The Power of Cross-Training in the Hygiene World

Check out this great article below by Dr. Courtney Lavigne, D.M.D. She is a Spear Education faculty member. Spear Education provides general and continuing education for the whole dental team. Check them out HERE. 

In the past, most dental offices considered hygienists responsible for cleaning teeth, and not much beyond that. Over the last decade, hygienists have increased the number of procedures they are routinely responsible for, from tooth whitening to delivering local anesthetic. It’s my prediction that this trend will continue, and in the coming decade, hygienists will play an even broader role in the dental office.

One of the greatest points of stress I hear from hygienists is the schedule. If the schedule isn’t full, many doctors panic. Some offices may have hygienists leave early or clock in or out at different hours based on the needs of the schedule. This can be frustrating and financially burdensome. One way to decrease the turmoil surrounding the schedule is to increase your abilities beyond hygiene.

Each state has specific rules and regulations for what a registered dental hygienist can and can’t do and what kind of supervision is required. Even if you’re in a state that limits your abilities clinically, increasing your skill set within the office you practice in can be incredibly helpful to your team and your doctor, and ultimately give you increased personal fulfillment.

Here are three things you can do within your own office to be a better team player, a more valuable asset and find a more rewarding role.

1. Give dental anesthetic.

Even if you are in an office that doesn’t require you to administer local, think about expanding your ability and getting licensed. It can be extremely helpful to have hygienists administering anesthetic, and not only when scaling and root planning is on the schedule. In my own office, we often book patients for restorative work following their hygiene visit. When this is the case, my hygienist will anesthetize my patient for me, decreasing the patient’s chair time and increasing the predictability of the doctor’s schedule. You may be surprised that even if you’re in an office that doesn’t have you administering, one day when the doctor’s schedule is jammed and you’ve got a free moment, the doc may take you up on your offer to help!

2. Learn how to set up doctor rooms for common procedures.

If you know how to break down and set up a room for your fellow team, it can be extremely helpful in those times where the schedule seems to be falling apart. If fillings and crowns are common procedures, start there. If you have five minutes before your next patient and you know the doctor is running behind, it can go a long way to get them ready for their next patient without it affecting your own schedule!

3. Become competent on the phone.

There used to be an invisible barrier in most offices between the administrative side and the clinical side. While some offices continue to operate the two departments quite independently of one another, if your office allows the opportunity, being comfortable in your phone skills can go a long way when things get backed up at the front checking patients in and out and handling finances. If the phone rings and there’s no one to answer it, but you’re free, it increases your office’s level of customer service to have a warm voice on the other end of the phone rather than a machine. Sometimes it may be to simply say you don’t have the answer the patient is looking for, but you know who does, and you can have that person call the patient back. It lightens the load of your teammates and increases rapport with your patients.

There are countless other ways you could increase your skill set in your office. Maybe it’s learning how to package up lab cases, take impressions, or fabricate whitening trays. Whatever it may be, start looking for opportunities in your own practice and talk to your doctor and your team about your interest. I know in my own practice, little could impress me more than a team member showing interest and taking initiative in a way that supports the entire office!