Dental Hygienists – Creating Powerful Partnerships

If I described a dental team member who produced 30% of the practice revenue, was the reason more than 80% of new patients came into the office, and from who identifies 60% of restorative treatment opportunities, you may be thinking this is one valuable partner!

In fact, I have just described the hygienist!

As a provider of care, generator of revenue, and a chief draw of new patient and recall traffic, the hygienist should be viewed as a partner in the practice. Yet sometimes, they are relegated to subordinate, auxiliary “employee” status.

There are various reasons as to why some folks overlook the value hygienists bring to a practice. Perhaps the most common reason is that hygienists do not always view themselves as partners, and do not realize their own value and contributions.

Those who have a sense of ownership in an endeavor take more thoughtful actions, and view their work as more meaningful. They are more apt to educate themselves and others, and have longer, more satisfying careers. Partnership is powerful!

As a former hygienist, and now having a corporate career with American Dental Partners (ADPI), I can confidently say that my organization truly believes in partnering with, and empowering our hygienists.

Whether I was treating patients, mentoring my fellow hygienists, or helping hygienists find rewarding careers, I’ve always been cognizant that I was more partner than employee. Why? Because American Dental Partners recognizes and respects the impact we have on the business and the patients.

American Dental Partners knows that giving hygienists a collaborative role in the practice has more benefit than risk. By giving hygienists a stake in the success of the practice, we increase the hygienists’ commitment to their patients and teams.

Partnership fosters responsibility and self-motivation. It sparks an awareness of accountability that may not otherwise emerge.

In other words, American Dental Partners knows that if we consider hygienists to be auxiliary, hygienists won’t likely rise to become the ancillary partners we know they can be.

Partnership is what we are all about. Partnership with our patients in care decisions, partnership with our affiliated dental groups, and partnership with our providers, hygiene included.

For us, partnership is more than a buzzword. It is a behavior we strive to demonstrate every day. How do we do it?

  • We hire hygienists whom we want as a partner, and who understand the importance of patient tailored care. We only hire those who we can see ourselves collaborating with, and whose judgment we respect.
  • We clearly define goals and expectations for the hygiene team. Using key performance indicators, we can communicate, track, and reward success.
  •  We share practice financial reports and goals with hygienists, so they can see the positive impacts their contributions make.
  • We utilize evidence based hygiene clinical protocols, that were developed with hygienists’ input. These protocols allow for longer appointment times that enable hygienists to tailor their recommendations to the individual patient.
  • We seek to treat the whole patient, taking into consideration each person’s unique health status, lifestyle, and home-care habits. Doing so allows hygienists to truly make a difference in their overall health. No “pick and polish” here!
  • We give our hygienists a financial stake in the practice through a generous activity-based pay model that rewards individualized, comprehensive care.
  • We provide training and coaching so hygienists can reach their full potential, as well as on-going learning and service opportunities.
  • We encourage personal and professional growth.  Hygienists at ADPI have opportunities to grow within and outside of clinical care. I have several talented colleagues that began their careers as clinical hygienists, who are now in corporate leadership roles with the company – including myself.

Hygienists are fundamental to the success of any dental practice. Making sure hygienists know that is fundamental as well.

No organization does that better than American Dental Partners.


Andrea Kowalczyk, RDH
Dental Hygiene Talent Acquisition
American Dental Partners, Inc.


For information on careers at ADPI supported practices nationwide, click here.

See more of what our ADPI team members are up to on our blog.

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