The transition to a new dental office can be challenging, especially for first-time hygienists. Between managing your schedule, getting the lay of the land, building team relationships, and using your skills on actual patients, there’s so much to learn.
But the adjustment doesn’t have to be difficult. With a few tips and tricks, you can glide seamlessly into your new position without all the anxiety a new job often brings.
Establish relationships on your first day
At a dental office, we all work together as a team to provide the best possible patient experience. It’s important to start fostering those relationships from the beginning so both you and your patients feel comfortable.
When I started my career at Aspen Dental, I engaged with my team members from day one. I introduced myself to the doctor and asked vital questions, such as “What is your standard of care?” and “How do you like to treatment plan?” By making sure I was on the same page as the doctor from the beginning, I avoided mistakes later and laid a foundation of trust and mutual respect.
This tactic doesn’t apply just to doctors. Don’t be shy about talking with other hygienists, office managers, dental assistants, and front office staff as soon as you start at a new office. Just like you want to be comfortable with your new colleagues, you need to make them feel comfortable with you. Offices with a team mentality run more smoothly and help everyone succeed.
More insights from Aspen Dental team members
When in doubt, communicate
You’re not expected to be an expert in everything the minute you step into a new office, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. There are no stupid questions; it’s much better, especially early on, to be safe rather than sorry. For example, be sure you ask about your benefits: What do bonuses typically look like? Are there any opportunities for continuing education or other training courses? How much paid time off will you receive? What kind of health benefits does the office offer?
Besides getting answers, being able to communicate can also help you build your team relationships and even manage your schedule. Whether you need longer appointment times, want a patient to come in later, get a patient confirmed, or reschedule a missed appointment, communicating with the office manager and front office staff can work wonders. When you open those lines of communication, you help establish the “I help you, you help me” proactive mindset that keeps an office running with ease.
There’s always room to learn
Keep in mind that you’re constantly learning. Whether it’s a new skill or procedure, there’s always room to grow. Learning doesn’t just come from doctors, either; you can learn from other hygienists, dental assistants, front office staff, and office managers. Everybody has something they can teach you if you’re willing to learn.
For example, learning how to speak to patients conversationally was something I picked up on the job, not in school. I made sure to observe other hygienists and doctors as they went about new-patient exams, and I asked questions when I wanted more clarity.
Speaking to patients requires a delicate balance; you don’t want to scare them, but you do want to educate and empower them to take care of their oral health. By combining the approaches of different hygienists and doctors, I found a straightforward, conversational style that works for me and my patients. Even as a hygienist with several years of experience, I still learn new things every day that help me grow and develop in my career.
Trust your gut
One of the most valuable pieces of advice I can offer is to trust your gut. Whether new or seasoned hygienist, don’t ignore your intuition. If something feels or looks off, whether that’s how patients are treated or how the office is managed, listen to your instincts. If you’re feeling burned out or communication just isn’t working, know there are many other options available. It might take some time to find your dental home, but if you trust yourself, you’ll make the right decision so that you can be the best provider for your patients.
Arshena Allie, CRDH, is a hygienist at the Aspen Dental practice in Pompano Beach, Florida. She’s been intrigued by dental hygiene ever since she got braces in the eighth grade. Since receiving her RDH degree in 2021, she has worked to cultivate positive relationships with everybody in her office so she can provide high-quality patient care.