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male dental hygienist
Have you struggled to find a strong dental hygienist? Have you wondered what superstar hygienists are capable of? These questions continually come up in our work and at speaking events across the country. In fact, some practices wonder if it is possible at all to find that perfect hygienist.

We all know the importance of the dental hygiene team and the value of an excellent hygienist. But, why is it so hard to find the right hygienist? I have seen practices that struggle, only to hire a new hygienist that brings the practice to a whole new level. Is this just a luck of the draw, or is there a way to find these hygienists? How can you get an entire team of dental hygiene superstars?

Here are 5 things you should consider when hiring for a Superstar Hygienist in your group:

No.1: Look at your interviewing process. What types of hygienists are you bringing in for interviews? What type of questions are you asking? Oftentimes dental practices focus on clinical and technical skills, which are items that are trainable. You need to turn your focus to their personality! Are they kind, confident, or caring? Do they project a warm and happy demeanor? You cannot change the personality, so hire with this in mind. Remember, their technical skills are trainable.

No. 2: There are certain characteristics you should look for in a superstar hygienist. You can identify these characteristics in the interview process:

  • Are they a team player? I like to ask situational questions for this. “Tell me why you consider yourself a team player.” Or, “Tell me about a team experience that you found rewarding.”
  • Positive and energetic? When I think of someone positive and enthusiastic I immediately see someone who is confident. They smile (a lot), they greet you with a hand shake, they are attentive and make good eye contact. Positive body language will show you they are professional, engaging and all around enthusiastic to be around.
  • Good communicator. Since the main role of your dental hygienist is to care for patients, you want to ensure they are a good communicator, warm, caring and show empathy. You may want to use situation questions based on a patient scenario you had in your office. Here is an example: “Susie, you are the new hygienist in the office. Mrs. Jones our long-term patient is in your chair and does not want to listen to your recommendations because you are “new.” How will you handle this?” Aside from these questions, you will want to watch how the candidate communicates with other team members she/he comes in contact with during the interview.
  • A winning mindset: Look for someone who is goal minded, who wants to be their best and work with a winning team.

No. 3: References? Get personal recommendations. Yes, it is great to check on past employment, but there is very little information you can get from previous employers. I highly recommend personal recommendations on your new hygienist. I find personal recommendations to be the most valuable way to identify someone with all of the attributes you are looking for in a super star team member.

No. 4: Take a look at your employment advertisements: Use words in your advertising that will bring the best potential candidates to your door. You want to weed out the hygienists that are simply looking for that 8-5 paycheck. Use words such as:

  • Team player
  • Highly Motivated
  • Strong Communication Skills
  • Patient Centric

Key in to the resumes that highlight these qualities. This will make the process much easier for you.

No. 5: Compensation: Compensation is one of the most vital details when creating an environment where the hygienist are truly motivated – they understand what success is. I have said it before, and I will say it again – Hourly pay breeds laziness.

If you want a hygienist(s) who is engaged and willing to use their energy to grow the practice/group, then they need to be compensated based on their performance and what they bring to the practice.

When compensating with a pay-for-performance model, you will need to reveal this compensation plan in your advertising and during the interview, as you will quickly weed out those that only want an hourly pay. After 15 years of coaching and managing dental hygienists, I can tell you the most motivated hygienists are those that are paid on a performance-based pay – period.

When done right, a performance-based compensation plan can spark tremendous growth for your group. A compensation change plus an investment to develop and improve the hygiene program in your group can bring remarkable changes to your profit margin.

Once you hire your perfect candidate, take time to develop this individual into your superstar hygienist. You can do this by mentoring and continuing their education and professional development. Do not hire someone with the expectation that you will not have to put effort into his or her development. If you want a superstar dental hygienist, then you need to help them grow.

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Shannon Richkowski, RDH
Director Hygiene Mastery
(254) 289-5321

Gretchen Hay
Accounts Manager
(703) 408-3489
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