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Why dental hygienist contracts are vital to success

Why is a contract so important when you work overseas?

Dental hygienist contracts are one of the most beneficial documents to have while living and working abroad.

U.S. dental practices do not normally employ a dental hygienist contractually, so this information may be new to you.

There is actually a way specify all of your working conditions, put them down in writing, and have both parties be mutually bound to them by law during your working relationship. It is truly a beautiful thing. It can wipe out those frustrating, employer-generated surprises that leave you feeling helpless and lacking motivation.

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If you hold yourself dear, protect yourself well.

Gautama Buddha

Dental Hygienist Contracts Have Benefits

It is vital to prepare before negotiating a contract with an overseas practice. You do not want to be desperate or miss out on any employee rights and benefits, so you must be well informed. You want to be comfortable at work as this is how you will be maintaining yourself while abroad.

This job is a great part of the motivation for you to be abroad in the first place. It does not feel nice to be overseas and to dislike your job. After learning a lot about contract negotiations over the years, my goal is to help you avoid some of the traps that took me by surprise.

Our guide to landing that first job as a dental hygienist abroad.

The SSO contract for Dental Hygienists

Sometimes, a dental association will draft a contract. In my opinion, the SSO or Swiss Dental Association, sets the gold standard for dental hygienist work contracts. They have pre-drafted forms that essentially guide you through what to expect as a hygienist working in Switzerland. The essentials are pre-filled, and the blanks that are left are what the dental association (and the law) allow you and your future employer to negotiate.

Because the profession is very well-regulated, the contract is non-biased and straightforward. Once you sign it, you can be confident of being protected in your new position.

In fact, most traditional dental offices in Switzerland use this contract. It is available in French, German, Italian and English.

Fortunately, I have an English copy and a German copy of this SSO contract. In Part 2 of our guide to the benefits of dental hygienist contracts, I will speak of the various sections that a fair contract should have.

A Generic Dental Hygienist Contract

Another type of contract is one the employer drafts to suit the business plan and protect company interests. It clearly states what position the future employee holds at the company and what the company expects of them.

It may take a bit of skill to cut through the bias of these contracts and ensure that it is worded to protect you, the dental hygienist, as well. Be sure to take the time to read it carefully. You will need to be familiar with the language basics.

Try Cudoo for a fairly priced online language course.

Employer-centered Dental Hygienist Contract Pitfalls

In Switzerland, you will likely find employer-centered contracts at dental corporations and start-ups. Dental corporations, though not as common in Europe as in the U.S., are growing more common. While these companies must abide by the dental association’s rules, using their own contracts allows them to loosely apply the association rules to suit their business plan.

Here is where your critical thinking skills come in.

These types of business may or may not have practising dentists at the helm, which could be reflected in what is expected of you as a hygienist. Their expectations may be unreasonable or unrealistic.

Dental hygiene started in Switzerland as a structured profession. This made it practical to draft a standardized contract (a nod to the dental hygienists who were vital in establishing the profession). However, even in Switzerland you may be presented with a less than perfect contract.

Employer-centered contracts are especially common in countries where dental hygiene is non-existent, poorly organized, or have little to no oversight or backing as a profession.

A Dental Hygienist Contract is Vital

To begin with, you may not understand how vital it is to be detailed and specific about your contract terms. However, it is very important. Of course, you don’t want to drive your new employer crazy either. They have probably not thought about the details of their contract drafts for years. However, you should always think about protecting yourself.

Business plans inevitably evolve. This means that you and the hygiene department could be caught in the tailwinds. Should this happen, you will be happy that you have a legal leg to stand on.

Based on the SSO contract, Part 2 of this blog section will cover some of the high points of good dental hygienist contracts. Additionally, it mentions other things to consider during negotiations. Finally, Part 3 discusses employer obligations.

Featured photo by Pexels


The advice in this blog is based strictly on personal experience. I am neither a lawyer nor an immigration expert. Please consult a lawyer, legal professional and/or an immigration official if in doubt. Do so before, during and after your negotiations with your potential employer. Additionally, be sure to do due diligence regarding employment laws, customs, and immigration policies in the country in which you plan to work. The advice given here is no guarantee of success, even if you follow the advice explicitly. There are always many variables at play, and each circumstance is unique.

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