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Back where I started?



Junior member
Apr 12, 2023
After much trawling round dentists I found a fantastic one and I’ve had the same dentist and hygienist for the past couple of years… Then I was told my hygienist left.

Last hygienist appointment was due and I made an appointment. Then the date was changed which was OK. Then I found out that the hygienist was changed also. Which I suppose was OK given I didn’t know either of them.

Unfortunately the new hygienist was very enthusiastic and I’m sure she was a lovely person but she leapt straight in and I left after 15 minutes, only to discover I couldn’t get out of the chair without assistance.

I’ve spent a few days … and sleepless nights … working out everything I think went wrong.
  • The practice has new chairs. These have a deep dip where your bottom goes and then your legs are raised. I have arthritis and after sitting on the chair struggled to slide backwards down into the ‘dip’. I couldn’t get my legs up onto the chair at all so the hygienist had to put an ordinary chair alongside for me to put them up on. Once she lowered the back of the examination chair I could get my legs up but I wasn’t as comfortable and felt very vulnerable. Then, when I went to get out I discovered I couldn’t physically do so by myself (I could with the old style 'flat' chairs).
  • My preference is for the dentist or hygienist to put some music on and chatter … about anything else … so I am distracted. I am also used to being asked about everything before it begins e.g. Is this OK to do this? And to being told it’s nearly done (or how long until it is).
  • Unfortunately the new hygienist didn’t ask and was enthusiastically talking about how much she was going to get done and talking about what she was doing. (And I, of course, felt unable to tell her not to because I didn’t know her).
  • I first saw the new hygienist walk into reception while I was waiting and, although I tried not to, I immediately thought “Oh I hope that’s not my hygienist” because she had a headscarf on, those goggle glasses over the bottom of the headscarf and a face mask over her lower face. She didn’t – to me – look human and that, due to previous experience, absolutely terrifies me. She looked like that throughout my appointment with her but I felt unable to be rude and say so.
  • My old hygienist used scraping and polishing. The new one used water which she said was less painful – and she was right. But it was still something else new. And then she said that it was a better technique and that scraping damaged your teeth. Which may be right … but … I learned to trust my old hygienist .. which left me with the question if she was damaging my teeth who could I trust?
It was at that point I realised my eyes had filled with tears and I really wanted to leave so I did .. or rather I tried to as it was then I realised I couldn't actually get out of the chair so had to ask for help.

The hygienist did say I could have the other half of my appointment this Friday. But I’ve just cancelled it after another sleepless night...

...And I haven’t a clue what to do now as I seem to be back where I started with not wanting to go to the dentist and not knowing if I need to find a new one (because of the accessibility issue with the chairs) …

p.s. Many thanks if you’ve read through all this! This is my first post on the forum and I didn’t realise it was going to end up this long.
@HedgieGoLightly I'm sorry to hear this and sympathise, I just had a bad hygienist appointment too, at a practice with a dentist I was satisfied with. My hygienist appointment before that was bad too. What people on here always tell me when I post about these hygienists, is it's OK to say you would like to request a different hygienist, I have always been afraid to do that, but found a work around where I found out the name of another hygienist there, and requested her, unfortunately she was bad too, like an aggressive wanna-be dentist who was trying to give me all kinds of diagnosis and suggested treatments that my dentist had recently told me I didn't need, and basically saying the opposite of him about a lot of things. It is OK to tell them you want a different person though. I think you can request some of these other preferences too, like you could call and say you want a hygienist who will scale and polish, you can tell a hygienist you want a play by play description of what they are doing, and to be asked for consent to do things. Its really hard, but I have always found its best I assert myself and speak up, and worse if I don't, every time. When it comes to the chairs, if this were me, I would call the practice and explain what happened and ask if they have any way to accomodate you with the chair issue, if not, you might have to switch to a different practice if you don't want that style of chair. Sorry you have to deal with this, hygienist appointments are very stressful sometimes!
Many thanks for your reply. Having a reply in itself reminded me that I’m not ‘being silly’. It seems to take so little to throw me back into my old way of thinking. Then I always think I’m making a fuss about nothing, should pull myself together etc. etc!

Sorry to hear you had a bad hygienist appointment also. I was lucky in that my previous hygienist was very good. I had got used to her I think, after having so many bad ones in the past.

It’s good also to have a reminder that I can request a different hygienist. I don’t know about you – or anyone else – but I always feel so guilty if I do so. It feels like I’m insulting someone or something! Although I’m sure my practice are used to it as they specialise in nervous and phobic patients … but they have got so busy I don’t like to ‘bother’ them. It’s ridiculous what a different person I become at the dentist – I’m definitely quite confident and assertive in the rest of my life!

I don’t mind the water treatment (whatever its proper name is) and I do think it is probably less painful than scaling and scraping. I think it was probably just too many new things at once for me and my ‘fight or flight’ overloaded.

I do find it easy to talk to my dentist as I’ve been seeing her for a few years now so I've decided I’ll wait until my next appointment with her, which is just for a check-up so that includes time to chat, and tell her the sorry saga of my ending the hygienist appointment and see what she suggests. I think she’ll probably offer me a different hygienist who she thinks suits me … and if not I can ask because I know she won’t mind.

I’m really not sure about the new chairs though! I think I’ll ask my dentist for suggestions about that too. It’s very difficult to find a new practice round here. It took me about 6 months to find this one!
@HedgieGoLightly No it's not silly or a fuss over nothing, people deserve to be reasonably accomodated, make the choices about their own treatment and bodies, and be made as comfortable as possible. I feel horribly guilty about speaking up and making requests at the dentist too, as well as saying no, or asserting myself in any way, I think it is a common part of dental phobia/anxiety. Sounds like talking to the dentist about the hygienist problem is a good idea! I wish I could do that with my dentist, unfortunately I can't see him without a hygienist in the room. Maybe I will try asking the office manager to suggest one for me. I think it is a good idea to ask the dentist about the chair problem, I hope she has a solution for that.
@NervousUSA Thank you so much for your reassurance. I'm sorry that you can't see your dentist without the hygienist in the room and hope you have better luck having a word with the office manager. (I think things work a little differently here as I have the dentist and the hygienist for totally separate appointments and both have assistants in the room with them).

I have had another thought about the wretched new chairs. I think I am going to ask at my next appointment if someone can demonstrate how to get in and out of them. Because I don't see how its easy for even an able bodied person .... but if that's a new 'improved' style surely they must be usable? So maybe I'm missing a technique or something and if someone else shows me I can work out how to manage it?

At least with a plan I feel less nervous about my next step forward :)
That is a great idea to ask for a demonstration, maybe there is some kind of special trick to it. I had an idea about that too, if there is a name for that particular type of dental chair, you could search online for information about getting in and out of that specific type of chair. Glad you are feeling less nervous!

Yes in the USA a dental cleaning and checkup are one appointment where they hygienist brings in the dentist at the end, which is really not pleasant because at many offices, including where I am now, the hygienist also is in charge, basically, of diagnosis and treatment planning, and also sales, which means having to deal with the hygienist trying to diagnose and sell you treatments at the same time as having your teeth cleaned for 45 minutes. Hygienists are often encouraged to try and sell every possible treatment and there is a tendency they are more aggressive about suggesting treatment than a dentist would be, as well as less competent. The system is not good as separating them, I think.
... Yes in the USA a dental cleaning and checkup are one appointment where they hygienist brings in the dentist at the end, which is really not pleasant because at many offices, including where I am now, the hygienist also is in charge, basically, of diagnosis and treatment planning, and also sales, which means having to deal with the hygienist trying to diagnose and sell you treatments at the same time as having your teeth cleaned for 45 minutes.
Wow! And I thought I had it tough! My hygienist appointments are only 30 mins maximum and no-one tries to 'hard sell' me anything (even though I 'go private' rather than NHS) - usually getting me through the necessary is quite hard enough work I should imagine 😏