A Clear Direction

The importance of hygiene leadership in the dental group setting

According to a recent report from the American Dental Association (ADA), dental group practice growth has risen 25 percent in the past two years, and this growth is expected to continue in the years to come.

From a clinical care standpoint, dental group practice is very similar to the solo-practitioner setting. However, due to the number of providers and staff within a dental group practice, they have to manage differently. Consider this: A dental group of 20 offices could employ upward of 25 doctors and 40 dental hygienists or more on a day-to-day basis. The sheer numbers requires a different manner in which to support and manage the providers and the teams in the offices. Especially when it comes to the dental hygiene team.

Creating a Dental Hygiene Leadership structure in the group setting is necessary to develop and grow the hygiene team into the future. Today, dental groups often hire a Dental Hygiene Coordinator, or a Director of Hygiene to manage, grow and motivate the dental hygiene team. This role is crucial to the success of the group.

In most dental groups, the role of the Director of Dental Hygiene is responsible for managing the overall dental hygiene side of the business; and the development of the dental hygiene team. Their job description will look like this:

The Director of Dental Hygiene at ABC Dental Group will partner with the Chief Clinical Officer (a dentist) in the management of the dental hygiene team and business. This will include clinical training and coaching of the dental hygiene team.

The search for the right candidate

Finding the right candidate for this position is more than just promoting your top performing dental hygienists. You should select someone who has proven success chair side, but who also has a strong understanding of the operational side of the business. And no doubt, strong leadership and communication skills should occupy this role.

There are no rules or timing for hiring your first Director of Hygiene. However, managing teams over locations greater than six can become challenging. The earlier you bring in this position, the better.  Remember, you don’t have to start with a full time position. This role could easily work clinical and management until you have the full time demand within your group.

One of the largest struggles groups encounter when hiring their Director of Dental Hygiene is taking a person from clinical to a full time management role. This transition can be very difficult due to the change of expectations and the management of their time and focus. As with your clinical staff, it is important that you provide training and mentoring to this individual.

Before hiring your Director of Hygiene, take the time to define what a typical day as the “Director of Hygiene” looks like, and what you expect from them day-to-day, week-to-week, etc. Having clear expectations is crucial to their success, and their ability to navigate their way into this new role.

The Director of Hygiene will provide abundant benefits to the practice, including a return on the investment of their role. With the right candidate, clear expectations and support; your dental hygiene director can grow your hygiene business rapidly while keeping your team motivated and happy.


Director of Dental Hygiene Job Summary:

To lead dental hygiene team in achieving the highest levels of quality patient care and productivity through orientation, mentoring, coaching and leadership development activities designed to meet the mission, vision and goals of the group.

Essential Responsibilities:

• Support the financial goals of the group.

• Develop, implement and support a dental hygiene curriculum for professional development.

• Develop, implement and monitor dental hygiene protocols and systems, training initiatives, mentoring/coaching plans, productivity, service mix goals and a social operating system for dental group.

• Provide ongoing coaching, feedback for performance of dental hygiene team, and dental hygiene mentors.

• Support dental hygiene recruitment and hiring.

• Continuously improve revenue, service mix, scheduling efficiency and patient retention.

• Establish and maintain a dental hygiene orientation and mentoring program for dental group.

• Develop social operating plan with dental hygiene team in order to drive initiative and results.

• Meet regularly and collaborate with operation and clinical leaders to coordinate development and implementation of dental hygiene initiatives.

• Meet regularly and collaborate with dental hygiene mentors/coaches.

• Act as subject matter expert for dental hygiene.

Knowledge and Skills:

• Understanding of business acumen.

• Proven success in project management.

• Experience delivering training to providers using sound principles and research to support information.

• Demonstrated success achieving results through defined goals.

• Possess outstanding communication skills; verbal and written.

• Ability to influence change through interpersonal skills.

• Passion to drive results and deliver on commitments.

• Ability to understand, develop and execute organizational development/dental hygiene development strategy to fulfill business objectives.

• Demonstrated proficiency as a strategic thinker, possess self-confidence and organizational awareness, and ability to impact and influence.

• Ability to work independently toward achievement of agreed upon goals and tasks.

• Ability to confront difficult issues.

• Ability to lead team projects from start to finish.


• Strong communication skills with patient, doctors and team members.

• Ability to work independently.

• Act with honesty and integrity.

• Ability to hold self and others accountable to performance and results.

• Respect strength and weaknesses of each team member.

• Ability to deliver on expected results.


By Heidi Arndt

Heidi Arndt, RDH, BSDH has worked in the dental field for 18+ years. Her experience ranges from working as a treatment coordinator, dental assistant, and practice manager before graduating from the University of Minnesota with a bachelor’s degree in Dental Hygiene. In 2011, Heidi founded Enhanced Hygiene. She is dedicated to helping dental practices realize their total hygiene profit potential through the development of their hygiene team, quality patient care, patient-centric service and by empowering the entire team.

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