Dental hygienists are essential to the greater healthcare field. These professionals provide preventative oral care and dental treatments to those in need. Their work helps protect patients from developing various health diseases, ailments, and infections. In order to do their job successfully, dental hygienists must be highly dexterous. Dental hygienists work with small tools in a very small area. They must be tactical, agile, and precise in everything they do. They must also be well-versed in patient care skills.
Do you have what it takes to be a dental hygienist? From technical skills to soft skills, there are a variety of competencies that make a great dental hygienist. In this article, we will discuss the top dental hygiene skills you should develop in order to find success in this field.
By knowing and honing these skills, you can better prepare for a career in dental hygiene.
Top 10 Dental Hygienist Skills
Perhaps the most essential skill for dental hygienists to possess is communication. Dental hygienists must communicate with patients on a daily basis, talking about their dental routines, medical histories, and teaching them about proper oral care. Dental hygienists must also talk patients through procedures and treatments being done.
On top of patient communication, dental hygienists also need to speak with professional colleagues. For example, dental hygienists will often communicate with dentists about any concerns or abnormalities with a patient’s oral health.
In line with communication skills, dental hygienists must also know how to collaborate with others on the dental care team. Each day, dental hygienists will work with dentists, dental assistants, office administrators, and other dental hygienists. They will often collaborate on patient cases in order to discuss symptoms or find the best methods of treatment. They will also collaborate with other hygienists and work together to manage patient appointments and schedules.
3. Empathy and Compassion
Like any healthcare professional, dental hygienists must be compassionate and empathetic towards their patients. No matter where you work, you will encounter patients of different backgrounds. You will treat many who are anxious or fearful of the dentist. It is your job, the job of the dental hygienist, to make sure every patient feels welcomed and comfortable during their visit. If you are caring for a child who is scared, you may need to execute compassion and comfort them. Similarly, if you are treating an adult patient who is afraid of a dental procedure, you must be able to put yourself in their shoes and find ways to help alleviate their anxiety.
4. Critical Thinking
Dental hygienists come across new cases and symptoms all the time. Therefore, they must be able to think on their feet and analyze problems with great care and consideration. They must be able to consider all angles and possibilities for treatment. Critical thinking requires putting training to practice in the assessment, planning, implementation, and evaluation of dental hygiene treatments.
5. Knowledge of Dental Conditions
Knowledge is power in any profession, and in the field of dental hygiene, knowledge of potential oral conditions (and their treatments) is an essential skill. Dental hygienists must understand the signs and symptoms of various dental conditions, from gum disease to tooth decay and cavities. Additionally, dental hygienists must know what to do when these conditions are present, in order to decide the best course of treatment. While dental hygienists do collaborate with dentists on a final treatment plan, a great dental hygienist will know how to tackle and evaluate common dental conditions ahead of time. This helps prepare for the meeting with the practicing dentist.
6. Attention to Detail
Dental hygienists must be detail-oriented in order to complete patient evaluations and treatments. They must be able to pay close attention to patients’ symptoms and complaints, as well as current home care routines. Further, dental hygienists need to pay attention to what they are doing during dental procedures. Attention to even the smallest details inside a patient’s mouth can separate a good dental hygienist from a great one.
7. Strong Motor Function
Along with attention-to-detail, strong motor function is one of the most important dental hygiene skills you can master. As noted previously, dental hygienists work in a very small space – the oral cavity – and use miniscule equipment to carry out their work. As a dental hygienist, you will need to master minute movements and become adept at using small, sharp instruments with both hands.
8. Visual Observation
One of the key functional abilities of dental hygienists is the ability to observe visual details and abnormalities, whether through x-ray imagery or directly inside a patient’s mouth. Dental hygienists should be able to determine anatomy and pathology through radiographic images, demonstrate adequate depth perception when completing procedures, and observe proper patient care and safety tactics. These visual observation skills go hand-in-hand with attention-to-detail.
9. Auditory Observation
Strong auditory observation is another important skill for dental hygienists. Listed among the top functional abilities, auditory observation means having the ability to hear alarms, telephones, and different voice ranges (from patients, colleagues, and more). Dental hygienists must also be able to hear stethoscope sounds when taking blood pressure, and sounds from dental equipment.
10. Organization/Time Management
At the end of the day, dental hygienists must also have organizational skills in order to keep up with their workloads and schedules. Most dental hygienists will have a full day of patients, and will need to be able to seamlessly transition from one appointment to the next. Additionally, dental hygienists will need to manage their time effectively with each patient visit.
Patient visits in the dental office are relatively short, ranging between 30 minutes for children to 90 minutes for new patients, and averaging about one-hour long. Therefore, dental hygienists must have great time management skills to ensure they complete all their cleaning tasks and procedures within that window of time.
In addition to staying on top of one’s schedule, organization skills also come into play for dental hygienists who take on some administrative tasks. For example, most dental hygienists need to assist with patient paperwork, coordinate future appointments, and arrange equipment or supplies so that they are easily accessible. Therefore, possessing organizational skills can make one’s workflow much easier throughout the day.
What are Dental Hygienist Skills?
Dental hygienist skills are a mix of technical skills and interpersonal skills or “soft” skills that help them excel in their role. Technical skills include knowing how to work with dental equipment, clean teeth and execute certain procedures, as well as having knowledge regarding dental health conditions. Soft skills required of dental hygienists include communication, compassion, and collaboration – among many others – that help these professionals provide excellent service and care.
To become a great dental hygienist, you must complete a specialized training program where you can develop these various skillsets. A formal dental hygienist training program will teach you how to clean teeth, operate dental equipment, analyze x-rays, address dental conditions, and even help patients feel comfortable during their visits. A reputable dental hygiene school will also provide you with hands-on clinical experiences, where you can put your learned skills to practice.
Improve Your Dental Hygiene Skills Today
If you wish to become a dental hygienist, an associate degree in Dental Hygiene is required to qualify for licensure. As noted above, this level program will provide you with various skills, techniques, experiences, and challenges in order to set you up for success.
At Goodwin University, students practice in a state-of-the-art Dental Lab and use real industry equipment, in order to perfect their skills. This is where they build their manual dexterity and strengthen fine motor skills. Students also can gain experience in the school’s Dental Hygiene Clinic, which is a functional dental office with real patients in the community, supervised by experienced professionals. Between these offerings, as well as a curriculum led by expert dental hygienists, students learn how to:
- Deliver high-quality, patient-centered care
- Assess, plan, implement, evaluate, and document dental hygiene processes of care (i.e. treating oral diseases, cleaning teeth, and more)
- Expose, develop, evaluate, and interpret dental radiographs safely
- Counsel patients on good nutrition and tobacco cessation, as it relates to their oral health
- Demonstrate strong communication skills in all aspects of patient care
- Execute ethical and professional behavior when providing care
- Demonstrate empathy, concern, and understanding of patient needs based on their circumstances
- Make evidence-based decisions regarding patient care and needs
- Meet regulatory requirements when rendering patient care
Do you think you have what it takes to become a skilled dental hygienist? Are you excited to learn and train from experienced dental hygienists? If so, learn about Goodwin University’s flexible dental hygiene program here. You may also call 800-889-3282 to learn more.