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The scope of practice for a 1950’s hygienist, when the profession came to be, was literally scale and polish. It was from a time when it was considered that calculus was the problem. It was thought that calculus was the cause of disease and that the removal of it would treat and prevent periodontitis and caries.


But fast forward 70 years and we now know biofilm is in fact the culprit. Calculus isn’t the cause of disease and focussing on it in treatment doesn’t stabilise or prevent disease progression. We know more about dental disease, how it is caused and how we can prevent it. As this knowledge has developed, so too has the role of the clinicians who are responsible for the primary treatment of disease and prevention. As a consequence, the role of a hygienist has evolved over the years.


As this evolution occurs and as we continue to learn how the mouth affects the body as a whole, the hygienist’s responsibilities now include optimising oral health in order to optimise systemic health and we are essentially considered the health experts within the team.

Maximise the potential of your hygienist

Now is the perfect time to maximise the potential of your hygiene department and enhance the services this cornerstone department can offer.


  1. General health screening

    Are we truly optimising oral health if we are not considering the implications some systemic conditions can have on dental disease. We also see a higher proportion of the public in a dental practice compared to general medical practice. We are well placed to spot medical anomalies early and initiate or refer for the right intervention. Screening could include HbA1c and diabetes screening, with this being highly linked to periodontitis and success of treatment outcomes. Blood pressure, cholesterol and screening for obesity can also improve periodontal treatment outcomes and improve the overall health of your patient base. Not to mention further profitability in a highly ethical way.

  2. Tooth whitening

    A fantastic time to have your tooth whitening top up is immediately after a hygienist visit, when all surface contaminants are removed and the enamel is ‘naked’ in order to allow the hydrogen peroxide to provide great results. Get the patient to bring their whitening trays and place the 6% HP in as the treatment ends. It also provides a chance to apply varnishes to any exposed dentine, allowing hypersensitive patients to be able to top up their results. Or carry out BlancOne in chair whitening for 10 minutes to give a temporary result for a special occasion. Charging an add on fee can boost the hygienist services.

  3. Oral cancer screening

    Something we all do but rarely tell the patient we are doing it. I’m not suggesting charging for this as an extra, I’m suggesting making it apparent as a separate part of the appointment and making it lengthier and obvious. Maybe invest in some GOCCLES so that it is glaringly obvious that you are checking soft tissues for cancer and don’t be afraid to use the dreaded C word. Patients take comfort in knowing they’ve had a lengthy and thorough check and making it obvious as a separate part of the appointment adds further value to the hygiene appointment in fact being a health appointment.

  4. Appropriate ‘treatment specific’ appointments

    ‘Composite-care’ appointments are every 3-4 months, or implant maintenance appointments are at least every 3 months. Have recommended care and maintenance treatments for general and cosmetic treatments you provide to ensure regular recalls. For example- I have patients who are super healthy, so technically could be on a longer recall. However, they have veneers or composite bonding that requires care more regularly.

  5. Smoking cessation clinic

    As part of treatment and our risk assessment we enquire and talk about smoking. If a patient is a smoker we give them smoking cessation advice, but an oral health department could offer smoking cessation counselling as a separate appointment if trained to do so. This could further boost hygiene department profitability as patients are more in search of optimal health and wellness than ever before. Could this be something you can offer your patients?

  6. Sleep deprivation and mouth breathing screening

    We know so much more about what mouth breathing can do for facial development and overall health. Another interesting topic is sleep deprivation and it’s effects on health. Hygienists are well placed to screen for, spot signs of and refer people to the relevant specialists when they note a patient who suffers from these conditions. With these topics in the media, patients are asking about it. My last patient today was discussing it with me after hearing it on a podcast!

  7. Saliva testing

    Often debated but super interesting. Do we need to know what bacteria are involved in a patients periodontal disease to effectively treat it? Maybe not, but it could be a great patient motivator and could be something that sets your health department apart, enhancing your hygiene services and boosting patient numbers through word of mouth. A different and thought provoking experience means everything.


Showcase your hygiene department as a health department and it makes it easy to see how you can maximise its potential as well as offering more choice to your consumers, in turn enhancing loyalty and of course turnover.

Use waiting room TV to promote your hygienist department

I would completely recommend using the full scope of marketing you have available – social media, your website and of course – waiting room TV, target your messaging to your waiting clients. They may be waiting for 15 or so minutes for their appointment, showcase your treatments, services and clinics and enable your clients to start the conversation.

I would strongly recommend the waiting room TV service, to help promote your hygienist services, its full of educational, engaging and interesting content which you can select and play on a loop in on your TV in the waiting room.