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Dental Hygienist Interview
Questions

25 Questions and Answers by
| Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter
who helps everyone from students to fortune executives find success in their career.

Question 1 of 25

How would you handle a situation where the patient was not satisfied?

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Dental Hygienist Interview Questions

  1. 1.

    How would you handle a situation where the patient was not satisfied?

      The interviewer knows you can't satisfy everyone. Showing that you care and have the skills to listen and empathize are the types of qualities the interviewer is looking for. This is where you show off your customer service skills. Ideally, your patients will walk away with a bright smile on their faces, but that is not always the case.

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "I had a patient who was frustrated because we had a long wait that day. I listened to him vent and told him, 'That does sound frustrating. I'm so sorry this had to take up so much of your day.' Even though I couldn't solve the problem, I made a point to be understanding and empathetic to his situation."

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "If I had a patient who was not satisfied, I would ask specific questions to see what their true frustration was. Perhaps they are having a bad day and simply blaming it on lack of parking, or that they had a 10-minute wait. Most individuals just want to be heard. I will empathize but also will not allow an unhappy patient to railroad me emotionally."

      View answer examples for this question >

  2. 2.

    Why should we hire you as our next dental hygienist?

      If you can't think of ways that you are unique, ask a few friends or family members what they feel sets you apart from other people. Their observations may help you understand how you are perceived.

      Perhaps you already know what sets you apart! This could include any industry accolades, exceptional achievements, additional industry related training, a second language, or how involved you are in the community. Don't be afraid to brag about yourself a bit. In an interview, you are your most influential advocate.

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "You should hire me because I am unlike anyone else you have interviewed before. When I started with my current clinic, I was the youngest dental hygienist they had ever hired. That didn't stop me from becoming a senior hygienist within six months. I am dedicated to my craft and engaged in this industry to the point where I commit myself to taking at least one development or leadership related workshop every business quarter. I am a competitive achiever. You won't be disappointed when you hire me."

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "I believe you should hire me because I am highly dedicated to this industry, having just graduated with my Associate's Degree in Dental Hygiene. I finished top of my class. I also bilingual in English and Spanish, allowing me to communicate with a vast range of clients."

      View answer examples for this question >

  3. 3.

    How do you show your co-workers the importance of communication in the workplace?

      Working in the medical field, communication is crucial to a successful clinic. As you know, 'telling' and 'showing' are two very different things. Talk to the interviewer about how you put communication into action in the workplace.

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "I show my co-workers the importance of communication through my willingness to ask questions if I do not understand the first time. I do not pretend to know something just to save face. By creating an environment where questions are encouraged, we have increased communication greatly, and have seen a healthier safety record as a result."

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "Many in-office and client service issues stem from poor communication. While attending school, we often role played and discussed ways to manage patient issues and disputes. This practice has certainly prepared me for clearer communication with my future patients."

      View answer examples for this question >

      Anonymous Answer

      "Communication is defiantly key to a happy, well-working work force. I show my co-workers this by always communicating and ideas, changes and also my willingness to ask questions if i do not understand something first time to avoid any break downs in communication within the team."

      Rachelle's Answer

      It sounds as though you are a great team player and communicator! Can you give a specific example of this approach related to your work as a Dental Hygienist?

      "Clear communication is the key to a happy, efficient workforce. I show my co-workers this by communicating any ideas and changes promptly. I also practice good communication through my willingness to ask questions. If I do not understand something the first time, to avoid any communication break downs, I quickly ask for clarification."

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  4. 4.

    Which do you recommend to patients, water flossing vs string flossing?

      This question is testing your knowledge and technique. If an interviewer asks this type of question, a proper response would be, "What do you recommend to your patients?"

      Showing that you are open to learning new ways of doing things is a good sign, primarily when working with a new team.

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "What do you recommend to your patients?"

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "I realize that string flossing is the most traditional method of flossing; however, with patients who just aren't willing to be consistent, I do suggest water flossing. It's a bit easier to water floss. Kids seem to find water flossing to be more fun, too."

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      Anonymous Answer

      "I would always recommend string flossing. I feel you have more control with string, it's visibly more effective, and there are new ways of flossing tepe brushes are usually best, they look like a little bottle brush and simply go in and out of the teeth contact and I find they are much easier and much more effective to use."

      Rachelle's Answer

      Good! You make some fantastic recommendations, and who doesn't love the feeling of a TePe brush! :)

      "I have always recommended string flossing because I feel string flossing offers more control, and it's visibly more effective. There are new ways of flossing, such as TePe brushes, which are like a little bottle brush and go in and out of the teeth contact. I find these are much easier and more effective compared to water flossing."

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      Anonymous Answer

      "It depends on the patient's preference, as well. If the patient has poor manual dexterity, for example, arthritis, I would recommend water flossing as well as for crown, bridge, and implant patient. Otherwise, string flossing is more of a traditional way to do it. I usually recommend a patient try both and find whichever one that is working, and they feel comfortable with it."

      Rachelle's Answer

      It's great that you consider what your patients like, and very observant of you to consider their dexterity. Nice response!

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  5. 5.

    What experience do you have performing tasks outside of your role as a hygienist?

      The interviewer would like to know that you are the type of team player who will jump in and help your colleagues, whether it's 'in your job description' or not. There is nothing more distasteful for an employer to hear their employee say 'That's not my job.' Show the interviewer that, on busy days, you anticipate helping out in additional areas.

      Be prepared with a list of skills and procedures you are experienced in, and think of ways you add value beyond your job description. If you have experience with reception work, taking calls, scheduling and handling paperwork, those are also useful skills.

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "I am always happy to jump in and help my colleagues when they are running behind. Becuase I am new to my career as a dental hygienist, I am ready and willing to take on any office related tasks. I will treat everything as a learning opportunity; including answering the phones, booking patients, or helping an elderly patient to their car."

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "In addition to general hygienist duties, I also have experience in removing sutures, administering local anesthetics, and performing radiographs. I can step into many shoes, as needed."

      Anonymous Answer

      "In addition to my role, I also have experience in administrative tasks like receptionist work, as well as steri nurse and dental assisting. Or I am helping to walk an elderly patient to their car or cab. I am always happy to jump in and help out whenever I am needed."

      Rachelle's Answer

      You seem very ready to do what it takes to be kind, helpful, and deliver the best to your patients. Well said!

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  6. 6.

    Have you ever broken a confidentiality agreement?

      Companies will have confidentiality agreements for a variety of reasons. These could be to protect their trade secrets, patient confidentiality, or to ensure that you do not bring clients over on the occasion that you leave their medical practice one day. Talk to the interviewer about your thoughts on confidentiality agreements.

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "I never have, to my knowledge, broken a confidentiality agreement. Despite my reasons for leaving a position, I would never choose to hurt a previous employer in any way."

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "No. I have only once had a confidentiality agreement and had no problem adhering to it."

      View answer examples for this question >

      Anonymous Answer

      "I never have, to my knowledge. I know the importance of keeping my confidentiality agreement and completely respect that not to break it."

      Rachelle's Answer

      Well said, and to the point :)

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      Anonymous Answer

      "I have never broken a confidentiality agreement. I think it is vital for me as an employe as well as my patient's operator to keep any confidential files and conversations. It is necessary and important to protect everyone."

      Rachelle's Answer

      You show high regard for confidentiality, here. Since you mention confidential files, it may be helpful to mention HIPAA, if you live in a region where this act is the law.

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  7. 7.

    What is the most challenging aspect of this role for you?

      When addressing challenges, talk about how you can overcome them. Better yet, talk about how you anticipate problems and strive to prevent them. Working on your feet, and with your hands, all day can be taxing. Being in a customer-facing role is also challenging. Presenting measures to combat these types of challenges shows you are proactive, so take this as an opportunity to show your strengths in the face of challenges.

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "Since this job is so physical, days where I see a high volume of patients is difficult. I'm careful of my hands and wrists to make sure I don't injure myself over time. I am very healthy, practice yoga and do a lot of stretching."

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "I believe the most challenging aspect of this role will be to remember all of the medical language associated with the role of a dental hygienist. I am taking control of this by studying a couple of hours per night."

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      Anonymous Answer

      "I think it's the ergonomic, especially with a full day job. It can be tricky sometimes. I'm very careful with it, especially with my neck and back, and to avoid chronic fatigue. I usually go to the gym regularly to stretch and strengthen my body."

      Rachelle's Answer

      This job is certainly tough on one's body, so it's wonderful that you are sure to care for your health by stretching and strengthening.

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  8. 8.

    How many years experience do you have as a dental hygienist?

      The interviewer is trying to quickly gauge if you are qualified for this role, or not. If they have invited you for an interview, chances are - you have something on your resume that they like. Most job postings will specify the amount of years experience that the employer is looking for so, be prepared with that information.

      Let's say the interviewer is looking for five years experience in a specific field or skill, and you have only three years: "I have approximately three years' experience in your direct field; however, I have exposure to many similar job duties from my five years in position XYZ. I am well equipped to exceed expectations in this role."

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "I have approximately three years' experience in your direct field; however, I have exposure to many similar job duties from my five years in position XYZ. I am well equipped to exceed expectations in this role."

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "I am just beginning my career as a dental hygienist. I recently graduated with my Certificate in Dental Hygiene. I completed my 3-month practicum at a local clinic, supporting two dentists. I learned a lot in this practicum and looked forward to taking my skills to work in your clinic."

      View answer examples for this question >

  9. 9.

    What is your experience working with children?

      As a dental hygienist, you are likely going to work in a family-friendly office. If you are a more experienced hygienist, share your experiences where you worked with kids in the office. You can also mention your exposure to working with children in another career space.

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "Before becoming a dental hygienist, I worked as a nanny. I have always enjoyed working with kids. As a hygienist, I get to see kids often, and they can be challenging when they are afraid or anxious. I have learned how to comfort them and teach them fun ways to care for their teeth."

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "While completing my practicum, I worked in a family-friendly dental clinic. Many kids came through. I found that I was great with helping them to stay calm during their procedure. They love the little stickers and toys they get as a reward after their visit, which is always so cute to see."

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      Anonymous Answer

      "I have had numerous babysitting jobs during my high school years. I even continued to babysit when I was in college. I also performed on a dance team where I had a little one who was assigned to me that looked up to me as we competed. I love working with kids and enjoy the smiles they share."

      Rachelle's Answer

      This is an excellent answer that showcases your ability to work around children but also your willingness to be a positive influence. Well done :)

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  10. 10.

    Describe your working relationship with your previous or current colleagues.

      When you answer this question, be sure to remain positive, even if the experience wasn't. Avoid talking about any previous drama and do not speak poorly of your colleagues.

      If you had a good relationship with your previous colleagues: "I get along well with most personalities. My colleagues were great team players, and we would often meet up after work for drinks or team activities."

      If you did not have a good relationship with your previous colleagues: "I have had better relationships in the past, but we did the best that we could. Our communication styles were all very different which made it challenging at times."

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "I get along well with most personalities. My colleagues were great team players, and we would often meet up after work for drinks or team activities."

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "I get along with just about everyone that I work with. I respect other people's knowledge, experience, and opinion, even if I don't agree. I think that is why I can work with anyone."

      View answer examples for this question >

      Anonymous Answer

      "All the colleagues I have worked with have shared a respectful relationship with me. We work towards common goals to make ourselves, patients, and the clinic better. Communication and caring nature make up a large part of it."

      Rachelle's Answer

      It seems you have very harmonious relationships in the workplace, which any interviewer will be happy to hear.

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  11. 11.

    If you are stressed, what signs occur and what do you do about it?

      This question is meant to check your self-awareness. Do you realize when you are stressed? What stresses you out the most? Respond in a way that shows your understanding of stress and how it affects you. Be careful to reveal that you cannot handle stress. You absolutely can. Sharing a weak moment doesn't show you are weak. It shows that you are human and affected by stress just like everyone else. Focus more on how you cope with stress than how stressed out you get. Knowing your triggers is key!

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "I enjoy working in the fast-paced environment of a dental clinic, but it can be stressful to keep the pace. I have noticed that when I get too wrapped up in going through the motions with each patient without taking a break I can feel my heart rate go up and I feel anxious. At this point, I know I need to take a step back and go outside for some fresh air. Since I've learned my limitations, I am getting better at communicating with my team when I need a minute to recoup."

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "Stress is part of any demanding job, and I embrace it to the fullest. I take good care of myself and prioritize my workload to maintain a healthy balance in my stress levels."

      View answer examples for this question >

  12. 12.

    How do you feel about educating patients on proper oral care?

      Much of your role as a hygienist is focused on educating your patients when it comes to oral care at home. When the interviewer asks how you feel about it, they are looking for an enthusiastic response. The interviewer is looking for reassurance that you care about your patients and enjoy teaching them how to care for themselves. If you have learned helpful ways of presenting the material, your interviewer would be interested in hearing more about it.

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "My favorite part about this role is educating my patients. I ask them questions and make sure they are clear on what I share with them. I also keep up to date on the latest technology in case there is a new tool I can tell them about."

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "I am interested in educating patients. I have a knack for teaching and coaching others and would like to help my patients think of ways to improve their health."

      View answer examples for this question >

      Anonymous Answer

      "I love to educate my patients about oral health. But I like to listen to what's their habit first before I make any comments. I would praise the part they are doing great and also make recommendations on what needs to be improved. And let the patient's self-lead to find the best solutions that work for them, Eg: flossing. The most important thing is that they can intake the message and show improvements at the next visit."

      Rachelle's Answer

      Your approach is respectful and understanding, which your patients will certainly appreciate! Very good response.

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  13. 13.

    What type of manager brings out the best in you?

      The interviewer wants to see that you are self-aware and understand the type of manager or employer that brings out the best in you. Some individuals prefer a close working relationship with a lot of accountability, while others prefer space and autonomy. If you are unsure of the management style of the interviewing company, try to leave your answer as open as possible. You can certainly ask the interviewer to describe their management style.

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "I have worked with a wide range of personalities and management styles with great success. If I could express a preference, I feel that I am best with a manager who allows me autonomy while still investing time in me through mentorship and training. Can you describe the management style here?"

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "I love to learn new techniques in the dental industry so I would like to work under a dentist who is collaborative and has a strong penchant for mentorship."

      View answer examples for this question >

      Anonymous Answer

      "A manager that is supportive and positive in you progressing in your career. I really appreciate my manager I have worked with for over 5 years because he is really driven and always has a positive outlook on things and that shows and has a great impact on my own ambitions and goals, keeping work a positive, happy place as well as investing time in me to grow."

      Rachelle's Answer

      Fantastic details! Be aware of switching from you/your language to me/my. I have offered a slight revision below.

      "I do my best with a manager who is supportive and positive, with interest in helping me progress in my career. I genuinely appreciate my current manager, whom I have worked with for over five years. He is driven and always brings a positive outlook. This bright outlook has made a great impact on my ambitions and goals. All-in-all I most appreciate a manager with interest in maintaining a positive, happy workplace as well as investing in my growth."

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  14. 14.

    What do you feel are the most important qualities in being a good hygienist?

      Think about your daily responsibilities. If you are new to the profession, think about what you can anticipate based on your observations. What type of personality does it take, to be a successful dental hygienist, and which of your strengths make you most effective at your job?

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "I feel that a dental hygienist should have great people skills, be organized, and always have an eye on safety. I plan to bring these skills, and more, to my role here."

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "Some essential qualities of an excellent hygienist:

      - Enthusiastic attitude
      - Detail-oriented
      - Patient
      - Energetic
      - Attentive
      - Friendly
      - Knowledgeable
      - Professional"

      View answer examples for this question >

      Anonymous Answer

      "I believe the most important qualities that a good hygienist should have are great people skills, organization and being attentive to your patients’ needs."

      Rachelle's Answer

      Try to dig a bit deeper as most candidates, regardless of industry, choose to answer with these qualities. I have added an answer below that will better position you against other candidates.

      "A great dental hygienist will be empathetic and understanding, as many patients are nervous at the dentist. It's also important to be careful and detail oriented, as the mouth is a small space to work. Being positive, confident, and professional are other important qualities that I hold as well."

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      Anonymous Answer

      "Being empathetic, friendly, and attentive to patient's needs. When patients feel comfortable, they would like to come back and refer their relatives and friends to come."

      Rachelle's Answer

      These are very important qualities, indeed. It may be nice to express the ways in which you display these qualities yourself in the workplace.

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  15. 15.

    What do you like most about being a Dental Hygienist?

      Think about what makes you excited to go to work every day. Is it helping people? Is it educating them about healthy habits? Identify the thing you love most about your job and then give an example.

      Rachelle's Answer #1

      "I like teaching people good habits to keep their mouths healthy. Whenever I work with small children, I make extra effort to help them understand the importance of good dental hygiene. I show them pictures of the difference between a healthy mouth versus gingivitis, tooth decay and some of the other issues that can occur."

      Rachelle's Answer #2

      "I think that the most interesting part of being a dental hygienist is going to be working with such a diverse range of people. It will feel great to help others to learn healthy habits."

      View answer examples for this question >

      Anonymous Answer

      "It enables me to help people as young as two years old and as senior as 80 years old. A great position to help prevent more severe health issues by regular check-ups, oral health education, preventive procedures, and so on. When they came back with better oral health and maintained it well, I fell glad."

      Rachelle's Answer

      Dental care is very important work, and the interviewer will be happy to hear the pride in your responses!

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  16. 16.

    What questions do you have for me?

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  17. 17.

    How have your previous dental visits influenced you as a hygienist?

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  18. 18.

    What is a major ethical issue facing dentistry today?

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  19. 19.

    How do you handle a patient who is scared or uncomfortable?

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  20. 20.

    How do you like to be recognized for your accomplishments?

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  21. 21.

    Tell me about yourself.

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  22. 22.

    How would you describe your work ethic?

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  23. 23.

    Would you say you are a better verbal or written communicator?

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  24. 24.

    Have you ever taken the fall for a situation, where it was not your fault, to protect a co-worker?

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  25. 25.

    What is your current salary?

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