Buried in Daily Dental Hygienist Duties? Five Ways to Increase Productivity 

DATE: Aug 08, 2018
AUTHOR: Sharon Boyd, RDH, BS

You have a mile-long to-do list of dental hygienist duties, but your next recall appointment is in two minutes. Scalers need to be sharpened, suction lines need to be cleaned and that's just the beginning. It can feel daunting to watch these tasks pile up when you can't find the time to do them. How is it possible to increase your productivity throughout the workday without feeling burnt out? Here are five tips to help you maximize your efficiency during your work day.

1. Prioritize Your To-Do List

Writing out a list of your duties is the first step to conquering all of them in a timely manner. Before you get flustered with everything on your plate for the day, step back, take a deep breath and reassess. What needs to be done immediately and what can wait until later in the day? Prioritize your list into "immediate," "later today" and "this/next week." Set deadlines for each item on your list and make sure you stick to them. And don't forget to check things off as you go.

increase productivity

2. Maximize Downtime Between Appointments

If you have a no-show patient, you can still make that time work for you by tackling your complex or time-consuming dental hygienist duties first. This leaves those smaller items on your to-do list, which generally are easier to sneak in between appointments or smaller breaks in your day. If no-shows continue to be a problem, however, it's time to address scheduling and patient reminder protocols with your coworkers.

3. Learn How to Multitask as an Individual and a Team

You don't have to stay immediately within the operatory with your patient if you're waiting for the dentist, unless your patient or the treatment at hand warrants it. Even if you have only two minutes of downtime while waiting for the dentist and you can use those two minutes to fulfil a task, you should do so. Excuse yourself for a moment to start on one of your to-do items, such as sharpening instruments, but be sure to keep an eye out for the doctor to become available.

Dentistry IQ reminds dental hygienists to foster teamwork in their department. A daily huddle gets everyone on the same page, where duties can be shared or delegated as necessary. Just remember to help others out if you expect them to help you in return. Office-wide multitasking is beneficial to everyone on the team. Consider having an office to-do list, including dental hygienist duties and needs for the rest of the staff, and hanging the list in the sterilization area so that everyone can share in the duties.

4. Discuss Getting a Dental Hygiene Assistant

According to RDH Magazine, assisted hygiene can increase office profits anywhere from 33 to 50 percent. It states that dental hygienists working with assistants often find their jobs "more satisfying, less stressful, and less tiring than when [they] worked solo." Assistants can perform routine responsibilities, which gives you more time to focus on the dental-specific tasks at hand. For example, an assistant can greet the patient in the waiting room while you review the patient's record.

5. Use the Most Appropriate Equipment

Are you trained in, or comfortable using, other types of equipment? Dental Economics discusses how much harder it is to complete dental hygienist duties without the right equipment. Working with sharpened scalers and a power scaler is an absolute must for dental hygienists to work efficiently and to their best abilities.

Working more efficiently also means you have time to integrate extra equipment, such as intraoral cameras, as part of your appointment. The images captured by intraoral cameras are a perfect way to communicate restorative needs and improve care plan acceptance.

You shouldn't have to work through lunchtime just to get everything on your to-do list accomplished. Using a prioritized list, working smarter and multitasking are vital. Once you have everything on your list completed, you'll find it possible to lower your stress levels throughout the workday.


  • Make minor changes to your daily work habits to help improve your productivity.
  • Maximize any downtime between or during patient appointments.
  • Multitask when at all possible, and share duties with other team members.

Why It's Valuable

Without a plan to keep on top of your daily dental hygienist duties, your to-do list can easily get out of hand. Adjust your productivity practices so that you don't have to work through lunch to keep your head above water.