So many career options are available to people. Do you ever find yourself wondering how someone ended up doing what they do for a living? Some people know from a young age what career they want and gear their playtime, education, and training toward that for most of their lives and end up ecstatic with their choice! Not all of us are that lucky or focused, including me.
I got into the field of dentistry by accident. After finishing cosmetology school and receiving my license, I decided that was not the career for me and began looking into going back to college. I wanted to help people, and I liked the health-care field, so nursing seemed like a possible option, specifically obstetrics. I dreamed of bringing sweet babies into the world and watching family members ooh and ahh over the new freshly born babies.
But then it hit me; it’s not always a positive experience. A variety of things can happen, and babies don’t always go home with their families. At my rather young age, I didn’t think my heart could handle those sad situations. So I kept looking, and that’s when I found the dental assisting program, and the rest is history. I started that program in 1987, and in 2019 I am now a registered dental hygienist still working full time and still loving it! I have had a very rewarding career so far, and I will share a few of the reasons why I have enjoyed it so much.
I absolutely love seeing those patients who have not been to the dentist in many years or, in some instances, for their entire lives. The opportunity to educate the patients about their dental situation, teach them how to care for their teeth and gingiva properly, take the before pictures and then remove years of calculus buildup to reveal their actual teeth, and then show them the after pictures is truly satisfaction to the core.
The same goes for those chain smokers and coffee consumers who show up with stain in every nook and cranny. It’s a pain to clean, I know, but you can’t deny the satisfaction you feel when those teeth sparkle again!
Sense of Purpose
As I mentioned earlier, I wanted a career where I helped people. Dental hygiene allows me to do that many times over. The field of dentistry has changed so much over the past 30 years, and we know so much more than we used to about the mouth/body connection.
Not only do we help people with their oral health needs, educate them on how to care for their mouths, but we also know how the oral cavity and its toxins link to other diseases such as heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. Hopefully, we are all helping our patients have healthier lives as well as mouths.
The people! When I see some patients’ names on the schedule, I can’t lie; I cringe. You know the ones I am talking about! They can be so difficult to deal with, even for an hour.
Thankfully those are few and far between, and I mostly have the most amazing, pleasant, sweet, and funny patients I get to care for. I love getting to know these patients, learn about their hobbies and their families. Laugh with them, cry with them, pray with them, learn from them.
The practice where I work is in a large retirement area, so naturally we cater to an older population of patients. They are such a wealth of knowledge and history if you take the time to ask questions and listen to them.
One patient was the first in her hometown hospital to receive a new antibiotic called penicillin back in 1941 during treatment for a dental abscess. Another patient told me about the fluoroscope that was commonly used in shoe stores back in the 1930s. It was an x-ray machine that measured your feet for the proper size shoes! I kid you not, look it up. Of course, talk with those patients about their dental needs, but talk about them too; you just might learn something.
I don’t mean those you work with or around, although I will say that can certainly be an awesome experience. I have been blessed to work with some wonderful mentors, educators, and peers throughout my career, and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything.
My focus is more on where you work. I’ve never had to experience trying to do my job in a rainstorm or work somewhere with a heat index of 100-plus degrees. I’m always inside in a nice, climate-controlled building. The fact that it is a health-care facility also contributes to the fact that it is always clean (OK, the break room doesn’t always count). Ha! The floors are vacuumed, counters are clean, bathrooms are tidy, trash isn’t overflowing, windows aren’t full of smudges, and it is just a pleasurable place to be.
There are some beautiful sunny days in the summer or crisp fall days that come along, and I secretly wish I could be out there doing a job. When I really think about it, I like the building I’m working in. It allows me to be comfortable while I do what I love. Now there is a mobile dentistry option, but that’s for another article.
My career choice has allowed me to earn a nice living without the full-time hours, daily commitment, and after-hours work required from some other careers. My role as a clinical hygienist allowed me to be able to take a break and have my two wonderful children and stay home with each of them for a while, which was very important to me. When they were both a little older, I returned to work part-time, which allowed me the ability to be involved in a way I couldn’t have if I had been working full-time. We were even able to homeschool both of our children through graduation!
I am very thankful for that opportunity to be a huge part of their infant, childhood, and teenage years. As anyone with children knows, time passes way too quickly. Now that they are grown adults, I decided to return to work full time and couldn’t be happier.
I could continue with several other reasons about how much I enjoy the career choice I made so many years ago. The list is lengthy, and maybe that is the reason that I have stuck with it for such a long time.
I look back with a grateful heart on the choice I made. I will never forget the mentors I have had, the sweet patients that I met along the way, and all the memories made over my time as a dental hygienist. I hope you all have your own lists of why you love it too.