What Kind of Dental Hygienist Are You?

In this guest post, Tracy Poirier from Premier Hygiene Solutions breaks down the nine personas of a dental hygienist. Which type of a hygienist are you?

As a hygienist, it’s really important to get a true sense of who you are and how you show up in the world.

This means that we need to have a number of "lenses" to look through to get a sense of YOU (think of this as your personal loupes).In this article, I am referencing a coaching lens called the Enneagram.

I learned of this while I worked through the methodology taught by Integral Coaching Canada®. I am sharing it with you to support your career fulfillment as a professional in the dental sector.

This article is meant to inform and be of interest. It is not meant to portray any singular hygienist being better suited to the profession than another.

It is meant to allow an opportunity for us to appreciate diversity. To foster a better understanding of the challenges we face when trying to create cohesiveness in the hygiene department and within our care team.

Each of the nine descriptors have amazing strength. They also have room for development.

I have unpacked the nine styles of hygienists and how they might show up in each of the Six Pillars of Practice Success:

  1. Personal Core Values — Identify foundational qualities
  2. Practice Core Values — Integrate ideal culture
  3. Personal and Professional Growth — Maintain standard of care
  4. Systems and Procedures — Systematize your practice
  5. Aligned Action and Exemplary Skill — Perform at your best
  6. Celebrate — Achieve practice success

Nine Styles of a Dental Hygienist

The Perfectionist Hygienist

“Without hard work and discipline, it is difficult to be a top professional.” ~Jahangir Khan

You may be a Perfectionist Hygienist if doing your best work for each and every patient is the least you can do.

An asset to any team, Perfectionist Hygienists lean into personal core values centered around being ethical.

Dental hygienists who strive for perfection tend to work in practices that value precision. They are conscientious and caring towards each and every patient.

Professional growth is important to this team member; it motivates this hygienist to use resources that inform her/him of the right way to do things (for themselves and others).

Within systems and procedures, the Perfectionist Hygienist can be rigid and rule following because it is so important to align their action to good work, enabling others to do the same.

Their exemplary skill is doing the right things, at the right time, for the right reasons. However, this can sometimes lead to inflexible and strict habits that may have uneven results for them within a team or with their clients (“You must always brush and floss your teeth every day!”).

Perfectionist Hygienists don’t celebrate unless they feel they’ve perfected their work and the team has too (but there is always something to improve upon …).

Self-starters and self-regulators, Perfectionist Hygienists will ensure a practice keeps its moral compass, providing consistent and sustained patient value.

dental hygienist

The Helper Hygienist

“I am like the rain: I go where I'm needed.” ~Alejandro Jodorowsky

You may be a Helper Hygienist if you go the “extra mile” to help your teammates and your clients, even on your busiest day.

Integral to team building, Helper Hygienists' personal core values include being generous, forming relationships, and nurturing others. Dental Hygienists who are all about helping others work in practices that value patient care, share expertise and support individual client needs.

Professional growth is a way for this team member to see how she/he can serve others (both clients and teammates) better.

Within systems and procedures, the Helper Hygienist follows the direction of others in the practice, ready to serve.

Their exemplary skill is making sure that everyone else has what they need to be successful. However, this can sometimes lead to feeling used or taken for granted by others at work, or even their clients (“I remember all my patients’ birthdays, but they never remember mine!”).

Helper Hygienists celebrate with treats they make themselves, because nothing is too good (or too much work) for the people they support.

Generous and caring, Helper Hygienists help practices attract and retain patients with their personalized approach to service.

The High-Performance Hygienist

“A man's worth is no greater than his ambitions.” ~Marcus Aurelius

You may be a High-Performance Hygienist if seeing the practice grow and win recognition makes you proud to be a part of it.

Achievement oriented, High-Performance Hygienists have personal core values that include accomplishment, success, and recognition.

Dental hygienists who are motivated by success are drawn to practices that value integrity, professionalism, and excellence.

Professional growth for this team member is an investment; nothing stands in the way of improving skills and expertise so they can apply new standards of care at work.

Within systems and procedures, the High-Performance Hygienist will ensure the optics of what they are doing look good — to their clients and to other team members — even if the outcome may not add value.

These dental hygienists' exemplary skill is making sure that they are experts and knowledgeable (and look good doing it). However, they may not handle well having their work questioned (“Of course this is a necessary step: don’t you want your teeth to look good?”).

High-Performance Hygienists celebrate when their team or patients recognize their effort or when their practice earns a wider “achievement” (like winning a customer service award).

Sensitive to optics and the demands of success, High-Performance Hygienists always make a practice look good by providing excellent care.

dental hygienist

The Empathetic Hygienist

“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.” ~Rumi

You may be an Empathetic Hygienist if your dedicated, sensitive way of working deeply connects you to the service you provide patients (because this is so important to you).

Empathic Hygienists have core values that include a deep sense of empathy to those in their care. This goes with a dedication to their client. It also manifests with a sense of the exquisite in their delivery of service.

Work environments that strive for personalized and unique service attract these dental hygienists. They enjoy having compassion for their patients and an air of creativity in the dentistry that they do.

The Empathetic Hygienist’s approach to professional growth is to tap into what is meaningful to them, their patients, and the team.

Within systems and procedures, the Empathetic Hygienist transforms daily tasks into something valuable in order to find significance in their work.

This dental hygienist doesn’t tend to celebrate unless they feel they’ve got a profound reason to do so (it has to mean something).

The Problem-Solving Hygienist

“A day without learning is like a day without sunshine.” ~Unknown

If you have a profound ability to concentrate and spend much of your spare time reading dental journals, you might be a Problem-Solving Hygienist.

This dental hygienist's world is all about self-sufficiency and independence. Its core values are gaining wisdom, learning, and being competent.

Problem-Solving Hygienists respond well to evidence-based products. They enjoy a workplace that delivers with the utmost in quality and values the highest integrity.

Problem-Solving Hygienists may approach professional growth with open arms. Their love of researching everything allows them to maintain an excellent standard of care.

They will have new plans and references for all of the systems and procedures that are keeping the practice organized.

Their attitude for aligned action and exemplary skill will likely have an air of "never settle." So, how can they celebrate if nothing is ever finished? (Hint, they often can’t.)

dental hygienist

The Practical Hygienist

“There are only two options regarding commitment: you’re either in or you’re out. There is no such thing as life in between." ~Pat Riley

You may be a Practical Hygienist if you are reliable, responsible, and trustworthy.

This dental hygienist is an excellent troubleshooter. They foresee potential problems before anyone else. Their core values include a strong sense of loyalty, commitment, and an ability to foster good team players.

The Practical Hygienist seeks compassionate, honest practices that provide dependable and secure working environments.

These dental hygienists strive to ensure that their work, and the practice they serve, exceeds standard-of-care requirements. They may worry that they haven’t done enough in asking for help to reduce feelings of vulnerability.

The Practical Hygienist will have a backup for everything. They like to ensure that the hygiene department runs smoothly, and that everyone is cared for.

Their aligned action and exemplary skill may accompany a "never fail and always meet expectations" attitude. They celebrate when everything is done, and they don’t have to worry about anything (it could happen ... someday).

The Joyful Hygienist

“I always try things twice. The first time to see if I like it and the second time to see if I like it as much as the first time." ~Unknown

You might be a Joyful Hygienist if you are extroverted, versatile, and spontaneous.

This dental hygienist finds ways to be playful. They keep things fun for both them and their patients — “I am so excited about the new colors of toothbrushes we have for you to choose from!"

They love new equipment and scalers that keep their work interesting. And they're cheerfully determined about most things.

Their core values are best expressed through things that are interesting, innovative, and new. They do well in a practice that believes in innovation and team building.

The Joyful Hygienist thrives within a team culture that promotes positivity and provides dentistry with integrity and honesty.

They may approach personal and professional growth as something that requires a great deal of effort. These dental hygienists may often feel like they have put in "blood, sweat and tears" to accomplish some things.

They will attempt to find the easiest way to get things done, sometimes with uneven results, but they learn along the way. Systems and procedures can feel restricting and constricting (but they know they have to follow the process … blah!).

That said, they will find the easiest route to completion, which can be a time saver for them and the rest of the team. Their versatility allows them to find new ways to ensure they are aligned with action. Joyful Hygienists have an exemplary skill at putting themselves in a position to be their best.

Celebrate? YAY! They celebrate the little things AND the big things (all the things really)!

dental hygienist

The Assertive Hygienist

“The basic difference between being assertive and being aggressive is how our words and behavior affect the rights and well-being of others.” ~Sharon Anthony Bower

You may be an Assertive Hygienist if you are self-confident, strong and (like the namesake) assertive.

This dental hygienist enjoys taking on challenges for themselves. They also enjoy supporting other team members in things that will challenge them, all for the benefit of the practice.

Their core values are about being prepared, fair, and straightforward. They will not let anyone push them, or fellow team members, around. This dental hygienist will use their abundant energy to effect changes in the practice, sometimes even on behalf of others.

The Assertive Hygienist will perform well in a practice that is committed to compassionate and heartfelt caring for both the patients and the team.

They may approach professional growth with a wary eye, as long as there is something in it for them. They're always looking for ways to support their own professional means.

Systems and procedures are their thing. They will ensure that everyone follows procedure — calling others out if they don’t.

The Assertive Hygienist views exemplary skill as both personal and professional requirements. More so, they feel that team members should feel the same way.

This is the dental hygienist who celebrates staying late last night to get something done (“Oh, you went home on time? Ahh, guess I’ll treat myself then”).

The Peaceful Hygienist

"Sometimes you can find peace of mind by transferring yourself to different situations. They're just reminders to stay ... calm." ~Yves Behar

You might be a Peaceful Hygienist if you like everything to go smoothly or if you want everyone on the team to get along. In fact, this dental hygienist is likely to encourage cohesiveness with the team. They work diligently to help heal any conflicts.

Their core values are being adaptable, faithful, and harmonious. They would love to work in a practice that has a tagline like “We cater to the mild tempered and very polite.”

They value uniting empathy, kindness, and sensitive dentistry all together under one roof. These hygienists' core values include gentleness and kindness through empathy.

The Peaceful Hygienist may approach professional growth as a means to get along with others and participate (you know, quietly).

They like to follow the rules, and will pay attention to any changes within the systems and procedures. This ensures that their work continues to align to the practice, maintaining a peaceful and harmonious space.

They may not be out to change the world, but they do their very best with aligned action and exemplary skill. This kind of dental hygienist is steadfast on upholding the values of the practice. If everyone else is celebrating, they are in!

dental hygienist

Which Dental Hygienist are You?

There are so many unique qualities to each dental hygienist. Because of this, we need to remind ourselves that everyone has strengths. That each day is a journey of development.

This is why diversity is so key. Having many different types of hygienists that complement each other makes for well-rounded practices.

It is important for us to learn to be compassionate — not only with others, but also with ourselves — as we navigate this "being human" existence in the world of dentistry.

I hope this short read has allowed you to appreciate the challenges that can arise in achieving a cohesive #teamhygiene.

Note: Big Thanks to Carleen Hicks from www.loveyourworkinglife.com for her support and insight into this article.

Tracy Poirier has over thirty years of street smart experience in dentistry. She also has a passion for inspiring dental professionals to show up and be at their best on a daily basis. On a personal note, she has stepped out of the operatory and found writing to become an enjoyable way to share her knowledge and expertise.

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