5 Tips for Setting Yourself Apart and Building Great Rapport with Patients in the Dental Practice


Dental hygienists rely on a good rapport with their patients and fellow team members. Making a great impression and earning the respect of the people you’re treating will help you secure your job, land that permanent position at the office you’re temping in, and make you an invaluable part of the practice.

In general, most patients will feel more than free to complain about a bad hygienist (just like they would a bad service elsewhere) …but how can you be “so good” that you’ll make them go out of the way to sing your praises once the appointment is over?

Listen: People Want to be Heard

When you’ve seated your patient, take a moment to sit at eye level and look them in the eye while they’re talking to you about their specific concerns or questions. Eye contact creates a natural connection with other people, and by being quiet and allowing your patients to speak (as you practice active listening), you’ll demonstrate the highest level of attentiveness possible. This simple step makes people feel extremely valued.

You can reemphasize this process by repeating back to the patient what you’ve told them, then repeating it to the dentist when he or she steps in for an exam. Nobody likes to feel overlooked or brushed aside, and this simple step is a good practice to create bonds with your patients.

Be Gentle

Some people have very sensitive teeth and gums. If you tended to be a bit heavy-handed, work on finding gentler ways to scale and operate instruments. Give yourself time to utilize topical anesthetic, nitrous oxide, and local anesthetic as necessary. You may want to consider trading in your favorite sickle scaler for a slimline ultrasonic tip; put it on low and scale the entire mouth instead of using a pulling or fulcrum position that adds extra pressure.

Explain Things in an Easy to Understand Way

Let’s face it, a lot of people dislike the dental office because they often wonder if the treatment recommendations are really necessary…not to mention the price tag that goes along with them. Ask your patients if they have any questions or concerns, and if possible try to get them to “co-diagnose” their own dental health needs by sharing intraoral photographs and X-ray images with them. The better they understand their situation and their appreciation for having things explained to them, the more they’ll respect you.

Make a Personal Connection

Get to know your patients and what makes them tick. Ask them about the book they brought with them, what they’re planning for summer vacation, etc. Being able to find something in common with them helps create familiarity and build a relationship that not only eases troubled minds of your patients but is likely to make you their preferred provider when they’re scheduling their next recall appointment.

Remember Them

Remember that vacation they mentioned during the last appointment? Were they excited about a new job they just got? Pencil in a note somewhere so you can follow up with them at their next visit. It shows you remember them as a person and aren’t just there to polish their teeth. People like to feel special and taking a few moments out of your day to send a card or ask how they’re doing is the perfect way to stand out from all of the other hygienists they’ve seen in the past.

The more “in love” your patients are with you, the better job security you’ll have! Make a great impression on day one, even if you’re a temping hygienist or working with a dental staffing service.