Survey dives into thoughts on role of dental hygienists working inside a DSO

By Christine Diehl, RDH, BS, and Sarah Varney, RDH, BSDH, DrBicuspid.com contributing writers

September 9, 2020 -- DSO Hygiene Excellence is a national organization for dental hygienists in dental service organization (DSO) practices that recently sent out a national survey to DSO leaders and DSO dental hygienists. We had 30 DSO leaders and 100 DSO dental hygienists who participated. The purpose of the survey was to gauge the pulse of the DSO space and to find out the expectations and needs of each of these groups. The data revealed some significant findings and pinpointed areas where improvement needs to be facilitated.

Our survey revealed that 63% of DSO leaders did not feel their hygienists were accountable, while 78% of hygienists said they had a clear understanding of the expectations for their hygiene department as it related to patient care.

Sarah Varney, RDH, BSDH
Sarah Varney, RDH, BSDH.

When DSO leaders were asked what obstacles they currently face, they responded that staff turnover, recruitment, COVID-19, and low hourly production were the most challenging. Accountability also came up again in this category and consistency in presentation and treatment planning was also a concern. Obstacles facing the hygienists included time for infection control and personal protective equipment (PPE). They also expressed that they did not feel they had a voice in decision-making and were undervalued.

We asked hygienists, "How strongly do you feel a sense of community within your DSO?" Only 27% felt a strong sense of community, 48% felt some, and 25% felt none at all. Of the hygienists surveyed, 80% were interested in collaboration opportunities with other hygienists within their DSO while only 20% were not.

DSO leaders were asked, "How do you see hygienists in leadership roles?" Many viewed them as mentors, some viewed them as team leaders, and some viewed them as leaders in their hygiene departments. Only one respondent didn't see them as leaders at all. Hygienists were asked if they would be interested in having a mentor, with 55% saying yes and 45% saying no.

Christine Diehl, RDH, BS
Christine Diehl, RDH, BS.

Additionally, 24% of DSO leaders viewed training and education as growth opportunities to elevate their hygiene departments, while 12% felt that having their hygienists only doing periodontal procedures would help to elevate them. Only 4% thought incorporating new technology would elevate their departments with the rest of the participants giving varying answers. Hygienists, on the other hand, were asked if their DSO supported their professional growth and how strongly. To this question, 25% felt very supported, 45% felt somewhat supported, and 30% did not feel supported.

Finally, 56% of DSO leaders reported they did not feel they had consistency throughout their hygiene departments. It is worth noting that 70% of DSO leaders said they would benefit from implementing a system-based hygiene program in their hygiene departments.

Based on these results, DSO Hygiene Excellence has created a diplomat certification program with five certifications in the program -- leadership, diplomacy/teamwork, dental/medical synergy, clinical excellence, and business excellence -- and is finalizing the DSO Hygiene Excellence Academy.

Sarah Varney, RDH, BSDH, is a registered dental hygienist who has been employed by Kendall Pointe Dental in Oswego, IL, since 1988. In 2008, Varney became the charter recipient of the Irene Newman award.

Christine Diehl, RDH, BS, has 28 years of clinical dental hygiene experience. She currently practices with a patient-centered approach with an emphasis on the oral-systemic connection.

The duo co-founded CE2 at DecisionOne Dental in 2019 and DSO Hygiene Excellence in 2020.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DrBicuspid.com, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.


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