10 Pieces of Advice for New Hygienists

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The real world can be a scary place. Whether you’re a newly-licensed hygienist or a “seasoned scaler,” there is always something new to discover and learn, whether it’s new technology or a dental hygiene technique.Yet wouldn’t it have been nice to have someone give you advice on how to brave the real world of dental hygiene? This is guidance in its most honest form – delivered by survivors of rigorous dental hygiene programs, who are now purveyors of oral health and education.

  1. Protect, trust in, and look out for yourself! As professionals, we need to remember that our licenses are on the line when working with the general public. You will quickly realize how important it is to stick to your instincts, knowledge, and ethics. Never jeopardize your license just to avoid a confrontation with a dentist. If they are not willing to accept the fact that you follow the rules, you do not need to be in that office, even if it is just for a day. This is especially true in temping


  1. Always be aware of what you’re signing your name and license number next to. In school, we are taught to write everything down in the progress notes, and it is these exact notes that inform us of what was spoken and performed, as well as protect us in the face of the law. Simply put: if a service isn’t documented, it didn’t take place.


  1. Back when we were in school, and we had to take infection control, it felt somewhat like a joke. An entire class with a focus on proper cleaning…how much is there to talk about? I now understand why there is an entire class, why there are required CE’s, and why offices have walk-throughs. Each office will vary – most are beautiful, some are old but very organized and clean, while others are dirty, disorganized, and can be downright dangerous. Sometimes you’ve just got to work with what you’re given, but do it safely – wear PPE, wash your hands thoroughly, disinfect properly between patients, and always keep items sterile.


  1. Familiarize yourself with tricks on how to shape the low-suction saliva ejector to hang effortlessly from the patient’s mouth, providing you with the use of both hands and an overall easier cleaning experience. YouTube is a great resource for video demonstrations.


  1. Take breaks often and as needed. Hydrate, breathe, use the restroom, and stretch stretch stretch! You don’t want to risk dehydration, syncope, UTIs (yes, it’s possible from consistently holding in your urine for extended periods of time), or a muscle spasm. Get into the habit of incorporating specific stretches into your daily work routine as it will be imperative for preventing injury down the road.


  1. Find yourself a skilled massage therapist to help you understand problematic areas of your body. It is important to relieve yourself of aches and knots that will inevitably develop with continuous work.


  1. While the patient cannot see what you’re mouthing under your mask, they can surely see the expression in your eyes. Don’t forget to control your face and keep cool.


  1. Know your worth. Regardless of the amount of experience you may or may not have, you can always negotiate what you feel is fair for the level of care you provide. Most employers seek working experience, but attitude and integrity are equally important. Experience can be gained, but finding the right personality for an office is priceless.


  1. It is okay to make mistakes as long as we learn from them. Give it your best – we don’t have to be perfect as long as we provide services in a safe and legitimate manner.


  1. Be confident! We all went to dental hygiene school and were taught the same material. You are no less skilled than another hygienist – you got this!