From Patient to Passion: More than Just Cleaning Teeth

© EpicStockMedia / Adobe Stock

Your calling can come at any point in your life. Whether you are 13 or 30 years old, there is no wrong time to do what you love. I am convinced that being a Registered Dental Hygienist is more than a career; it is a passion. Let’s be honest, who wakes up one morning and thinks, “I want my hands in other people’s mouths for the rest of my life.”? Dental hygienists do!

When I tell people that my major is dental hygiene, the question I always get is, “Oh, so you are going to be the chick who cleans my teeth?” Well, yes, but it is more than that.

From patient to passion, here is a short story of how I became an advocate for the dental field.

At the unbiased age of three, a young girl goes to the dentist for a cleaning for the first time. Come to find out, this young girl’s mother was told she was a difficult patient and needed to be seen by a pediatric dentist, 45 minutes away. At the new dentist, she had multiple crowns, fillings, and even extractions. A decade later she was allowed to go back to a “big girl dentist” back home. The now 13-year-old girl has found her new calling, dental hygiene.

I might be a 20-year-old, first-year dental hygiene student, but I know you are not just a dental hygienist when you walk the stage and get your degree. Yes, you are scaling and polishing teeth. You are also making small talk and keeping patients calm and catching up on what is new in their life since the last time you saw them. You are reviewing health history, taking radiographs, administering local anesthesia, and perio charting. Hygienists may be told they are flossing too hard, and that is why the patient is bleeding so much; so then comes educating on why they truly are bleeding. Lean toward me a touch, bite down just a little or open wider; then to informing the dentist about areas of concern. Dental hygienists are doing everything under the sun to make sure their patients leave knowing proper oral hygiene techniques and are educated on their oral condition.

Before getting accepted to hygiene school, I had to do 40 hours of shadowing.

Day after day, patient after patient, at least one patient per day would say, “I hate going to the dentist!” You might hate it, but this is my passion. Dental hygiene and preventive dentistry are what I was called to do. So please, do not hate my passion just because it raises your blood pressure. Talk to me instead, let’s work through this dental fear or anxiety together.

Young patients may come into the office scared to death and nervous because of all the different noises and sharp objects going into their mouth. However, if they are seen by a caring and compassionate hygienist from the start, and their parents enforce going to the dentist is part of overall health, then they will want to come. Maybe it is just because they will get a prize for being well-behaved after their appointment; maybe it’s because mom and dad made them; either way, they are still in your chair! Educating parents is a dental hygiene must-do.

I feel as if the majority of people routinely go to the doctor because they know the doctor keeps them healthy. All the while, putting dental appointments on the back burner because they brush their teeth every day and feel no pain. What they do not realize is that the dental world, just like the real world, is advancing with technology and knowledge. We can detect serious health conditions before doctors, through oral manifestations.

Being an advocate for dental hygiene is more than cleaning teeth, it is about making sure the world knows that this is our passion. Oral health has a direct correlation to overall health. I encourage all dental hygienists to be an advocate for our profession!

Previous articleDental Assisting for Dental Hygienists
Next articleDifficult Patients: Not an Endangered Species
Reagan Hughes
Reagan Hughes is a 20-year-old student who is working toward graduating from Manhattan Area Technical College becoming a Registered Dental Hygienist. She has spent many hours observing various dental offices to get a broader understanding of her future career.

In high school, Reagan had many activities. She was a big sister in Big Brothers Big Sisters of Salina, participated in the marching, concert, and pep band, and was consistently on the Honor Roll.

When not studying, or calling her mom in desperate need of “adult advice,” Reagan enjoys reading, writing, watching Netflix, taking BuzzFeed quizzes, and drinking coffee at inappropriate times (like 10:00 pm).