Dental assistant and hygienist: Friends or foes?

Things go much smoother when teams work together

Jan 22nd, 2014
Working Side By Side

The “body” of the dental office needs all members working together to be healthy. Each team member has his or her specific job so quality care is provided to patients. However, there can be an unhealthy disconnect if we don’t realize we need each other to function as a whole body.

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The assistants and hygienist represent the “back” staff. As a former assistant and now a hygienist, I’ve seen both sides. Assistants have the idea that hygienists’ are prima donnas. Unfortunately, this is a stereotype many hygienists have brought upon themselves. I actually heard a hygienist say, “I make too much money to help in the lab.”

The daily running of the office and care of patients is everyone’s job, together. As a hygienist, I need the assistants’ help with cleaning my operatory, charting, seating patients, and sterilizing instruments. When the doctor is checking a hygiene patient and wants to smooth a rough area or do a small filling while the patient is in my chair, I absolutely need the assistants to get what is needed.

If the doctor has a new patient that needs information about periodontal disease and has a need for scaling and root planing, the assistant calls a hygienist for patient education. The doctor may be running behind schedule and the assistants going crazy. If the hygienist is available she should help seat patients, clean rooms, take X-rays, and sterilize instruments.

Are you a friend …
•I am not better than anyone else.
• I will help wherever and whenever needed.
• I will contribute to daily clinical practices.

Or foe?...

• I am better than you because I have a degree.
• I went to school so I wouldn’t have to do “that” stuff anymore.
• I’m the assistant, only I know what the doctor wants.

Your goal should be to provide the best care for your patients, together!

You can reach Mary Beth Halter, RDH, BSDH, Team Lead Hygienist at Richard Cottrell and Associates Dentistry, at

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