Last Updated on September 24, 2023 by Anna Baumann
What Dental Assistants Would Like To Say To Dental Hygienists
In the past, I’ve shared some of my experiences with dental office drama and the disharmony that sometimes happens between Dental Assistants and Dental Hygienists. I’ve recently noticed some tension in our office and other dental friends have shared similar observations.
I decided to chat with both sides to see if I could get to the root of the problem. The result of my Assistants’ conversation was specific complaints about how our Hygienists treat them. Conversely, the Hygienists do not see a problem with their behavior.
Please don’t take this post the wrong way. I love our Hygienists. These ladies do an amazing job! They’re smart, punctual, passionate about Hygiene, and truly care for our patients. But, they take advantage of our Assistants.
For the most part, our office is a fun, low-drama, place to be. But this one problem rears its ugly head now and then. So while we work on us, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned about what Dental Assistants would like to say to Dental Hygienists.
“I was not hired to assist you.”
That doesn’t mean I think you shouldn’t have an assistant. A Hygiene Assistant would be a great help to you with charting, sealants, and turning over your room(s). But that’s not me. I have my own important job assisting our doctors. If you need my help, kindly ask for it. And I hope I can count on you to reciprocate because we are a team.
“The ultrasonic does not bag, sterilize, and store your instruments.”
Please do not dump them in and disappear. You know that I’ll eventually come back to empty it because I need to move my instruments along. You’re taking advantage of me, and your opportunistic behavior is the equivalent of leaving your dirty dishes in the sink for someone else to wash. I understand that you still have work to do after you release your patient. Me too! I work on a schedule just like you. I have to enter chart notes, turn over my rooms, move my instruments through the sterilization process, and keep my doctors on schedule. So please do all of your job so that I don’t run behind on mine.
“Your attitude makes me dread coming into work to do a job that I love.”
I truly enjoy being a Dental Assistant. The energetic pace, patient interaction, and interesting procedures all make for an exciting career! But when you take my presence for granted, I feel undervalued and unappreciated. The worst part is that no one calls you out on it. Because the truth is, they feel that your production is much more valuable to the practice than my happiness. And while I agree that you have a very important job, I wish you’d acknowledge and appreciate the importance of mine.
How to help Assistants and Hygienists work together
In a perfect world, everyone would speak directly and truly listen. They would practice empathy and self-reflection, and we’d all have a happy dental team. But this is dental office life, not a perfect world. And the problem isn’t new. I used to be a Dental Assistant, and I loved it. How the Hygienists in my office treated me was my catalyst for switching to the front desk. I do not regret it and would have eventually made the change even if they were kind to me. But that was a long time ago. By now, we should know better and do better.
Update your Job Descriptions
Job descriptions are awesome! They show us, in writing, exactly what we’re paid for. Put it in writing so everyone knows your expectations, and you have a clear-cut way to hold them accountable. Assistant and Hygiene job descriptions must list all assigned duties. Both positions require:
- Instrument sterilization; follow-through from ultrasonic to tray set-up and storage
- Operatory breakdown and setup
- Restocking sterilization areas and operatories and tracking supply inventory
- Helping/assisting in other areas during downtime
Have hard conversations
The entire dental field is dealing with the post-quarantine employee mass exodus. It’s not just Hygienists. All dental positions can find a new place to work in about 30 seconds. I can’t remember the exact quote, but it goes something like “Nothing will make you lose a good employee faster than watching you tolerate a bad one.” Talk to people before it goes too far. It doesn’t matter what position they’re in. We need all of the help we can get. And all of us deserve a happy, healthy work environment.