T-Bone Speaks: Why You Should Never Take Your Hygienist For Granted with Dr. Leslie Holmes-Leach

T-Bone Speaks: Why You Should Never Take Your Hygienist For Granted with Dr. Leslie Holmes-Leach

7/24/2018 7:00:00 AM   |   Comments: 0   |   Views: 79

        T-Bone Speaks: Why You Should Never Take Your Hygienist For Granted with Dr. Leslie Holmes-Leach

Welcome back to another highly anticipated episode of T-Bone Speaks. In this episode, I interview Dr. Leslie Holmes-Leach from Rocky Top Dentistry about working in a small-town dental practice and why you should value your dental hygienists.

Dr. Leslie Holmes-Leach is from Anderson County and has worked in the dental profession for 20 years. She graduated from the Medical University of South Carolina College of Dental Medicine and then completed a one-year residency at Advanced Education of General Dentistry Residency. There, she trained in placing dental implants, working on complex cases and learning how to attend special needs and anxious patients. In her spare time, she enjoys spending quality time with her family on the lake and volunteering with Remote Area Medical and her local Volunteer Ministry Center.

On the podcast we discussed:

  • Why dentists should value their hygienists
  • How to increase productivity in the dental hygiene department
  • The importance of developing trust and respect in the office
  • The pros and cons of working on commission
  • Deciding whether or not it’s time to bring on an office manager
  • What it takes to be a “leader” and how to develop leadership skills
  • Benefits of working in a small-town practice
  • Why work shouldn’t be at the top of your priority list

If you would prefer to watch our interview you'll find a video at the end of this post, if you want to listen to the podcast episode, click play below:

Here’s a more detailed overview of our discussion…

The Role of a Dental Hygienist

We talked a lot about Leslie’s experience working as a dental hygienist for ten years before she returned to dental school. Although she enjoyed her role as a dental hygienist, she always knew she wanted to be more.

However, she values each of her three hygienists and understands how essential their roles are to the growth of the dental practice. I admired this because most dentists tend to look at their hygienists as someone who just scrapes people’s teeth all day, but they do somuch more than that.

Leslie discussed how her hygienists are crucial for helping to develop personal relationships with the patients. A lot of people view dentistry as a very personal and often invasive thing, so if they feel a personal connection with the hygienist, the process becomes a lot more relaxed and less stressful for the patient.

How to Run a Dental Hygiene Department 

Leslie takes a “hands-off” approach to the management of her dental hygiene department. In other words, she respects and trusts her team to work independently without her supervision (unless it’s necessary).

Establishing a bond with your team is vital, especially if you want to increase productivity in the office. During my interview with Leslie, she talked about the importance of letting your team know that you trust them and value their input.


Well, …you can’t run a successful practice without them!

Paying Hygienists via Commission

When it comes to types of compensation and payments, everyone has their own opinion. What works for you and your practice, might not work for someone else.

When Leslie worked as a dental hygienist, she was paid based on commission. Now that she’s a qualified dentist with plenty of experience under her belt, she chooses to pay her hygienists in the same way.

Despite what many people believe, working on commission isn’t just for car salespeople and retail workers. It’s also a viable salary plan for many dental practices in the U.S. But how does it work?

In Leslie’s office, the hygienists work on commission based on their individual production. It works for her practice because it gives her employees a real sense of business. They don’t just turn up to work, do their time and go home. Instead, they work hard on both their individual production and the production of the team as a whole – and they’re rewarded for it!

Why You Should Never Take Your Hygienist For Granted with Dr. Leslie Holmes-Leach

Working on Commission: Pros and Cons

Like most things in life, working on commission comes with both pros and cons.

Here’s just a few…


  • Increases productivity in the office because everyone is motivated to work harder
  • You pay people for their performance, not their time
  • It’s an easy system to understand with the possibility of a flexible schedule


  • Fluctuating income leads to a sense of low job security
  • Team members may become more focused on personal gain rather than considering the entire office
  • Working on commission can be very stressful for the hygienist, which may encourage them to look elsewhere for a similar role with a straight salary

How to Develop Leadership Skills

During our discussion, we talked about the skills and traits needed to become a leader.

One of the most common questions I get asked from young practice owners is: “How do I become a leader?”

So, I wanted to ask Leslie the same question to hear her view on the matter. She talked about the fact that it takes time to become a leader and develop the leadership skills required for such a role. She said that it is fundamental human nature to want to control things around you and that’s a large part of it.

However, she also emphasized the vital role that trust plays in leadership. You have to trust your team, and they have to trust you too.

As a leader, you have to think about what’s best for the patient and take other people’s wants, needs, and opinions into consideration before making any big decisions.

Working in a Small-Town Practice 

Over the years, I’ve heard many pre-conceived perceptions about working in a small-town practice and most of it is based on hearsay.

I asked Leslie to talk about her experience working in a small-town practice and whether or not any of the stereotypes were true. First, I brought up the assumption that you make less money doing small-town dentistry and Leslie was quick to put that theory to rest.

Working in a small-town practice is often even more beneficial and profitable than working in a huge city. You don’t have as much competition (if any), and therefore you aren’t pressured to lower prices just to compete with other practices.

Watch our Interview

To watch a video of our discussion, just hit play!

Get in Touch with Leslie

I thoroughly enjoyed my discussion with Dr. Leslie Holmes-Leach, and if you would like to find out more about her or Rocky Top Dentistry, you can visit their website or give them a call on 865-426-7421.

This article originally appeared on TBoneSpeaks.com.

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