Is There Tension Between Your Hygienists and Assistants?

Last Updated on September 24, 2023 by Anna Baumann

Is there tension between your Hygienists and Assistants? It’s not the usual thing where people just don’t get along. There’s something special between these two positions that causes friction. If you haven’t figured out what is I’ll tell you; it’s envy.

Why are they envious of each other?

Assistants envy Hygienists because of their salary and status. Hygienists envy Assistants because their job offers variety and flexibility.

These are just two examples. The reasons for it change depending on the office, the age and experience of the people involved, and the phase of the moon. But envy is at the heart of it.

It’s a shame because it turns perfectly nice women into mean girls. It starts out small. Little passive aggressive digs to prove their point. It’s petty and sad but it happens every day. Depending on who you are reading this, you’ve either watched it or done it so you know what I’m talking about.

Even if we disagree on the reason for the tension, we should agree that patients notice negative energy flowing through the office. Since they have enough anxiety just walking through the door, the last thing we want to do is ignore it.

Tips for Eliminating Envy Between Assistants and Hygienists

Do not require your Assistants to assist your Hygienists. 

Offices often assign Assistants to assist Hygienists, in addition to their regular assisting duties. This seems reasonable, except when Hygienists aren’t required to reciprocate. This one-way rule makes Assistants feel taken for granted. It’s also not the best way to create a team atmosphere where everyone is working together and helping each other.

Either schedule enough time for your Hygienists to work independently, or hire a Hygiene Assistant. Use any title that you like. Call them a Floater, and they can help out at the front desk too. The position is ideal for Moms with kids in school for daytime hours, or high school/college students for evenings and summers. It’s a great solution, and a nice way to introduce people to the field.

Give your Hygienists responsibilities outside of patient care.

Block a few hours each week for them to work on Recare (Continuing Care). Whatever system you’re using, there’s still some amount of phone or paperwork involved. Even if they’re just making calls and leaving messages, you’ll be surprised by how many more call-backs you’ll get. Patients love hearing directly from their Hygienist!

Put them in charge of your social media marketing, or have them organize staff meetings. They’ll appreciate having a diversion from their busy patient schedule. Plus, being directly involved in other areas of the office makes them feel more connected to the rest of the team.

Cultivate Gratitude.

They can’t envy and appreciate each other at the same time.

  • Say thank you often and remind everyone else to do the same.
  • At staff meetings, have everyone take a turn at sharing something that they appreciate about another team member. It can be something they do all the time or an isolated incident.
  • Get a Gratitude Jar for the office. Either buy it or get crafty and make it. Keep it in the staff lounge or kitchen. Encourage everyone to jot down something work-related at least once a week that they’re grateful for. Then randomly grab a bunch to read at morning huddles or staff meetings.


I know, right? This would solve every problem in the office!

It sounds simple but it’s not. People would rather hold it all in and let their frustration simmer, rather than talk about what’s bothering them. But that doesn’t help anyone. So, have an air clearing session and find out what’s at the heart of the tension. What are people doing or not doing? What needs to change to make things better?  It’s uncomfortable, but sometimes people can’t identify their feelings until they’re confronted with their actions.

If you’re an Assistant or a Hygienist and you recognize some of this in yourself, start taking steps towards fixing it. Do some soul searching and get to the root of what’s causing you to feel and act the way you do. These things start out small and before you know it years go by, people quit and nothing ever changes. So, make every effort to keep a positive work vibe. You can be that amazing office that respects each other and enjoys working together!

“Be a nice human.”

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