10 Dental Hygienist Responsibilities and How to Track Effectiveness

Earn more revenue per chair by investing in the right professional to perform dental hygienist responsibilities

Approximately forty percent of dentists go without a dental hygienist to save money, but is it the right decision? An employee performing a dental hygienist’s responsibilities can allow you to see more patients and increase your revenue.

If a dental hygienist can generate more business, inspire repeat business, and improve the reputation of your practice, and you can track that person’s effectiveness in revenue and growth, then you can weigh the cost against the benefits.

“If a patient can trust the hygienist,
there often is an 85 percent return rate.”

– Registered Dental Hygienist Magazine

A motivated and valued hygienist recognizes that every patient’s positive experience and every task done well drives referrals, efficiency, and more revenue for your practice.

When you are considering whether to employ a new person, look for these ten dental hygienist responsibilities and the attributes that make them valuable.

1. Prep. Practical hygienists prepare treatment rooms for patients by adhering to procedures and protocols, which include cleaning, disinfecting, barrier placement, patient chart assessment, and instrument preparation.

Preparatory steps are critical for infection control, orderliness, and patient safety. As with all dental hygienist responsibilities, every task performed by someone other than the dentist frees up time, allowing for the practice to schedule more patients during any given day.

03-X Dental Hygienist Responsibilites and How to Track Effectiveness-012. Screening. Other important dental hygienist responsibilities include administering patient screening procedures, such as performing an assessment of oral health conditions, a review of the patient’s health history, an oral cancer screening, and a head and neck inspection, and developing dental radiographs (x-rays). A thorough assessment creates better outcomes and can identify additional dental services that are needed.

3. Sterilization. Capable candidates should maintain instrumentation for dental hygiene treatment by sharpening, sterilizing, and selecting instruments.


4. Cleaning.
An essential skill for a hygienist to excel at is removing calculus and plaque (hard and soft deposits) from all surfaces of the teeth. An adult dental cleaning takes approximately 30 minutes, about the same amount of time it takes to fill a cavity. Dentists can charge more for a filling than they can for oral maintenance; thereby, they earn more if the hygienist handles the cleanings, allowing the practitioner to focus on the more expensive services.

02-X Dental Hygienist Responsibilites and How to Track Effectiveness-015. Preventatives. Additionally, it is beneficial if the hygienist can protect against dental decay by applying preventive materials to the teeth, such as fluoride and other cavity-fighting agents, for better long-term oral health.

6. Impressions. To serve as many patients as possible, hygienist candidates need to know how to make impressions of patients’ teeth for study casts.
7. Q&A.
Thorough hygienists can provide information to patients and employees by answering questions and requests. Additionally, they must know how to instruct patients about appropriate oral hygiene and nutrition strategies to maintain oral health.

This responsibility is integral to developing patient trust and offers an opportunity to emphasize the importance of maintenance or completing treatment. Happy patients become repeat patients and will provide positive referrals.

8. Emergency care. An educated hygienist will assist dentists with dental and medical emergencies by maintaining CPR certifications, administering emergency drugs and oxygen supply, and keeping the directory of emergency numbers.

9. Compliance.
Diligent hygienists are needed to protect patients and employees by adhering to infection-control policies and protocols.

According to the CDC, dentists and hygienists are exposed to a wide variety of microorganisms in the blood and saliva of patients they treat. Likewise, patients can transmit infections to healthcare workers.

Proper maintenance and use of protective equipment, care of sharp instruments, sterilization, decontamination, and other precautions are critical to keeping staff and patients healthy.

Dental malpractice suits can be costly, not to mention the price of a damaged reputation and a lost customer. Hiring a qualified dental hygienist is in your best interest.

10. Paperwork. Finally, a well-rounded hygienist performs documentation and office management activities, including implementing an effective recall system to assure that patients return on a routine basis to generate more income.

Having an organized environment helps as well.

What is the cost of hiring a hygienist?

01-X Dental Hygienist Responsibilites and How to Track Effectiveness-01The US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists the salary for an average dental hygienist at approximately $70,000. Some hygienists work on a base salary and commission or straight commission. Commission-based compensation can be a motivation for generating more business.

According to Registered Dental Hygienist Magazine, “Hygienists with associate degrees in private practice get paid about the same as hygienists with bachelor’s or master’s degrees in private practice.”

Legally required benefits for full-time hires include Social Security, worker’s compensation, unemployment insurance and, in some states, disability insurance. Benefits such as paid vacations, sick days, health insurance, continuing education, uniform allowance, production bonuses, or free dental coverage are additional expenses to consider if you offer those to your hygienist. A typical inclusive benefits package is equal to about 27 percent of gross salary and can help increase employee loyalty.

The bottom line is, if having an additional person to perform these dental hygienist responsibilities delivers more revenue per chair, then it is worth finding the best-qualified candidate to get the job done. A hygienist should produce at least three times the worker’s total compensation to warrant the position.

What are other tips that would help your practice be more profitable and run smoother? 

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