learn about each other’s perspectives, it’s a step closer for a collaborative positive change within an office.

Kristine A. Hodsdon RDH, BS
Director, eVillage