Signs You’re Working With A Good Dental Hygienist

by Dr. Megan Peterson Boyle

What do you think makes for a good dental hygienist? If you are one or are planning to become one, what qualities should you possess? If you’re a dentist looking to partner with a dental hygienist, how will you know if you found the right one?

As a dentist, you know that dental hygienists work hand-in-hand with you in taking care of patients. Not many people know this, and not many people know what a dental hygienist does, but you do.

A dental hygienist usually tends to patients who require a dental checkup. He is trained to clean teeth, take X-rays, and assess oral health. A dental hygienist can also assist in cosmetic dentistry.

To find out the ideal qualities of a good dental hygienist, let’s take a quick look at how the practice started.

Dental Hygienist History

In the 1800s, dentists were devoted to doing only one thing: extracting rotten or decaying teeth. Nobody was focused on cleaning their patients’ teeth. Eventually, a dentist named Alfred Fones decided to teach his cousin how to clean teeth, and Irene Newman started her career as a dental hygienist in 1907.

Newman became the first licensed dental hygienist, and many people credit her efficient work as local residents were saved from the 1918 influenza. Their clean and healthy teeth helped strengthen their immunity.

Her story is proof that dental hygienists play a significant role in helping people achieve good oral health.

Characteristics of a Good Dental Hygienist

One of the first things you need to know is that dental hygienists need a license before working in any state. Additionally, an associate degree connected to an accredited program or a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene will help.

Aside from the license and educational degree, a good dental hygienist is:


Paying careful attention to details is vital in dental hygiene practice. Additional care is needed when the goal is to help keep patients’ teeth and mouth clean and healthy. When a patient is in pain, even a slight touch or nudge on a tooth will hurt.

Some of the specific tasks that need detailed attention include teeth examination, identifying or pointing out stains, tiny or small issues during cleanings, and noticing other significant problems that may require the dentist’s professional opinion.


An empathic dental hygienist can put themselves in the patient’s shoes. This helps them understand and feel what the patient is feeling. Being empathic to the discomfort, pain, and the patient’s fears help a dental hygienist become more effective. Explaining the situation and what needs to be done is easier since the patient is comfortable and relaxed in the dental hygienist’s presence.

Understanding and Patient

A dental hygienist meets different kinds of people, and some won’t be easy to deal with. This is why a hygienist needs to be extra understanding and patient. They have to understand when a patient is uneasy or afraid. They have to be patient and try to calm down when a first-time patient suddenly wants to back out.

An understanding and patient dental hygienist knows how to make patients feel comfortable, relaxed, and confident.

Good Communication Skills

A significant part of a dental hygienist’s job is to talk to patients and help them understand what their symptoms mean, why they are in pain, and what their problems might be. As such, having good communication – speaking and listening – skills is essential. They must be confident and comfortable communicating with patients from all age groups and backgrounds.

Excellent Motor Skills

Dental hygienists work with different instruments – small and slightly bigger ones; simple and complicated ones. Excellent motor skills allow them to firmly grasp and properly handle these instruments while working inside their patients’ mouths.

Good Interpersonal Skills

As stated above, dental hygienists deal with different people, different personalities. They need to have excellent interpersonal skills, especially since they work with patients and dentists, dental staff, dental assistants, and other hygienists. The ability to work well with different kinds of people gives off a positive vibe. It helps patients feel welcome, safe, and cared for.

Always on-the-go, Energetic

A dental hygienist is always on the move and spends most of their time standing up. An energetic hygienist who doesn’t mind moving all the time is ideal in many dentists and patients’ eyes.

An active and friendly dental hygienist with a positive attitude helps patients forget their worries and fears the minute they step inside the clinic.

Compassion and Passion

A compassionate dental hygienist understands what patients are going through and knows what to do to help them feel better. A passionate dental hygienist loves what they are doing, the people they are working with, and the patients they are serving.

If you’re working with a dental hygienist that possesses all these characteristics, or if you believe you have these qualities, then you’re on the right track.

About the Author

Dr. Megan Peterson Boyle is the lead cosmetic dentist with Dental Studio 101 in Scottsdale, Arizona. She is focused on providing anxiety-free cosmetic dentistry services including invisalign, dental implants, dental crowns and cosmetic fillings. She enjoys spending time outdoors with her friends and family.