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Dental Hygienist Interview Questions

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  1. How do you teach patients about proper oral care habits? See answer
  2. How do you handle a frightened, uncooperative or stressed patient in your dental clinic? See answer
  3. Why do you want to work as a dental hygienist for this practice? See answer
  4. Can you describe the signs and symptoms of gingivitis? What advice do you give to patients with gingivitis? See answer
  5. As a dental hygienist, what experiences do you have doing x-rays and diagnostic tests?
  6. As a dental hygienist, you might encounter a patient who questions or disagrees with your care methods. How would you handle a difficult patient? Do you have any examples from your previous experiences?
  7. What measures do you take before and after teeth cleanings to ensure you maintain a sanitary environment for patients?
  8. As a dental hygienist, you’ll be expected to work closely with other dental hygienists, dentists and front desk staff on a daily basis. Based on your previous experiences, how would you describe your teamwork skills in this role?
  9. How comfortable are you with entering notes into a computer system as the dentist inspects their patient’s teeth?
  10. If the dentist said there’s a cavity on tooth number one. Which tooth are they referring to?
  11. How would you describe the importance of a dental hygienist’s role within a dental practice?
  12. What dental procedures have you assisted dentists with in the past? What responsibilities did you have?
  13. What are likely causes if a patient has an excess amount of plaque on their teeth?
  14. How do you balance giving patients advice while also making sure not to make them feel insecure about their oral health?
  15. Do you have more experience in pediatric or adult dental care?
  16. Can you tell me the differences between hard deposits and soft deposits?
  17. Can you name a few key pieces of equipment or tools you use during routine teeth cleanings?
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6 Dental Hygienist Interview Questions and Answers

Q:

How do you teach patients about proper oral care habits?

A:

Asking a dental hygienist this question gives you an idea of their education, experience and overall philosophy of dental care. You’ll discover whether the hygienist has an oral health philosophy that you would welcome in your practice. You’ll also learn how the hygienist might interact with patients and whether he or she is able to explain basic and complex dental care in a way that patients can understand. What to look for in an answer:

  • Factually correct explanation of daily oral care routine
  • Ability to motivate patients
  • Ability to adapt teaching for a patient’s age and dental needs

Example:

“Using a mirror, I demonstrate proper brushing and flossing techniques on the patient’s teeth. Then, I let the patient practice these techniques while I supervise.”

Q:

How do you handle a frightened, uncooperative or stressed patient in your dental clinic?

A:

Many people fear going to the dentist, and this question gives you a window into whether the prospective employee would have a warm, reassuring and calm manner that could put patients at ease. You’ll learn what effective tactics this hygienist may have used in the past at previous practices, and this question helps you understand whether the employee would work well with special patient populations, including pediatric and elderly patients. What to look for in an answer:

  • Ability to give patient control during procedure
  • Knowledge of each step of the procedure
  • Appropriate use of distraction and other calming techniques

Example:

“I explain the procedure to the patient and tell them that they have control and can indicate for me to stop at any moment. I will be as gentle as possible and continually reassure the patient throughout the procedure.”

Q:

As a dental hygienist, what experience do you have doing x-rays and diagnostic tests?

A:

Asking this question helps you learn more about the dental hygienist’s level of experience and familiarity with the latest x-ray and other diagnostic equipment and understanding of appropriate patient safety procedures. Depending on their level of education and previous experience, this question lets you know whether you’d be able to delegate some exams and tests to this hygienist and free up time for the practice as a whole. What to look for in an answer:

  • Significant experience in digital x-rays
  • Training in latest radiation safety protocols
  • Further experience with intra-oral camera or other technologies

Example:

“Over the past five years, I have performed digital x-rays several times a week for patients of all ages. I follow the latest safety recommendations.”

Q:

Patients often extensively question and disagree with a dental hygienist. How would you handle a difficult patient?

A:

This question tells you how the prospective employee would handle conflict. You need to know that the candidate can respectfully and calmly resolve most situations without always deferring to the dentist or practice manager. On a deeper level, the candidate’s answer to this question shows their level of perseverance and confidence. If needed, ask the candidate how they might handle disagreements with special patient populations. What to look for in an answer:

  • Ability to maintain respect for patient
  • Positive and caring attitude
  • Strong communication skills

Example:

“I would provide the patient with the best possible information and facts about the treatment options without pushing a particular idea and then give them time and space to decide.”

Q:

Why do you want to work as a dental hygienist for this practice?

A:

This question helps you evaluate whether this dental hygienist would be a good fit with the rest of your dental team. It lets you know whether the candidate has sufficiently researched the services available at your practice, and you’ll also get a sense of the dental areas the candidate cares about most. You’ll learn more about what the candidate’s job expectations are and how dedicated he or she may be. What to look for in an answer:

  • A candidate with a sense of being a team player
  • Applicant’s enthusiasm for particular aspects of your practice
  • An applicant with realistic job expectations

Example:

“Working here would allow me to bring laser dentistry and other technological advances to more patients. I’d enjoy being part of such a large practice.”

Q:

Can you describe the signs and symptoms of gingivitis? What advice do you give to patients with gingivitis?

A:

Dental hygienists use their knowledge of oral health to help identify potential conditions in their patients. This question helps an interviewer gauge a candidate's knowledge of common conditions, their causes and their treatment options.

A candidate's answer should emphasize:

  • Passion for dental work
  • In-depth understanding of gingivitis
  • Previous professional experiences

Here is one example of a quality candidate answer:

Example:

"Typically, gingivitis shows itself in the form of red gums with a puffy appearance. Individuals may also experience bleeding gums when they brush or floss. Those with gingivitis can also experience tenderness in their gums and might notice they have bad breath. The advice I'd give to patients with gingivitis is to up their flossing habit to every few days if not every day and make it a point to brush their teeth for two minutes twice daily."

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