Essential Skills for a Dental Hygienist

Posted in Career Blog

In order to be a successful dental hygienist, there are some basic skills that you should possess. While some of these can be learned in a classroom setting, others must be honed over time either through practice or your daily interactions with patients.

Attention to Detail
In order to best diagnose and treat their patients, dental hygienists must be able to follow specific rules and protocols that are put into place for multiple reasons, including patient safety and infection control. As such, your role as a dental hygienist requires you to be extremely observant and pay close attention to even the most minor details. In some cases, you may even be required to work without the direct supervision of a dentist. When this occurs, you will need to be able to report any changes in the patient’s health or condition to the dentist in order to provide the best care possible.

Interpersonal Skills
As a dental hygienist, there are times when you will likely assume the role of the liaison between patients and the dentist. You will need to be able to absorb and process the information being provided to you by the patient and then effectively relay this information to the dentist. For instance, if a patient calls with a post-procedure concern such as loosening stitches or bleeding that lasts longer than normal, you must be able to reassure the patient as well as come up with a solution for the problem. This may involve speaking with the dentist and providing the patient with treatments that can be performed at home, but it may involve scheduling an emergency appointment with the dentist, as well.

Manual Dexterity

The types of procedures that you will be able to perform as a dental hygienist will vary from state to state as each has its own regulations, but you will likely be responsible for assisting the dentist during various procedures such as extractions, fillings and cleanings. You may also be charged with the task of removing stitches and sutures either under the supervision of the dentist or on your own. In either case, you will need to be able to manipulate small instruments without hurting or irritating the patient.

Compassion and Empathy

Regardless of the friendly environment provided by the dental office in which you work, there are some patients who will still feel apprehensive about their visits to the dentist. Similarly, you will work with patients every day who are in pain or discomfort. In order to provide the best care possible to these patients, you will need to display compassion and empathy. These skills will also allow you to come up with the best treatment plans possible and make good decisions regarding the care of the patients. For example, if a patient is in severe pain, you may choose to schedule an emergency appointment rather than ask the patient to wait until the following day to be seen.

A dental hygienist is required to perform several tasks on a day to day basis. Aside from the skills listed above, some other qualities that will help you succeed in your career include physical stamina and the knowledge required to operate, clean and troubleshoot the complex machinery used in a dental office.

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