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Dear team: An open letter from your hygienist

Dear team: An open letter from your hygienist
Janelle Blondin

To my dentist, my office manager, and my scheduling coordinator…I love you guys but, we’ve got to have a “come to Jesus” about some things before I lose my damn mind…Puhleeze for the love of all things sterile:


1. Stop encouraging tardiness

If my patient shows up halfway through their appointment, or calls when they’re already 10 minutes late saying they’ll be here in 10 more minutes, don’t tell them that’s okay.  It’s not.  If I get half the time does that mean I only need to clean half their mouth?  Should I just do the right side?  Or maybe just anteriors?  Does my next patient know you just volunteered them to sit in the waiting area for an extra 20+ minutes?

2. Stop saying it’s just a cleaning

It belittles my education, my abilities, and beyond that it belittles the care I’m providing to the patient.  Even if it’s to reassure that, “it’s just a cleaning today, no drill to fear”, it still gives the impression the treatment I provide is somehow less important.

3. Stop disrupting my schedule

If you want to have a 15 minute conversation about your latest Euro trip complete with a scrapbook of selfies at the end of my patient’s exam, please don’t have it with them in my chair.  I have been stressing all day about maintaining my schedule and I can’t seat my next patient until I’ve had time to clean and turn this room around.  I’m standing here trying to be polite, but I feel like this should be obvious.

4. Stop micro-managing my hours

Don’t expect me to clock out if a patient cancels last minute.  I can assure you I have plenty of charts to get caught up on, instruments to sharpen, sterilizing to do and coworkers to assist.  I understand you are focused on the bottom line, but know that I am aware of that as well.

I’m not trying to be a prima donna I’m just trying to do my job, and do it well.

We can do this.


Your Hygienist

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  • Cyndi Bo Bendy

    Amen sister!

  • Aly Sergie

    You would probably have more impact if you brought up challenges and offered solutions to them instead of listing your gripes.

    • Liz Walker

      Well that almost never works at an office with any type of power play…
      making challenges and offering solutions??? really… your staff has to be a team for that to work and most have 1 -2 players that struggle with control and cause those avenues to be pushed aside… but sounds good in theory with a real team.. which is truly rare.

  • Lynne Dean

    Absolutely agree!! Sadly, one would think this would all be obvious. “Just a cleaning”??? What a horrible description of the extremely difficult laundry list of important services we provide. List all we do in an appointment, patients have no idea. Perhaps neither do some coworkers.
    Stay strong hygienists, we are amazing!!

  • elicia

    heck yeah!!! You go girl!! This isn’t a gripe!! It’s the truth! I’m sure this wasn’t meant to be an official declaration either! Just some fun and honesty!!

  • newlifelady

    I am in public health and there is never such a thing as just a cleaning. There is also a lot of education ” thrown” in there. I was told by a very seasoned elderly dentist that we are so skilled, to those who dont know our job, we make it ” look” easy. Therefore in their mind, it isnt valued. Gently exducate you co-workers and employ the help of your beloved dentist(employer)!

  • Wes Haddix

    Motivated and conscientious Hygienists are a blessing. When they are underutilized and not treated as an equal to the doctor..oh snap, yes, I said it…its a tragedy and aloss to the doctor, the practice, and worse, the patient. My hygienist (I only had one by choice) was given 90 minute appointments for new patirnts. An hour for recalls. And her own,latitude to schedule longer/shorter/extra appointments for patients as she felt necessary. Her own judgment within her scope of Expanded Duties. A big part of these longer appointments was so I could spend enouh time with the patient examining or talking or whatever I felt was called for without completely wrecking her schedule. I knew she spent more time with the patient in exams than I did, and relied on her expertise to diagnose problems I may have missed. I was lucky; I had a small office where the staff got along and I didn’t feel the need to micromanage them. The receptionist would ask the hygienist if she could still see a tardy patient, and the reason for the tardiness was taken into consideration. A good hygienist can do more for a practice than the best doctor, and recognizing the skills of a hygienist and granting her/him the same latitude you give yourself as a docor will return more to the practice than any “Hygiene-as-a-Profit-Center approache ever will. I was only a small part of whatever sucess my practice achieved; my staff was the biggest part, and LeeAnn was the best,period. I miss it so much.

    • Henrietta Luebbert Woehr

      This sounds perfect. I wish more offices kept this mentality. Truthfully, Hygienists can help the Dentists so much by “diagnosing” decay and infection before the Dentists completes the exam. We are in there a lot longer than they have the chance/time to be.

  • Shirley Gutkowski

    Great start to how to treat a dental hygienist in a practice. Sure, we make it look easy, and
    compared to an amputation appointment with the dentist I think Just a Cleaning is not all bad. Using diminutive language is the real problem, say what you mean and mean what you say. You’d never hear a physician say, we’ll just fix this gangenous toe with a little plastic toe. No, they say the toe will need to be amputated and replaced with a prosthetic toe. Man up!

  • MJ

    What a wonderful person to acknowledge another person’s skills in such a positive light. I believe that people are far more empowered to use their knowledge and skills when given positive feedback than to be micromanaged to the point of extinction.

  • Laura Reilly

    I work in corporate dental. The suggested time for a prophy is 40 minutes. That includes possible fmx full perio charting with gingival margins going over Cambra and perio evaluation forms. Sealants and or impressions for whitening trays .Doing the prophy. Chat time to build a relationship with patients. Discussing dental treatment scheduling dental treatment recare treatment and turning the room over. New patients get an hour.

  • Smiles for Miles

    Dear Dental Hygienst,
    We don’t penalize patients for being late. Make it work. It doesn’t happen that often.
    My hygienists would never expect to be paid for time they weren’t seeing patients. If you are aware of the bottom line, how can I pay you when you had no patient? Do you know how business works?
    Your charts and instruments should be done after each patient. If you can’t get that done I suggest you learn to be more efficient.
    You sound like a flaming Prima Donna and not a team player. I am also trying to do my job and do it well by ensuring I can meet payroll. Grow up!
    Your Office Manager

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  • caryganz

    The word ‘cleaning’ has done more harm than any bacteria stuck in a periodontal pocket. Glad to hear others feel the same way. I just printed your message and will be handing it to my staff in the morning.