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Dentist Beware, your hygienist may promote or undermine your business.

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Dentist Beware

Your practice may be losing patients at the hand of your hygienist. With the advent of modern dentistry, the actual dentist to patient time has dropped tremendously in recent years. Most patients see their hygienist two or more times per year for a cleaning and during that hour long visit, they see their dentist for less than five minutes. So, for most patients, their outlook on dentist visits is based on the hygienist's performance. Is she mindful of the patient's tolerance for unnecessary pain inflected during cleanings, etc?

Over the years I have had several dentists and along with those dentist came multiple hygienists. My last dentist, I began seeing several years ago. During that time he had three hygienists. I don't remember much about the first hygienist, so she was probably in the middle of the road in most respects. The second hygienist was much more impressive. She had a steady hand and was very mindful of all aspects of the patients visit. She also was keen on using newer techniques that provided a better overall cleaning even though they were a little more trouble. I was disappointed to hear from her that she had taken a job in another state and was leaving this dentist's practice.

At the next visit I met her replacement and figured she would be quite similar to the previous hygienist. I was wrong in that assumption. She quickly dropped the newer techniques and leaned toward the standard cleaning treatments that had been in use for more than 50 years. The bad side of her cleaning technique wasn't that it left out the newer techniques, but that she wasn't that good at it. She knew what she was trying to accomplish, but her ability to handle sharp pointy instruments left much to be desired. There was never a cleaning that I thought of her as having accurate control of the instruments. This type of treatment adds to the anticipation that a visit to the dentist office is going to be painful.

She had one other aspect that I have a hard time fathoming that her boss, the dentist put up with. She was forever talking about how dentists are unlikely to give their staff decent raises if they stay with a practice. Her opinion in this area was that you must move on to a new practice every few years to get a raise large enough to bring your salary in line with the going rates for experienced newly hired hygienists. She said they can't get away with paying below market rates when they need a new hygienist because experienced hygienists aren't willing to begin a new job with a salary below the current market rate.

Over time, I thought about getting a new dentist, but it seemed like the luck of the draw as far as going to a new dentist without a recommendation from someone. There is also the proximity factor as well. Eventually due to some work related travel arrangements that made it uncertain as to when it would be best to set my next appointment and that I would likely need to see a dentist during my travels, I canceled my future appointments and planed to reestablish them at the end of my long distance travel schedule. Alas it came the time to reestablish a cleaning schedule but I procrastinated and delayed setting up my next appointment until it was well overdue.

During the time I procrastinated, I reflected on my past experience and found that I didn't really want to see my old hygienist. The dentist was great, but the hygienist was a nightmare. I then looked around and found it difficult to choose from the list of dentists in my area. Nothing set them apart, however, I actually knew one of the dentists in the area, but I had never thought of him as a dentist. He was a friend that had kids close to the age of my own children and we had several things in common that allowed us time to get to know each other. I had gotten to know him from scouting, school, and other local activities that we had in common.

From his background, I knew he was likely to be an outstanding dentist, so I called his office and set up an appointment. I found that his staff reflected in his character, as they were top notch. I was still a little anticipatory about seeing the hygienist as she is the most likely to make or break your long term relationship with a dentist. The day finally came around for my teeth cleaning and I wasn't disappointed. The hygienist handled her instruments with ultimate precision. I consciously followed her every move through the cleaning and she never made the first slip.

My ultimate decision; I have found my dentist of choice.

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