The right to ask for a raise: A hygienist's self-review can initiate a pay review

Carly Scala, RDH, recommends that a dental hygienist should conduct a self-review before requesting a pay raise.

Nov 17th, 2017
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By Carly Scala, RDH

It’s very easy to say, “I deserve a raise,” because, honestly, you probably do. Putting up with the situations that hygienists deal with day in and day out (while totally loving helping people overcome said situations) is exhausting. Sticking with one employer through the good days and bad days is tough.

Let’s face it, sometimes we’d rather wave the white flag and flee. Most of the time, you put your heart and soul into helping patients, and you likely deserve a raise. Or, do you? Now’s the time to figure out how to address that very topic.

We all know we deserve more pay due to the astounding things we put up with on a daily basis. The important thing to note, though, is that at the end of the day it is still a business. A business should reward stellar employees with merit increases and recognition. How do I warrant getting a raise other than being the totally awesome hygienist I am? How do I prove it to the powers above? Let’s break it down.

Numbers. I’m sorry. Don’t hate me! Production is significant. You are a powerhouse in a dental practice that generates income. Somewhere, sometime, someone said a hygienist should be getting paid 33% of his or her hygiene production. Where are you on this spectrum? Are you trying to grow production by implementing a strict perio program, or are you stagnant? Are you offering fresh ideas to make patients find joy in hygiene so they schedule production? Are you offering the adjuncts you use on yourself to patients? I know I couldn’t clean these braces I have without some type of electric toothbrush! You are not a salesman. But as a patient I would rather get something straight from the provider recommending it. Wouldn’t you?

Patient happiness. A great opportunity in letting your boss know how significant you are and how important it is to keep you around is to have patients submit their reviews about you. I created “Smile Cards” to give to patients to encourage them to leave a review. There’s nothing better for a business than a bunch of happy customers.

This welcomes potential patients in the door, or at the very least thinking about you. Incorporate your positive reviews into your potential wage growth. Many times, these positive reviews say, “Ashley is the reason I keep coming back to ABC Dental!” This lets your boss know you are worth investing in. There are so many different social media avenues to choose from, such as Yelp, Google, or even Facebook. Chances are, these patients are already on at least one of these apps daily. Patients love to know that you value their feedback.

Personal investment. Now, I don’t suggest you give your life to your employer. What I do suggest is show consideration that, although it is not your business, you still want to see it succeed. Do you run out the door the second your last patient leaves, or do you make sure no one else needs anything before you make your exit? Do you show up on time/early and rarely call off, or are you not someone they can depend on? You don’t need to pick up shifts for others to deserve a raise, but things like that don’t go unnoticed. Having a career should mean there is an effort on your part to make it a better place to be every day. It is not just the CEO’s job to have a successful company. We should all be invested.

Team building works well with personal investment. At least once a day, you should ask, “is there anything I can do for you?” I am well aware that everyone in your office probably doesn’t do that. There’s even a chance you will be the only one who asks. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.

Helping others is what we do for a living. Everyone, regardless of their position, could use a hand sometimes. How amazing is it when your doctor goes ahead and cleans your op because they know you’re running behind? Maybe that’s a pipedream for some, but when a coworker helps me I feel so thankful and immense relief. Be the change you wish to see in your practice, seriously! You usually see your team more than your own families. You want to like each other!

Meeting with employer

Request a meeting with your employer regarding job performance and wage increases. Come to your review equipped with all the information explained above. You must have a legitimate reason to ask for a raise. If your employer says no, there’s always room for improvement. Ask your employer, “What would I need to do in addition to this amazing list of things I already do?”

If his or her answer is vague or “I don’t know,” then you probably do deserve that raise. You should fight for it! Be prepared for a no, and, if by the end of the meeting it remains that way, that’s fine. Perhaps that means looking for a new job, or requesting that another review be scheduled in three months to evaluate your progress after goals have been set.

The moral of the story here is to do your own research of what you are bringing to the table. If you can’t answer these questions and read back the answers saying, “Wow, I’m impressive!” then perhaps there are some things you need to amend before discussing a review. Reach out to fellow hygienists for any other questions regarding reviews or raises.

I know it can be so difficult having these types of conversations with your employers. You deserve to be having them. You are a hard-working and life-changing person. Now shout it from the rooftops!

Carly Scala, RDH, is a dental educator and sales representative who specializes in dental hygiene clinical supplies and CE courses. In addition,, Carly practices clinically in Parkersburg, W.V. and works as an editor/writer in hygiene publications remotely. Carly has been an ADHA member since graduating in 2014 and spends her free time dreaming of teeth and playing with her two chubby pugs. She can be contacted at scalardh@gmail.com.

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