A Dental Hygienist’s Personal Experience with Community Service

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Yes, this article will focus on my own personal experiences doing some good in the community. My story could show some insight on how to find what you are passionate about in your own community.

Sometimes opportunities such as this are unexpected, and they present themselves to you when you aren’t even looking. In my case, I was attending a seminar about hygiene insecurity −which was a requirement for one of my bachelor’s degree courses − when it hit me smack in the face. My bachelor’s is in health studies, so this seminar focused on specific health issues for the local demographic. Students attended the seminar to learn about community outreach for our Health Promotions and Strategies course.

Hygiene insecurity is when individuals or families are unable to afford daily health products such as a toothbrush, bar of soap, or shampoo based on government assistance limitations. In some cases, family members share personal care items or do not have them at all. Without these products, individuals may feel embarrassed or self-conscious. For example, children may not feel comfortable in school settings (possibly bullied due to the lack of these items).

At this seminar, a nonprofit representative spoke about how many individuals and families are unable to afford daily personal care products such as a bar of soap or toothpaste. To fight against hygiene insecurity, they collect donations of these needed products, sort, and pack them into individual hygiene kits for people of all ages (especially for elementary to college-aged people).

The speaker also read a letter from a little girl who thanked them for the kit. She was so excited to have her own toothbrush. She wrote that she could be happy with her smile again, and not feel embarrassed anymore.

Inspired in the Back Row

I’ve never felt so passionate and compelled to take action any way I could in community service than working with this nonprofit. When I was sitting in the back row of the seminar, something sparked in me, and I thought, “I’m an RDH. I know how to get samples, and I know people who can help! Children who experience such daily pressures don’t need that added unnecessary concern at school.”

I believe community service is very important in life. As dental professionals, we serve communities each day in many aspects. In my experience, I never was at the forefront of any community service event. But I put away any fear or insecurities and decided to get involved and even lead the way for others.

I created an event that involved working with this nonprofit to collaborate with companies I knew as a dental hygienist, which would be more than willing to help. This time, I was in charge! In the past, I just participated, and that was it. In this case, the last summer community service event entailed meeting at the nonprofit headquarters, sorting and packing the collected personal care donations into hygiene kits, and creating positivity notes to place in each individual hygiene kit.

To put things in perspective, the seminar where I met the nonprofit took place in February. The event I created was in July, so I had a few months to plan and implement it.

One of the first things was to promote my event on social media and create event flyers for the surrounding dental hygiene community. Another key point was collecting needed donations. I was fortunate to partner with a dental hygiene nonprofit organization that very capably assisted in collecting supplies.

One recommendation in creating a community service event is to find individuals and other organizations that you can collaborate with. I knew I had some people in my back pocket from networking to aid me through this planning and implementation process.  Why work alone? Why not get more people involved? It’s only going to benefit others!

Find a cause or an organization you truly connect with. You definitely need to connect with something to really put yourself into the community service. Now, because of the event last year, many have continued collecting donations at other continuing education courses and seminars. I even put a donation box in my school’s dental hygiene clinic!

In the near future, I will be hosting another community service event with this nonprofit. My experience shows that an event does not have to be so extravagant and cost a lot to be effective and make a lasting impression. Doing the simplest thing, such as giving a child their very own toothbrush, can be the biggest thing you can do.

Now Listen to the Today’s RDH Dental Hygiene Podcast Below:

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Since a very young age, Kaitlyn Machado, RDH, BS, MEd, has always wanted to be a dental hygienist. She was the youngest student to graduate from her dental hygiene class in 2017. Since then, Kate has gone back for both her bachelor's and master's degrees. She is a faculty member at her local dental hygiene school, a clinical dental hygienist, and has been a part of Today's RDH since its launch. She is extremely passionate about homecare and loves her prophy paste and fluoride varnish. In addition, Kate loves to work with a local non-profit organization that helps fight against hygiene insecurity of all ages in her community. Kate is very involved in the profession as much as she can, including local and state-level professional associations. She loves to attend professional conferences when she can. When she isn't working, she enjoys traveling, sports, watching movies, and spending time with her amazing, supportive family.