Honor Awards: The Jampacked Career Experiences of a Youthful Dental Hygienist

Kaitlyn Machado (left) with her sister, Cally, on master’s graduation day.

Early during her career, Kaitlyn Machado, RDH, BS, MEd, FADHA, earnestly channeled her energy to accomplish several aspects of her career, and, as a result, she is a recipient of the 2023 Today’s RDH Honor Awards.

Be involved with the state Dental Hygiene Association. Check. Return to hygiene school as an instructor, not a student. Check. Earn bachelor’s degree. Check. Earn master’s degree. Check. Collect oral health products for the nonprofit Hope & Comfort. Check. Write articles for dental media. Check. Become an inaugural member of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association’s (ADHA) Fellows Class. Check.

Katilyn, a 27-year-old who graduated from the dental hygiene program at Bristol Community College in Massachusetts in 2017, said of her multifaceted introduction to dental hygiene, “I have jampacked a lot of different experiences, education, and growth as a profession and person. Just like dessert, I can’t choose just one.”

The most recent feather in her cap is her ADHA fellowship. The association recently implemented the fellowship program to recognize hygienists who have attained specific professional accomplishments.

“I decided to apply as I have been extremely involved in a lot of aspects of the field since day one, which is only 6.5 years into my career so far,” Kaitlyn said. “Having had so many different amazing experiences so far, I wanted to represent a newer generation as a role model.”

Early in her career, she was involved in state and local associations in various committees and leadership assignments. As a young hygienist, she conquered her nervousness about speaking in front of an audience.

She recalls, “One of my memories that sticks out to me was having to speak in front of 180-plus dental professionals during my local component annual seminar, which I was the chair of and lead event organizer. I love to use my creative side to plan and market professional events. If I was told when I was first a dental hygiene student that I would be public speaking at a podium, I would have never believed you.”

Many hygienists outside of Massachusetts might recognize Kaitlyn’s name due to her drive as an author. Since 2018, she has written numerous articles for Today’s RDH, as well as continuing education courses. Her introduction to dental hygiene education was launched in 2019 when she joined the Bristol Community College staff as an adjunct faculty member.

The Massachusetts college is 50 miles south of Boston and is located just across the Taunton River from Rhode Island. She recently revived the program’s SADHA chapter and motivated students to attend dental conferences and participate in community outreach efforts.

Kaitlyn hopes to become a full-time professor.

“I want to be more involved in the program, and my goal is to make a huge impact on generations of dental hygiene students,” she said. “We know dental hygiene school was a huge challenge but also a major accomplishment in all our careers. That’s why I want to provide a positive experience to students. My class was so close, and we still all talk to this day. It would be amazing to be a part of bringing people together as well.”

As mentioned, she has already completed the educational requirements for a career as an educator. Kaitlyn earned a bachelor’s in health studies and completed work for a master’s in education and health promotion in 2022. She reports she is a lifelong learner and loves to attend webinars and travel to conferences. Kaitlyn adds it would be an amazing opportunity to be on the other side of the booth as an exhibitor one day.

When working clinically, she advocates for whole-body health and believes if your mouth isn’t healthy, nor is your body, and vice versa. She also is very passionate about changing the mindset and verbiage of what a dental hygienist is and does. The word “cleaning” is not in her vocabulary.

While attending a required seminar during her bachelor’s degree program, Kaitlyn was introduced to Hope & Comfort. The Needham, Mass., nonprofit collects and distributes personal health products for families in the area. During the seminar, she realized, “I am a pro at getting samples and homecare supplies. This is how I can help out.”

She has volunteered her time at Hope & Comfort for several years.

“I learned that the state assistance program, SNAP (the acronym for the food stamp program), allows participants to only purchase edible items, not personal care items like shampoo or toothpaste,” she said. “I have done many donation drives at CE events, had a donation box stationed at the dental hygiene clinic, and even one sorting and packing event pre-covid at their headquarters. Each kit includes at least one toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, and soap.”

More than likely, Kaitlin has other accomplishments to check off during the upcoming years of her career.

“I constantly strive to evolve not only as a professional but as a person,” she said. “I have found my voice. Before hygiene school, I was a shy individual, but I have gained more confidence in myself and my skill set.”

“Overall, I want to show others there are many ways to be a leader. You don’t have to be the loudest in the room, you can be behind the scenes and still make a large impact.”

A big thank you to Dentsply Sirona, Designs for Vision, and LM-Dental for their support of the Honor Awards and providing equipment to the recipients!

From a child, Kaitlyn dreamed of being a dental hygienist.