Providers16 May, 2024

How to Become a Dental Hygienist Leader with AI

Bridget Reilly, RDH, Laura Bettencourt, RDH, Danielle Avila, RDH

How to Become a Dental Hygienist Leader with AI

Providers16 May, 2024

Bridget Reilly, RDH, Laura Bettencourt, RDH, Danielle Avila, RDH

A conversation with:

Bridget Reilly, RDH, Senior Clinical Implementation Specialist at Overjet

Laura Bettencourt, RDH, Hygiene Career Coach, LD Coaching

Danielle Avila, RDH, Hygiene Career Coach, LD Coaching

Hygienists are the heart and soul of dental practices. They do a dozen different jobs to keep patients happy and healthy: educating patients about home care, cleaning their teeth, charting their entire mouth, comforting them when they’re scared, and so much more. 

But despite this all-important role, hygienists aren’t always seen as the leaders that they truly are. It’s time for that to change!

We’re a group of long-time dental hygienists — Bridget, Laura, and Danielle — who love helping our peers level up their skills. In this Q&A, we discuss the ways that hygienists are now using artificial intelligence (AI) to become trusted leaders. Ultimately, we believe that mastering dental AI is the fastest way to grow your career.

How does AI help hygienists educate patients?

Bridget: Over the last few years, I’ve seen firsthand how AI is revolutionizing the role of the dental hygienist. That’s especially true when it comes to helping patients understand their oral health — so they feel confident in your recommendations.

By using dental AI tools likeOverjet, we’re able to bring black-and-white radiographs to life with bright colors. It’s a game-changer when patients can immediately see decay, calculus, bone loss, and everything else that’s happening inside their mouth. And because the technology is so precise, measuring things down to the millimeter, it puts you in the position of being the ultimate expert as you explain the findings.

Overjet’s AI analysis highlights key structures and pathologies in radiographs.

Laura: Absolutely. One of the biggest keys to success as a hygienist is establishing trust with patients. Chairside manner is obviously important, but so is your ability to clearly and confidently communicate what’s in a patient’s X-ray.

That’s where AI tools like Overjet are valuable. Once you’re comfortable with the tool, your words are backed up by concrete evidence that the patient can understand. Now, it’s not just you saying it — it’s an objective analysis that’s based on millions of real cases.

How does AI allow hygienists to work faster?

Danielle: It can be challenging to focus on leveling up your skills when you’re busy with so many day-to-day tasks, from making dental charts to analyzing radiographs. For me, the overarching benefit of AI is its ability to either speed up or completely automate these tasks, which lets hygienists spend more time sharing and expanding their knowledge.

Hygienists can grow into leadership roles by becoming the office’s expert on dental AI technology.

Bridget: That’s exactly how we think about AI at Overjet. With everything we build, the goal is to give dentists and hygienists the precise information they need to focus on patients, rather than routine work.

For example, we recently got clearance from the FDA for our Chart Assist capability. Chart Assist detects natural dental structures, like enamel and pulp, as well as restorative treatments like implants and crowns. It’s the kind of common sense tool that — once you have it — you can’t imagine how you worked before.

How can hygienists successfully implement AI?

Danielle: Adopting new technologies like AI can be hard for hygienists. Once you’re accustomed to a routine, it takes not only patience but also courage to step outside your comfort zone.

To overcome this barrier, it’s critical to surround yourself with like-minded people, who understand and support your goals in improving the experience for patients. With the proper support, training, and mindset, hygienists can successfully embrace innovation and excel in their roles within the evolving landscape of dental care.

Bridget: I love that point about like-minded people. I’ve helped countless practices implement AI, and I’ve found that the key is having the entire team on board, with clear expectations from leadership.

It’s crucial to prioritize the team’s comfort and confidence with any new technology. That means allowing enough time for both training and integrating the tool into existing workflows. The secret tends to be identifying a “super user” who quickly grasps the technology, who can encourage and support others to embrace AI.

The dental hygienist of the future

At this point, there’s no doubt that dental AI is here to stay. Thousands of clinics are already using AI to provide the absolute cutting edge of dental care to their patients — and innovative hygienists are a huge reason why.

In the future, AI will increasingly allow us to practice preventive dentistry, because we’ll have such a deep and precise understanding of each patient’s unique needs. There’s no better experience for patients than catching problems early, before they need intervention.

When it comes to this revolution in dental care, hygienists can do more than just keep up. They can lead the way.