Caring for Yourself as a Dental Hygienist

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I will be the first to tell you that exercise and kale are the devil. I am all about being real and giving advice that I actually take for myself. We all are busy people and taking time for ourselves is generally nonexistent. We have to get creative in the way we take care of ourselves. Everyone is different in their schedules, body types, and desires when it comes to health and fitness. The three areas of health to discuss is a healthy diet, exercise, and quiet time or meditation.

I grew up in the age and time where we had to “clean our plates” before leaving the dinner table. Because of this, I have always had a portion control problem. I like all foods, good and bad. So when I start gaining weight or feeling bad physically, I make some changes that are manageable for me. I start a clean diet meaning eating only fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. I do this for a whole week to detoxify and restart good habits.

Here are some rules I follow when trying to restart a good diet and lifestyle change:

  1. Don’t drink calories.
  2. Shop the outer perimeter of the store, (this is usually where all the fresh foods are located).
  3. Don’t buy processed food with more than five ingredients.
  4. Don’t buy processed food with ingredients you can’t pronounce.

After a week of very strict whole foods, you can slowly add food groups back into your diet one at a time, once a week. This allows time to see if the different food groups bother you. I have found I am sensitive to dairy and wheat products. These food groups I can avoid to help prevent gastrointestinal and joint pain I have experienced. This has been one of the easiest ways to detoxify my body and stick to a healthy eating style.

Living a busy life with full-time work, two kids with multiple extracurricular activities, and church, make it hard to find time to exercise. You have to get creative with your time. I have several moms that will walk with me while our girls are in dance class. We walk three days per week. I take an adult dance class one hour per week; it is during one of my children’s dance classes. On Fridays, my volunteer job keeps me walking the whole school day.

My goal is to make sure I get 10,000 steps a day. I also make sure I have 5 active days a week. Some of the exercises I do like are:

  1. Swimming
  2. Yoga
  3. Spin class
  4. Dance
  5. Walking

You have to find what exercises you like and that works well for your body. I have had several back and neck issues, so the restorative yoga has helped me relax and stretch to keep my core strong.

Quiet time or meditation has been a necessity in my life. As women that carry the whole world on their shoulders, we need time to stop and just be quiet. Some different ways to get quiet are:

  1. Read a book
  2. Listen to a book or podcast
  3. Lie down with quiet, calming music
  4. Pray or meditate
  5. Journaling

I love to read anything, and this is my favorite quiet time. I have been listening to meditation music to go to sleep every night.

Diet, exercise, and quiet time are essential for a healthy lifestyle. As hygienists, we are prone to back, neck, and different sorts of musculoskeletal issues. These three things will help to keep us strong and healthy to keep doing the job we so love to do.

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Valerie McClure, RDH, BS, MBA
Valerie McClure, RDH, BS, MBA, is a Dental Hygienist from Huntsville, Alabama, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. She has served in the dental industry for 22 years. In 2005, Valerie graduated from Alabama Dental Hygiene Program. That same year, she earned a Bachelors of Science in Biology/Chemistry from Athens State University. In 2011, she graduated from Ashford University with a Master’s in Business Administration, with a specialty in Health Care Administration. Valerie served as a Dental Assistant/Front office assistant for the first ten years of her career as she worked her way through college. Over the last 12 years, she has worked as a dental hygienist for a private practice in Madison, Alabama. Currently, Valerie holds the position of Radiation Officer and OSHA Officer at her office. She is passionate about oral pathology, OSHA, and patient relations. Valerie is active in her community, serving on the Executive PTA Board for her children's school as Vice President of Ways and Means. This position allows her to utilize her training in event planning, fundraising, and grant writing. Valerie is also the Director of Children’s Ministry for ages 0-5 at her church, where she organizes, trains, and schedules volunteers.