Director's Message: When to hire a hygienist

Surprisingly, though, I’ve been hearing from hygienists who are searching for a job, and they are asking for guidance when seeking employment with an established dentist who has yet to work with a hygienist.

Jan 6th, 2014

Some dental practices do not employ dental hygienists.

This is understandable for dentists who are new to private practice and who have not yet built the patient base to warrant a hygienist. Surprisingly, though, I’ve been hearing from hygienists who are searching for a job, and they are asking for guidance when seeking employment with an established dentist who has yet to work with a hygienist. Meaning, they will be the first hygienist employed in the practice.

Spoiler Alert:In an upcoming issue, I’ll explore a simple way to calculate the number of hygiene days necessary to satisfy the continuing care needs of the active patient base in an established practice. This statistical formula is valuable for dental hygienists who need to understand the business side of increasing their number of clinical days. For this issue, my aim is to provide a perspective for hygienists seeking employment in an office that has yet to employ a dental hygienist.

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Let’s look at the dentist who is just beginning a private practice. The formula for determining the number of required hygiene days is straightforward: When a new dentist has seven or eight continuing care patients per week in the schedule, it is time to bring in a hygienist one day a week.

Adding a hygienist to the payroll can seem like a hefty financial commitment to a dentist who has not been working with one. It is nothing more than common “cents” when analyzed financially.

Many things influence a dental practice's profitability:

  • Dentist's hourly production
  • Hygienist's hourly production
  • How the appointment book is scheduled
  • Effectiveness in making financial arrangements
  • Expenses and other “overhead.”

While each issue (and others) plays a key role in assuring a profitable practice, the dentist's hourly production (or ability to successfully perform comprehensive restorative dentistry) is perhaps the most important. A general dentist's hourly production will vary based upon:

  • Number of patients
  • The total team's ability to sell necessary, comprehensive restorative dentistry
  • Dentist’s length of time in private practice
  • Clinical pace, clinical skill level, confidence level
  • Treatment room organization and efficiency
  • Ability to make and manage effective financial arrangements
  • Geographic location
  • Fee schedule

If a dentist is new to dentistry, either as an associate or establishing a private practice of his/her own, it is possible that the situation may require him/her to perform hygiene services for a period of time. So when considering interviewing or accepting a position, take a look at the schedule and let it be your guide. When restorative appointments are solidly booked two to three weeks in advance, and the doctor has been seeing seven, eight or more continuing care patients per week, it is time to bring in a hygienist at least one day per week.

(And I expect that hygienist to be a RDH eVillage subscriber!)

Kristine A. Hodsdon RDH, MSEC
Director, RDH eVillage

Kristine’s Disclosures: Kristine is a consultant and trainer with Pride Institute and owner of Dental Influencers, LLC.

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