The Complete Guide to Dental Temping for Beginners

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Are you getting burnt out from your 9-5 job? Are you a newly graduated hygienist looking to get some experience under your belt? Have you ever wanted a more flexible schedule in your career? What if you could make your own schedule and choose which days you worked? If this interests or describes you, then becoming a temp hygienist may be what you’re looking for.

A temp hygienist, also referred to as a traveling hygienist, performs the practices of dental hygiene including prophylaxis, radiographs, non-surgical periodontal therapy/SRP procedures, and all other hygiene duties, in a wide range of different offices on a day to day basis. This means you could work at five different dental offices in one week. I started doing temp hygiene over six years ago and have come to love the diversity and experience that comes from it.

When I first started temping, I can’t say it was easy, but the experiences were worth it.

I worked in a wide variety of dental offices such as pediatric, periodontal, cosmetic, and dental spas. I have also had experience with how large corporate offices run compared to smaller private practices. Every office can vary with their schedule; you may have 40 minutes per patient or 60 minutes per patient. With these differences, you have to be flexible with your time management to stay on schedule with your patients for the day.

It’s easy to fall behind schedule when you’re at an office for the first time; in addition to learning their charting and X-ray systems, trying to find your supplies you need for the day, and doing sterilization to ensure you have enough instruments. But don’t let these obstacles deter you from such jobs. Eventually, you will be able to walk into any office and have a smooth day seeing patients and maneuvering around different software programs. I have come to learn how to use over ten different software programs while temping in over 100 different offices. All charting systems vary, but some are more efficient and easier to use than others, and you will soon become a pro at using them all. This experience can also help with working interviews you encounter. You will be able to walk in with confidence because you have had experience learning new office’s protocols quickly and know what questions to ask right off the bat.

As with any job, there are pros and cons.

One positive with temping is the flexibility you have with your schedule. You can communicate with your local temping agency to let them know which days you are available. I love to travel, and this gave me the perfect opportunity to travel without scheduling time off work at a permanent office. It’s best to give your temp agency a week or two notice of being out of town especially if you are temping full-time.

Another pro is the pay for temps jobs is fairly competitive. Most offices will pay the same day you work, which is always a plus. Meeting different people at each office is an additional pro. You may become friends with your fellow co-workers, and even see them at future meetings and continuing education classes. I have many offices that request me to come back to temp for them again. It’s nice to see familiar faces and knowing your way around a few offices.

A huge pro is you can actually obtain permanent positions through temping. This is how I achieved two part-time jobs without stepping foot into an interview. When I was temping full-time, I came across an office that requested me back multiple times when they were in the process of searching for a new hygienist. I wasn’t even looking for a permanent position, but when they asked if I was interested, I decided to take the position. A few months later, I was offered another part-time position through temping. To this day I am still working with both offices as a permanent hygienist. Along with my two part-time jobs, I still temp on the weekends.

One negative I have come across is working at offices that are not organized or up to date on materials and equipment. This can include poor scheduling, non-functioning ultrasonic units, and dull or old instruments. At times this can be stressful, but just remember your good work ethics and do what is right for the patient.

There are multiple approaches to starting your career as a traveling hygienist.

In more substantial regions, you can find multiple temp agencies. Working under an agency helps you attain consistent jobs on a daily basis. I live in a largely populated metropolitan area. I love the fast-paced and busy cities. These are good areas to temp full-time because there are many dental offices in a small radius. Thus you have a better chance of staying busy temping four to six days a week. Most agencies may require you to sign a contract to work with them and have liability insurance. I have one temp agency I have been working with for the past few years. We have a good relationship with one another, and I really enjoy working with them. Keep in mind the teamwork needed between you and the agencies. You both need each other and need excellent communication to work to the best of your abilities.

You now have the tools to try a new path in your career. Maybe this is something you’ve considered in the past but didn’t know how to get started or what it amounted to. I hope this answers some questions you have been thinking and helped lead you in a good direction. Or for those of you who have never thought of temping, maybe this gave you a good insight into what you may be missing out on. I believe temping can be a great option for hygienists in any part of their career, whether you just graduated or have been doing it for 30 years. Get out there and explore!