Advice for the Newly Graduated Dental Hygienist

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I remember finally graduating and passing my boards and thinking now what? I was both scared and excited. I thought I just had to write a resume and prepare for interviews! Had I only realized there was more I needed to do and think about to prepare my mind and body. I’ve come up with some practical advice, to not only save your sanity but, to prepare your physical body for a career in dental hygiene.

First, I would recommend staying connected with hygiene school friends. There is something to be said about being able to talk about your career and issues with others who are like-minded and do what you do. It also helps to network for jobs, find fill-in work, and volunteer opportunities.

Secondly, volunteer! It does a soul good! We volunteer because it makes a difference. Whether it be dental hygiene related or doing something that interests you, volunteering keeps you more connected to others and builds community. It creates friendships and aides in social networking. I enjoy volunteering at my church as a Sunday school teacher. I also volunteer once a year for the Midsouth Mission of Mercy. It is a two-day dental clinic for underserved and underinsured people. To find an event near you go to adcfmom.org.

Besides staying connected with hygiene friends and volunteering, you may want to get involved in your local dental hygiene association. Reading dental publications and social media platforms, such as Today’s RDH, gives one inspiration, ideas, continuing education options, fads and trends in the dental community. They are great ways to make connections with the dental community worldwide.

Unfortunately, our careers aren’t easy on the body. One thing I would definitely invest in is dental loupes. Magnification provides ergonomic benefits, as well as, enhancing dental hygiene performance. Loupes with a steep declination angle save your neck from injury over time. There are through the lens loupes and flip-up loupes. Measuring your working distance, that is the distance from your eyes to the patient’s mouth, is important and can be taken by the manufacturer’s representative of the loupe. This is crucial to wearing loupes to ease neck and eye strain. Loupes also magnify and enhance vision to view the oral cavity and to better diagnosis and treat the patient. If you are able, invest in a light that connects to your loupe as well. This can help ease pain associated with years spent reaching for the overhead light, and saves time-something us hygienists could definitely use more of!

In the clinical setting, I encourage you to change up your routine often. Sit in your chair or stand to see your patients. Maybe polish first, then scale. Repetition can cause burnout and pain in your body, so it’s good to do things differently or out of sync occasionally.

Before starting your day, stretch. Google dental stretches and several examples will come up beneficial to us as dental practitioners. Stretching warms the joints and muscles, increases flexibility, reduces pain, and prevents injury. Yoga, Tai Chi, and walking are also low impact exercises and good for us, especially as a dental hygienist.

Massage therapy is good for relaxation, eases muscle pain, neck and back strain, as well as, increases range of motion. Epsom salt baths are good for relaxation, soothing aching muscles, and good for detox. Make sure you stay hydrated and maintain a healthy diet. Periodically throughout your day take deep, belly breaths. Deep breathes have many benefits, but for us, it helps with improving body posture, releases tension, and brings clarity to the mind. I’d also like to encourage you to get good quality sleep. Our bodies need 6-9 hours per night. Sleep is essential for our immune health, it reduces inflammation, and enhances our work performance.

Stay focused on the positives of our career. We are helping our patients achieve overall physical health by improving and counseling them for good oral health.

And finally, have fun and laugh. Get together with friends and family, go on trips, treat yourself to a massage or shopping trip. These things are just as important to our health. They help us to be a better employee and oral health provider to our patients. They release positive endorphins and give our bodies much needed rest and time to repair itself.

I hope you find these tips encouraging and informative. Many of these tips I incorporated much later in my career and wished I’d done all along. May they help you and your overall health and possibly save you from unnecessary pain and discomfort. Hopefully, allowing you to be a productive and important part of the dental community for years to come!

SEE ALSO: Tips I Wish I Knew in Hygiene School

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