I chose to exclusively temp for 1.5 years due the flexibility with starting a family.  I’ve temped for 16 dentists in 11 offices and have thankfully been invited back by each of them.  


  • 1. Remember this is about  “BECOMING” an unforgettable dental hygiene temp (you don’t have to already be  one). Watch This short video here about “Becoming”
  • 2. Watch This short video on how to not be nervous but excited about dental hygiene.  
  • 3. Read below the 7 practices I’ve implemented that have been GAME CHANGERS!

 At first temping was very challenging and I had some REALLY difficult days … but as I kept doing it and applying the things that I’m going to share I began to receive comments Like “The dentist loved working with you and he normally doesn’t like anyone” ,  or “We’ve never received so much positive feedback from patients from a temp before” .   I just recently received a hand written letter from a dentist thanking me and it said “You’re such a good hygienist”  I would have never received a letter like  that in the beginning!! 

 I believe there are 7 points to becoming an unforgettable dental hygiene temp.


My #1 tip is to purchase a temping notebook!  I honestly believe success is in this notebook.   The shortest pencil is better than the longest memory,  The notebook is where I put all of the pertinent information   (as far as computer commands, staff members names and anything unique the doctor or office likes)

I often get comments how fast I mesh into offices and I honestly believe its because I have everything written down so I don’t have to ask the same question and over.    When I come back to an office after awhile I can easily step back in, remembering how the particular office runs, computer commands and staff members are always impressed that I remember their names.  


Running ahead starts before the patients ever get there by getting to the office early and learning as much and writing down as much as you can before your first appointment. 

I usually try to be to an office 30 minutes early.  

I walk in and immediately introduce myself to the office manager.  I will usually jot down her name with a description in my notebook.  Such as “Jana – office manager-blonde”.  As the office manager introduces me to other staff members I try to quietly do the same- “Tara-assistant- glasses” (I always avoid descriptions of size because you never know who will see your notebook!)

I immediately take a mental note of how the room is set up.  Where the slap wrap is placed and so on.  I  start opening drawers to see where pt bags are located, prophy paste etc….

As soon as possible I will ask an assistant to show me how to get on the pt charts and how to take radiographs/retakes, how to get into my notes, and the probing chart.  

Every command the assistant does on the computer I write down and draw a little picture when I can.   For instance to take radiographs at the office I work at now.  I would put :

x-rays = LR circle (and I would draw the picture of the circle with the squiggly in the middle of it on the Lower Right of the computer) ->new exam-> Schnick Smile exam 

On the next line I would put "retake= double click"

After I’ve written all the pertinent info I will then make sure the air/ water is on and see how the chair is operated.  (NOTHING is worse than trying to figure out how to operate the chair with a patient in it!!).. I locate patient bags, gauze etc.  


There are two keys to building patient rapport:  Be sincerely interested in the patient and Compliment.

Recently I was temping and by the end of the appointment this older cowboy was excitedly showing me pictures of his saddles, horses and cows while we waited for the dentist.  He knew that I was interested not only in his oral health but in him as a person.    Also, never introduce yourself as "the temp." Pretend that you have been working there for 40 years but if they ask where their "usual" hygienist is I say something like, "they have the day off but I will be taking excellent care of you today." 

The second step is to COMPLIMENT, COMPLIMENT, COMPLIMENT.  Every office has something special about it. Nothing makes a patient feel more secure with their choice of office, and an office more happy than hearing you pointing out something great about their office.  I’ve said complements to the patients like “I LOVE how nice and friendly the staff is here”, Or “Wow I’m super impressed how up to date the doctor is on the latest technology and products” .  Or isn’t this such a beautiful office if I can’t think of anything else.?


Add value by leaving the office/patients with a new idea or product.

No matter what the previous hygienist does- give the highest standard of care.   Cancer screening and probing, patient glasses (I used to bring my own sunglasses, xylitol samples etc.) and so on. This means that you are recommending fluoride and electric toothbrushes.  Recently I was in an office for two weeks and was able to introduce MI past to their office as a product and showed the DDS how he could offer it to his patients for white spot remineralization. The office manager ordered it and we went through two boxes while I was there, which increased their production and gave them something to offer their patients when I left.  

Bringing value means staying on time.  This is difficult when temping but having the notebook helps avoid having to ask too many questions and will speed you up!  If I’m running a bit behind I will walk my patient to the front and have the front office manager schedule his/her 6 month appointment.  

Bringing value also means that you are constantly looking for ways to contribute, not just production wise, but to the actual office by always staying busy.  It means that if you have time, you help break down the doctors rooms, and if your patient cancels, that you are scrubbing baseboards. I heard from a temp agency that a lot of doctors kept calling and requesting the hygienist that cleaned baseboards and windows if her patient cancelled.  


At the end of the temp day individually thank the DDS and each staff member.  And let them know that you would love to come back.  If you are temping for an extended period of time bring cookies or treats for your last day.  It’s something small but I will say it goes a loooong way!   I  also heard from a temp agency that the dentist kept requesting the hygienist that ordered the office pizza for lunch.  That is a small expense for all the temping work she got from that gesture.

When the temping day is over, spend 5 minutes in your car and write down anything unique to the office for next time, and any questions you would ask when you return.


When the dental office calls you to come in again and you can’t, make sure that you help find them someone who can.  This not only helps your dental hygiene friends but they will always call you because they know if you can’t help them out that you will find someone that can.