How to create a better work culture for dental hygienists

According to the American Dental Association's "Dental Workforce Shortages" report, 42.9 percent of dental hygienists voluntarily left the field because of the culture.

Jess Giebel, professional education manager at OraPharma and dental hygienist, spoke with Becker's Oct. 24 to discuss how practice owners can create a better work culture for dental hygienists.

Editor's note: Response has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: How can practice owners create a better work culture for dental hygienists?

Jess Giebel: Really showing that the hygienists are valued and respected, that's going to go a really long way. There was a survey from 2020 and 2019 that revealed that 8 percent of dental hygienists left the workforce since the onset of COVID. Forty-three percent of dental hygienists cited not feeling valued or respected as a primary reason for why they left the workforce. When you think about what a dental hygienist does to make a dental office run smoothly, it's a team effort. Dental hygienists do a lot there every day. I think a lot of people don't realize that. So for them to feel valued and respected is going to be a huge part of that.

Q: What would that respect look like?

JG: I think it's a number of things. Everybody's different. So what one person values is going to be totally different than what another person values. It's about just asking the hygienist or asking those team members, "what do you value?" and "what makes you happy?" Maybe being a little bit more involved that way, and then being able to show that value and show that they're appreciated. I definitely think flexibility is one thing, the work life balance is huge so that's another thing. Also, the burnout and the mental health challenges that hygienists face — it's a lot. I think it's always been there, but since COVID and the pandemic, it's really come to light.

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