Four steps to move from effectiveness to greatness in dental hygiene

June 24, 2015
Many hygienists are highly effective at what we do. Once you have achieved effectiveness, what comes next? How does one achieve greatness in dentistry?

Many hygienists are highly effective at what we do. Once you have achieved effectiveness, what comes next? How does one achieve greatness in dentistry?

There is currently a lot of concern in our profession about job security. In many areas of the country, the job market for dental hygienists is extremely saturated.


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Hygienists who are more than effective, and who are truly performing at a level of greatness don’t have to worry about job security. They have already created it for themselves.

Stephen Covey’s book, “The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness,” talks about four qualities of high achievers. When studying dental hygienists at the top of our profession, we can see they often share these qualities.


The first quality of a high achiever is vision. World-class dental professionals have a very clear vision of where they want to be. They know exactly what type of practice they want to work in, they know how to partner with the doctor, team, and their patients, and they are able to do this consistently.

Part of having a clear vision is setting goals. What goals that you set for this year? Are they specific and measurable? What effort have you made to improve yourself both clinically and professionally to be able to achieve this vision?

What is your vision for your role in the dental practice? The role of the modern dental hygienist has changed. There are many changes within our profession that can be somewhat alarming. We see a move towards more dental insurance and PPO influence. We see a rise of corporate dental practices. We are seeing a higher level of expectations on us as producers within our practices.

Some hygienists grumble about this, and wish for the good old days where they could just clean teeth and not worry about the rest. Those who are adapting to the changes in our profession have a clear vision and embrace their new roles realizing incredible success.


The next quality necessary for becoming a high achiever is passion. When we become discouraged or burned out, we lose our passion. When we feel challenged, we realize a new level of energy and enthusiasm. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Passion makes all things alive and significant.”

Dwelling on the negative, or wishing things haven’t changed diminishes our passion for what we do. When we embrace new challenges, we are able to renew our passion for dental hygiene. So many new aspects of dentistry today are exciting.

We have incredible technology that enables us to serve our patients better than ever before. We have amazing products to use that enhance our clinical skills. It is an exciting time to be a dental hygienist! High achievers have an intense passion for serving their patients, and it is contagious.


The next quality for achieving greatness is discipline. Stephen Covey taught that our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. This is such an incredible truth! Having the discipline to provide world-class hygiene isn’t always easy; it can be exhausting!

Deciding to embrace our new roles, and the training necessary to provide a higher level of care can also be rewarding.


The fourth quality for high-achievers is conscience. This is an important issue right now in our profession. Sadly, many dentists feel that in order to remain competitive given recent changes they must shorten hygiene visits, and cram more patients through per day. This affects the conscience of many hygienists who don’t feel comfortable sacrificing the quality of care that they provide.

It probably affects the conscience of dentists too. No one wants patient care to suffer, but some may feel there is no other alternative. The good news is that we have seen hygienists who maximize their potential still be incredibly productive without having to sacrifice patient care. When we are able to remain profitable while serving reduced fee patients, the need for shortening appointment times and other adaptive strategies become unnecessary.

A hygienist can achieve greatness in the four qualities we have discussed on a daily basis. Your practices will love having you as a part of their team. It doesn’t matter what happens in the marketplace around you, you can be irreplaceable.

One final gem from Mr. Covey: ”Your economic security does not lie in your job; it lies in your own power to produce—to think, to learn, to create, to adapt.”

Wendy Briggs is a registered dental hygienist with more than 25 years experience in dentistry. If you would like help on your journey from “effectiveness to greatness,” check out a free audio training we provide that can help you immediately see a higher level of patient care and productivity in hygiene.