There is a LOT to accomplish in a dental hygiene visit. One of the most important roles a hygienist has is that of an educator, which is one of my favorite things about dental hygiene. We are constantly educating during an appointment - about the rationale for treatment, home care and treatment plans, to name a few.

dental hygienist communicating with patients

Getting your patient to commit and comply with treatment and instruction takes excellent communica‚Äčtion skills. So the big question is: in such a short appointment time frame, how can you connect with your patient so that all of the work you put into educating them gets applied?  

To answer this question, I would encourage you to focus on two easy tasks that will help build rapport, increase trust and develop patient relationships. The first task is to focus on how you greet the patient.

Call them back with a smile and excitement in your voice that proves that you are happy to see them.

As you are walking them back to the operatory, thank them for taking the time to come see you today. Think of each patient as being one of your good friends. When you are happy to see them, it makes them more comfortable and willing to hear more of what you have to say. After the patient is seated, get straight to business, getting an updated health history and letting them know the plan for the appointment.

At this point, as you are transitioning to radiographs or getting your instruments prepared, this is the time to do the second task to build rapport: ask them an all-inclusive, non-biased question such as, "what do you like to do for fun?"

Their response will give you a good feel for how best to communicate your future education. Will it be short and sweet, extra chatty or somewhere in between? Be sure to make a note of their favorite fun activity in their chart to ask about it next time. They will be impressed that you remembered.

Finding ways to connect with patients in a quick and easy way will make your job easier and more fulfilling. As you develop better relationships with patients and are able to see that those connections allow you to help patients develop good oral health habits, you will tap into a very rewarding part of the dental hygiene profession.

Author: Shelley Brown, RDH, BSDH truly enjoys helping hygienists become their best. She lives in Utah and has been practicing hygiene for 10 years. She works in private practice, as a clinical and didactic instructor, and runs a website/YouTube channel for dental hygienists called Hygiene Edge. Learn more about her by visiting LinkedIn, Facebook and