Professional Courtesy: Dental Hygienists—Advocates for Practice and Patient Alike by Dr. Thomas Giacobbi

Dentaltown Magazine

by Thomas Giacobbi, DDS, FAGD, editorial director, Dentaltown magazine

Running a business during a pandemic has been a source of a fresh stress, but has also presented opportunities to reflect on the many blessings in our lives and the team members who keep the practice running in the face of uncertainty. This month, I’m focusing on my team of hygienists.

Patient education and co-discovery are areas that can make or break the relationship between dentist and hygienist. Hygienists who cultivate the proper rapport with their patients can be incredibly influential on each patient’s oral health—when I come into the room, many times a patient expresses remorse that they’ve let the hygienist down with lax home care! Or a hygienist will report that a patient took her advice and bought a power toothbrush, resulting in marked improvement. 

With co-discovery, a well-established relationship makes for an efficient exam when the hygienist can report, “I spoke to Larry about the broken molar on the upper right and he would like to know his options to have it fixed.” Making those observations and communicating genuine care and concern only helps to grow that bond between patient and hygienist.

These relationships bring multiple rewards

For many years, my practice provided fluoride varnish for free. I’m a big believer in the benefits and when we first introduced it, I didn’t want there to be a financial barrier to acceptance. Over the years, as it became more widely accepted in the U.S., some insurance companies started to reimburse for it, and my colleagues said it was crazy not to charge, because patients don’t always value things you give for free.

I was afraid to charge for something that had been free for so long. When I finally pulled the trigger, it was the hygienists who made it happen. They reminded the patients of the benefits and introduced the new fee. Yes, some patients took a pass, but many more than I expected say yes to this service. Their relationship with the hygienists made it happen.  

When we prepared to make our return to practice, the entire team was anxious about the environment we would face in a profession that’s famous for aerosols. We did everything we could think of to prepare for a safe practice: face shields, ReLeaf systems from Kulzer, UV lights to disinfect the air, hypochloric acid fogging, N95 masks and more.

During appointments the hygienists discuss all of these safety protocols with patients, many of whom would never have noticed otherwise, and the feedback has been amazing. Theodore Roosevelt said it best: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” 

I’m so proud of the way the hygiene team represents our practice. If you have a great story to share about the hygienists in your practice, share it in the comments section for this article online. Contact me via email at or on Twitter @ddsTom.

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