Sad Woman

Thursday Troubleshooter: How to solve bickering between dental assistants and hygienists

Sept. 5, 2019
This dental hygienist is tired of jealous coworkers, derogatory comments, and staff bickering. What can she do to improve the situation?

Problems! Who doesn't have them? If you have a problem or concern in your dental office, chances are pretty good someone else in the profession has the same problem. Share your concerns with Team Troubleshooter. The experts will examine your issues and provide guidance. Send your questions to [email protected].

QUESTION: How do you handle jealousy among coworkers? Often, dental assistants are jealous of dental hygienists. Some assistants have had no formal education and have been trained on the job. They have no idea what all the hygienist has been through to get his or her education, license, etc. Assistants sometimes say, “That looks so easy,” or other derogatory comments. We can explain to them what all that we’ve done. However, it seems more frequent with younger generations there there’s a lack of emotional maturity. It’s often just selfishness. Many dentists do not deal well with staff issues; they’re educated in dentistry, not staff management. Sometimes the office manager isn’t qualified for the position because it’s a friend of the dentist. I’ve worked in a couple practices where the office manager is the staff drama queen. It doesn’t help to seek help from the OM when that person can’t handle their own job. Can you share any ideas?

“All you do is clean teeth” or “You don’t work that hard” are comments that I have also heard throughout my years as a hygienist. While some may be jealous, others may not fully understand what you have done to earn that hygiene license hanging on the wall. Everyone has a role in the dental practice, and it’s true most dentists may not have the skills to deal with office drama and often allow it to fester among staff.

 In many offices there are both hygienists and assistants who have their own agendas and will not lift a finger to help each other, which in my opinion is the first step toward disaster. You need to be the bigger person and help in sterilization when you have a minute or help ensure at the end of the day that tasks are completed before you leave. Lead by example and sometimes the younger generation will appreciate the help and be more willing to reciprocate. At times swallowing your pride and going the extra step will spark the healing process and build a bridge toward mutual respect.

 But most importantly, you don’t need to explain to the assistant what you do and why. The boss signs your check and he or she is the one who you ultimately need to keep happy. Use the degree and education that you worked so hard for to make a difference in the world. If it is an office that is full of drama, even if you make every effort to help the situation, it might be time to move on and look for a new dental home where your skills and knowledge will be valued. Good luck!


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Don't be shy! If YOU have a tough issue in your dental office that you would like addressed, send it to [email protected], and it will be sent to the experts to answer. Remember, you'll be helping others who share the same issue. Responses will come from various dental consultants, as well as other experts in the areas of human resources, coding, front office management, and more. These folks will assist dental professionals with their various issues on DentistryIQ because they're very familiar with the tough challenges day-to-day practice can bring. All inquiries will be answered anonymously most Thursdays here on DIQ.