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Yes, you have a hygiene department

Aug. 25, 2016
You have a hygiene department even if you employ only one hygienist. And if you're in the minority of dentists who do their own hygiene, then this issue is really for you.
Chris Salierno, DDS, Chief Dental Officer, Tend

This may be a bizarre concept. When I use the term "hygiene department," you're probably imagining one of those mega-practices that employ eight full-time hygienists and a couple of assistants solely devoted to helping turn those rooms around. But you have a hygiene department even if you employ only one hygienist. And if you're a part of the minority of dentists who do their own hygiene, then this issue is really for you.

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A hygiene department is made up of RDHs, surely, but it's also pretty much everybody else in your practice as well, insofar as their duties relate to the patient recall cycle. You perform the examinations, your assistants help keep the instruments flowing, and your front office personnel appoint and bill the patients. Every system you have and every team member who participates in this circulation of patients is part of a very special department in your practice.

Chances are you learned very little about the hygiene department when you were in dental school. I had barely encountered any hygienists before I graduated. On on my first day in my first associateship, I remember the hygienist walking into my room to request an exam. "But I'm in the middle of an operative procedure," I thought. "How is this supposed to work?"


Your hygiene systems are arguably the most important in your practice. We must keep a healthy supply of patients flowing into our practice, give them an outstanding experience, diagnose any disease that is present, and correctly bill for the services provided. There are a lot of moving parts here and a critical failure at any step can cost you lost revenue and, even worse, lost patients.

So let's read on, gather the troops, and arm your hygiene department with everything it needs to lead your practice to success.


Chris Salierno, DDS

[email protected]

Chris has more to say about your hygiene department. Find the video online at, and scroll down to "Practice Management Videos" to find "Your hygiene department needs an overhaul."

About the Author

Chris Salierno, DDS | Chief Dental Officer, Tend

Chris Salierno, DDS, is a general dentist from Long Island, New York. He graduated from Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine in 2005. Dr. Salierno lectures internationally on clinical dentistry, practice management, and leadership development. In 2017 he became a chief development officer with the Cellerant Consulting Group, and he was the chief editor of Dental Economics from 2014 to 2021. In 2021, he became the chief dental officer at Tend. He can be reached on Instagram @the_curious_dentist.

Updated May 13, 2022

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