Keeping a Grateful Heart in Dental Hygiene

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Dental hygiene is a highly rewarding profession that allows us to serve our communities. We help patients maintain an important part of their overall health, sometimes contributing to transformations that allow people to smile again. We grow with our patients and their families over time, and those we work with on a daily basis become like family. However, as with any profession, there are stressors and bad days that can give way to doubt and negativity. From time constraints to office drama to the unpleasable patient, any number of things can compile to create an environment no one wants to be a part of. Being positive and keeping your passion alive in dental hygiene is a daily choice.

The vast majority of our time spent outside of the home is at work making it an important place to be happy. Think of the anxious excitement the first day you worked in your office, or how you felt seeing your very first patient. We emerge from the stress of dental hygiene school prepared and ready to take on periodontal disease, but over time that passion can diminish and burnout can set in.

One unhappy patient complaint should not be enough to ruin an otherwise great day of work, but it often does. Oral hygiene instruction with continuously non-compliant patients can become monotonous. Even worse, uncomfortable staff relationships can make offices anxiety-ridden and unbearable to work in. These are only a few examples of many challenges dental offices face in keeping a positive work environment. In those situations, it can be easy to become jaded and difficult to understand why anyone would want to go the extra mile to be outwardly positive.

The answer is simply to attract and create more positivity. How would your co-workers describe you as a team member? How do your patients perceive your attitude in relation to their care? Dental hygienists are sometimes looked to as a leader and voice among staff presenting a unique opportunity to promote positivity. Speaker and author Mark Crowley wrote, “Long after you remember the actual work or the targets you met along the way, what’s sustained in your memory is the effect you had on people’s lives2.”

Here are ten tips to cultivate positivity and gratefulness as a dental hygienist:

  1. Remind yourself often of the initial excitement of being hired in your current position. What made you apply for this job? What did/do you love about the position? Simply be grateful to have employment.
  2. Feed your original passion in becoming a dental hygienist not just with required continuing education but by pursuing new avenues within the profession. Take the laser certification course you’ve put off or volunteer time at the local dental clinic that serves the low-income population in your community.
  3. Before work, begin each day on a positive note with a motivational book, uplifting podcast, time with loved ones, a workout, or whatever puts you in your best mood.
  4. Be flexible and try to see the good in change. It can be easy to get comfortable in routines and change can be stressful whether it is an unforeseen schedule change or a new practice owner. As author Spencer Johnson put it, “Old beliefs will not get you new cheese.” Change inevitably happens, so anticipate, adjust to, and enjoy change4.
  5. Don’t be afraid to communicate or ask for positive changes. Know when to leave a negative situation you cannot change.
  6. Don’t take things personally or assume the worst. If there is a miscommunication or issue among staff speak directly to the people involved. Avoid gossip.
  7. Help without the expectation of appreciation. Celebrate your co-workers and show them an appreciation for even the smallest things they do to help you or make your job easier.
  8. Accept that you cannot please everyone and that some patients may not like you. Be kind to them anyway. Don’t allow a few negative patients to overshadow the many wonderful patients you will meet.
  9. BE the positive energy in your office. Studies show that the heart’s electromagnetic field is 5,000 times more powerful than the brain and acts as an emotional conductor to every cell in the body. This energy field can be detected by others from up to 5-10 feet away1. People can feel genuine happiness; even a simple smile can be contagious.
  10. Work on mindfulness, gratitude, and positivity daily as if they were muscles in your body!

Every profession has pros and cons; dental hygiene is no exception. Author Jon Gordon tells the story of a man who struggles with “two dogs” inside himself, one positive and one negative. The man is unsure of which will win and seeks advice only to be told the winner will be whichever dog he feeds the most3. Feeding a positive outlook every day is key to keeping a grateful heart in dental hygiene. Making the consistent choice to be positive can contribute to professional happiness and become contagious to co-workers and patients. Only YOU can choose your attitude!

SEE ALSO: Work-Life Balance: Managing the Crazy Hats Hygienists Wear

DON’T MISS: Riding It Out: The Struggle One Hygienist Went Through to Find Career Happiness

Now Listen to the Today’s RDH Dental Hygiene Podcast Below:


  1. Chapter 06: Energetic Communication. (n.d.). Retrieved April 14, 2018, from
  2. Crowley, M. C. (2011). Lead from the heart: Transformational leadership for the 21st century. Bloomington: Balboa Press.
  3. Gordon, J., & Blanchard, K. (2015). The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy. Wiley.
  4. Johnson, S. (1998). Who moved my cheese?: An A-Mazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life. New York: Putnam.