DATE: Jul 15, 2016 
AUTHOR: Sharon Boyd, RDH, BS

As a dental hygienist, your job consists of more than only treating patients. Administrative duties may not be the first thing on your mind, but they take up a significant portion of your time each day. Depending on the actual practice that you work in, you may have just as many administrative duties as you do clinical ones. Finding the right time for your responsibilities can help you stay on top of things between appointments so that steps aren't overlooked or keep you from clocking out on time.

Stay on Track

An effective way to organize your responsibilities is to make a to-do list every day. Prioritize the list based on what is most important or urgent. You'll get a sense of satisfaction and build momentum as you scratch things off your list throughout the day.

Write Your Patient Notes as You Go

There are still some hygienists who let their charts pile up and wait until the end of the day to properly document their charts. Not only does this set you up for forgetting essential pieces of information, it also creates more work in the long run. Instead, document as you go, especially during the exam. Pause between phases of the visit (such as probing and scaling) to record your findings as the appointment progresses.

Review Your Charts Each Morning

It's best to find discrepancies in a patient's chart or care plan before he or she arrives for the appointment. Browse the patient's history, account summary and potential concerns prior to the morning huddle. This review process allows you to maximize the time you actually spend with the patient, as opposed to addressing his or her account during clinical time. RDH Magazine recommends you bring up your concerns during the morning huddle so that team members who work at the front desk can play catch up before the patient arrives for his or her appointment.

Collection Duties

If you work in a smaller office without a receptionist, you may be responsible for collecting payments from your patients. Apart from having a written collections agreement, Dianne Watterson, writing for Woman Dentist Journal, has recommended using language that prevents the need for follow-up collection calls down the road, which can take up a lot of time if you need to follow-up with patients multiple times. Instead of asking patients if they would like to pay for their treatment, ask them how they will be paying for their bill when they are in front of you in the office. For example, to navigate the situation effectively, you might say, "That's all for today, Mr. Smith. After insurance, there's a $24.15 balance on your account. Will you be paying with check or credit card?"

Schedule Recall Appointments Before the Patient Leaves

Another administrative duty of the hygienist may be scheduling recall appointments. As you do so, be sure to block out the appropriate amount of time per visit. More or less time may be necessary for certain people. Proper time blocks prevent your schedule from falling behind the next time you see that patient.

Patient Confirmation Calls

Confirmation calls are important to remind patients of their upcoming appointment and to avoid no-shows, yet missed appointments are still an everyday occurrence. Watterson also recommends that repeat offenders are called two days in advance to confirm their appointment. Be sure to ask patients at the time of scheduling what time of day works to call them, and which phone number is best to reach them.

If your office isn't already implementing an automated text confirmation system, you may want to consider looking into one. Many patients find text messages more convenient, less intrusive and it saves your office the hours spent manually trying to contact each patient.


  • Make a daily to-do list to prioritize your administrative duties.
  • Review patient charts each morning, and keep up with your notes.
  • Reserve appropriate time on your schedule for individual patient needs.

Why It's Valuable:

As dental hygienists, we wear multiple hats, including managing administrative duties. Taking the right steps can prevent you from overlooking opportunities to manage your time more efficiently at work.