“That’s her!” the student exclaimed with excitement, “That’s who I see at my dentist.” As the student sat in my mother’s classroom, she recounted her experience at my dental office. Working just down the road from the elementary school where my mother works, it is a weekly occurrence for students to find her in the hall, flash a smile, and tell her about her daughter cleaning their teeth.
But the school isn’t the only place. I cannot go grocery shopping without a wave or hello from a patient who recognizes me. My patients have often reported their visit to see me to at least one of my family members before I have even gotten out of the office for the day.
When I first moved back to my hometown in rural Mississippi, I never expected this experience. More people in the area know me as “the little girl who cleans teeth” than people who actually know my name. I am sure my experience is not unlike many hygienists out there. Over time, we tend to become known in our communities and respected as representatives of oral health. In a way, it is exactly what Dr. Fones intended when creating our profession. The dental hygiene profession was originally employed in the realm of community service and awareness.1
A Social Impact Outside of the Office Too
With recognition and respect comes the responsibility to use this to bring further awareness of the importance of oral health in our communities. Our social media platforms can promote oral health and volunteering in our communities, and we can make an impact both in and out of the office.
People go to social media platforms to share what they are passionate about. People also rush to social media for information and opinions. As dental hygienists, our social media platforms provide us with an invaluable resource for community involvement and oral health awareness. We all have had experiences where people have reached out to us over social media with questions concerning dental health. Following a recent online streaming service’s dental documentary regarding root canal therapy, we all were bombarded with questions regarding the validity of this information and if we agreed with it.
Through what we share and post, we can have a voice in society. Sharing truthful information on online outlets may be able to make a bigger impact than five minutes of patient education received in our chairs.
Hygienists should strive to represent good oral health in our communities. Community service is a crucial aspect of striving to be well respected by those around us. There are many avenues of community service for hygienists to choose from. Many areas have free clinics or clinics for the underserved that allow hygienists to volunteer their time. Giving oral health education presentations is another way hygienists can use these platforms to serve our communities. Donating dental home care supplies requires no time commitment and is a great way to give back to local charities. Becoming involved in our community and giving back creates pride in our communities and our profession.
As dental hygienists, we can impact both our patients and our communities. It is important that we use our status to educate and serve those around us positively. Our high levels of education and people-oriented experience equip us with the perfect tools to become respected professionals in our communities. Using these tools, we can work to make an impact on oral health awareness inside and out of the dental office.
Themes, U. (2015, January 14). 1: Historical Perspectives on Dental Hygiene and Periodontology. Retrieved from https://pocketdentistry.com/1-historical-perspectives-on-dental-hygiene-and-periodontology/