Create Ease in Your Dental Hygiene Workflow

By Lexi Marino March 17, 2021

Simplify your dental hygiene workflow for optimal performance at every step. In this piece, we’ll reflect on a conversation with Amanda Hill, RDH to see what hygienists need to have in place in order to create ease, avoid burnout, and physical strain.

Top 3 takeaways from this Dental Voice session:

  • Always be learning. Incorporate new technology into your workflow.
  • Network with dental hygiene colleagues when you’re facing workflow issues.
  • When your office invests in new technology, do everything you can to adopt it before setting it aside.


Rolando Mia: Good afternoon everybody. Welcome to “Dental Voice”. My name is Rolando Mia, and this is Zyris.

The purpose of “Dental Voice” is to give professionals in our industry an opportunity to share their perspectives, opinions, and get advice. Season three is all about understanding what clinicians need to thrive.

Today, I’m excited to introduce, Amanda Hill, BSDH, RDH. She is a returning guest to “Dental Voice”. In addition, Amanda is also the host of the “Your Dental Top Five” podcast.

How are you Amanda?

Amanda Hill, RDH: I am doing great and I’m so excited to be here with you today, Rolando.

Rolando Mia: So, you’ve been practicing dental hygiene now for 20 plus years? Like you started when you were four.

Amanda Hill, RDH: Four yeah, when I was a protégé.

Rolando Mia: During our previous discussions, you’ve talked about the importance of continuous education in your career.

In addition, you mentioned that networking is important because it gives you access to people, new technologies, different innovations, and this is how you learn things to create better workflow, better routine, so that you can have fun at work. Right?

Amanda Hill, RDH: Absolutely.

Dental School vs. Dental Settings: Reality

Rolando Mia: Now you mentioned that early days of hygiene, you realized that dental school gives you phenomenal tools, a lot of information. However, these tools are fundamental to helping you understand dentistry, but they don’t really address workflow issues, physical strain, stress.

So, if you would please, tell us about how your workflow has evolved, over the years based on what you’ve learned. Having fun at work is definitely a sign that you’re thriving. So, we’re really curious to hear more about that.

Amanda Hill, RDH: Well, you know, certainly in hygiene school, you get about three hours per patient, and that won’t work in the real world. You know, you don’t get three hours with one prophy. So, you jump into those real-world scenarios and all of a sudden you have hopefully 60 minutes for a patient. I can’t really function with a whole lot less than that and I had to figure out really fast how to come up with a flow that was going to work for me.

I’m a big fan of standard operating procedures but those standard operating procedures that I had 25 years ago in 1996, look nothing like my standard operating procedures today, because hygiene has changed so much. So in 1996, while in hygiene school I was taking blood pressure, in the actual operatory, I wasn’t. However, now in 2021, I am doing that on every patient because I understand the importance of that.

So, it’s really taking our learning, and adjusting those standard operating procedures to make sure that you’re doing all you can as a clinician. Again, it really is important to have fun with what you do, because if you’re just checking a box, it’s going to feel like Groundhog Day. You’re going to be like, “I can’t do this anymore. I’m done.”

So, I always want to feel excited about what I’m doing. I do that through trying new things too, try new technologies and new ways to communicate. It’s super important.

Determining New Technology to Incorporate

Rolando Mia: So when you see these technologies, how do you how do you determine what to incorporate?

Amanda Hill, RDH: Yeah. So, I mean, if you see all these cool technologies and they all look awesome, right? So you want all of them, well, you can’t have all of them. There’s not time to use all of them.

The thing that I love to do is really to spend time networking, with other hygienists or other dental professionals to understand what they’re using, and what they love, and why they love it, and then think, “Okay would that work in my day to day?”

Funny story, we talked about the technologies that you learn in hygiene school. In hygiene school we got our cassette of instruments. So, I knew my cassette of instruments since when I graduated, I knew that I liked an H6/H7. I knew that I liked a Columbia 13 14. I knew about my Graceys and that was about all I knew about.

So, fast forward to just a few months ago, I’m doing the “Your Dental Top Five” podcast and I’m interviewing Anika Forbes. And she starts talking about how she’s temping, and how when temping, she never tempts without a Nevi. And I was like, well, what’s a Nevi? She’s like, “Oh my God, that’s my favorite instrument ever, for the mandibular anteriors.” And I was like, “Well, what do you mean, you just use an H6/H7?” She’s like, “No, you got to try a Nevi.” So, I went out and I got a Nevi.

Importance of Networking

Had I stuck with what I was doing, back in hygiene school using my H6/H7 and getting the mandibular anteriors, I would have never known without networking and talking to somebody else that said, “No this is my favorite, to try it out and see”, I would have never found this super cool instrument.

I’m so glad that I talked to her and tried it, because advertising is advertising. You know, you can look through a magazine, an RDH magazine, and see all the ads. Of course, every product is the best thing ever. And it’s going to save you time and save your infection control and whatever. But until you talk to somebody that is legit hands-on using this and figured out how to incorporate into your day, you don’t know that that’s necessarily something that’s right for you.

Rolando Mia: That’s so cool. You’re right; you only know what you know, you don’t know what you don’t know. By networking, you can do that. How does integrating these new technologies affect your workflow? I mean, I suspect there’s a learning curve.

Amanda Hill, RDH: Absolutely. You definitely have to be patient with yourself when you’re bringing in a new system, or piece of technology. Give yourself a hot minute. If that means that you’re adjusting something else out of your workflow, then you’re adjusting something else out of your workflow. There’s a give and take that happens here.

If you find a new piece of equipment or a new piece of technology that really might save you time, or it might help the patient in a better way. Like that Nevi, maybe I’m gouging that tooth way less because it’s better for the patient’s tooth structure. It’s worth that learning curve. Frankly, it keeps your brain active. It takes away that Groundhog Day feeling. So, I think it keeps your work fun.

Investing in Technology 

Rolando Mia: You mentioned to me before when we were talking that if you don’t give yourself the grace to actually take a step back and learn it, what ends up happening is it ends up in a corner.

Amanda Hill, RDH: I’ve got a good story about that one. So, I just joined a new office, and I go into this new office and I’m so excited because I see an airflow, a subgingival air polisher that you can do guided biofilm therapy with. I’ve done lots of CES on guided biofilm therapy. I’ve read lots of articles. I know that this is going to help patients. This is going to make a difference.

So it’s just sitting there and I’m like, “Oh my gosh this is so exciting.” And the dentist tells me, “It’s been sitting here for a year, the current hygienist doesn’t want to use it. She tried it once and she felt like she inhaled prophy powder, she got a headache, and she doesn’t want to ever touch it again.” This is a multi-thousand dollars machine; it was not cheap.

It’s sitting there unused. So, I immediately start to play with it. I’m putting it in a cup, you know, trying it out. Then I call my dad up and I make him come in and be the patient because we need to try this thing. I don’t necessarily want to try it on a patient that I’ve never met before, especially being the new hygienist.

So, I was able to use the Isovac® and then did the guided biofilm therapy, easiest thing ever to do. I couldn’t believe how easy it was. So I brought the other hygienist over and I was like, “Come here, you got to try this.”

We actually put the Isovac in my mouth, and I let her try the guided biofilm therapy. She was like “Wait, I’m not inhaling prophy powder. I’m not getting a headache anymore.” I was like, “It’s because you’re doing it the right way.” So, once we were able to get over that hurdle, it’s become this great new machine that’s getting utilized. Can I tell you how happy my dentist is? That this multi thousand-dollar machine is actually getting used, not to mention the benefit to patients.

Creating Ease in Your Workflow

Rolando Mia: So, how does that tie then to relieving stress and create ease in your workflow?

Amanda Hill, RDH: Absolutely. Well, I would say that guided biofilm therapy really, actually shortens an appointment time. It does a lot of the work for you, which is fabulous. I felt like my posture is better. I’m sitting up with the Isovac. Now, I have my left hand, and I have my right hand, because I have the Isovac in there, which is so cool.

It’s like having a dental assistant, which you know, hygienists, we never get one. We’re like the forgotten stepchild over in our corner of the office. So, that’s helped me, be able to have better ergonomics, have better control.

The patient is more comfortable frankly, you know once you get over that initial, just like how do you fit the Isovac Mouthpiece in. Don’t be afraid of it. It’s been great, but you know, it took a hot minute. Like I said, I pulled my dad in first. Then I had them work on me. Then I brought my husband in, and then, we were ready to go. All the patients have loved it.

I think sometimes, and they like trying new stuff too. The patients actually get a kick out of it. I think that they see that you’re an innovative office. When I talked to them about the science behind it, my patients think, “Oh my gosh, she takes a lot of classes. Like she’s really up on things. She’s not practicing hygiene the same way she was practicing at 25 years ago and just telling everybody, brush and floss, because that’s what I knew back then.” Now I know more.

I’m able to, I think elevate my status as a clinician, which certainly helps me feel about what I’m doing, helps patients feel more engaged in the process and they understand why their oral health is essential. Learning is a big deal in, helping us feel good about our profession and helping just in that workflow.

Top 3 Strategies 

Rolando Mia: So, I love the context around integrating, recognizing that, you have to give yourself a hot minute to get it in there and understand new technology.

If I were to ask you one, two, or even three key strategies, that you could share with our viewers around, finding a seamless way to basically increase your workflow, what would they be?

Amanda Hill, RDH: Well, one I would say to network. Right now networking is not in-person, networking is virtual. The hygiene groups have their pros and cons on social media but really you can get some great tips there. I was just reading one last night where it was a new hygienist and she’s like, “I’m always running behind and I don’t know how to keep up with my appointments.” There were probably a hundred comments about different hygienists had great tips. Lots of them said polish first, guided biofilm therapy, different instruments that are their favorite.

If you don’t do that networking with other hygienists that are in the trenches and doing the stuff, you’re never going to get those new and innovative ideas and be able to try them out and see, “Does that work in my workflow?”

Another huge thing for workflow is teamwork. It’s really bringing in your whole team, your front desk, your assistants, your dentist, your co-hygienist, whoever’s in that team, and understand that everybody is in there for one purpose. The purpose is to treat patients and take care of patients. When you have co-workers, where everybody’s sitting in their own little box, the workflow gets really stymied, and I think that people start to get bad attitudes. So, really working hard to keep your team cohesive, and do your best to help out your team members as much as you possibly can. Then, they’re going to reciprocate that, because when you have that ebb and flow, your workflow really works so much better.

The last thing I would say is never stop learning. I take an insane amount of continuing education courses because I love it. I was on a two-hour course last night on biofilm which was so fascinating. I just adored it. Then I went into the office this morning and was talking to my team. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, you guys won’t believe what I saw.” There were these slides and there was bacteria eating bacteria and I can remain excited about all of this. It just keeps me excited to go into the Op excited to tell my patients and my coworkers this, and it keeps it fun.

Rolando Mia: I love that. Thank you for saying networking, because it gives you access to people, technology, mentors, friends, and information. Team, very important. Don’t just sit there in your little box your silo, because it’s about togetherness and sharing. And then, this whole context of learning. I love that. The more you can learn the more, you can expand and share it.

Your enthusiasm is just absolutely contagious. Every time I have an opportunity to sit with you, it’s fantastic. I’m so thrilled that you could join us for Dental Voice. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention. Unfortunately we don’t have Dr. Fauci on today, or do we? What? wait a minute.

Amanda Hill, RDH: I wore my Dr. Fauci socks. for you too.

Rolando Mia: One day. We’re going to get there.

All right. Thank you. Take care. Have a great rest of your week.

Amanda Hill, RDH: Bye everybody.