The Top 10 Spirit Animals of Dental Hygienists

© blackday / Adobe Stock

Have you ever wondered if feelings, emotions, and actions are learned behavior or instinct? As trained health professionals, dental hygienists have zeroed in on how to become highly efficient, effective, and productive. We know what needs to be done for our day to run smoothly, and we are able to adjust to any twists or turns throughout the day.

How do we do this? How is it that we have all come to embody similar characteristics? How do we have Facebook pages dedicated to our profession where we bring people together with similar experiences? Of course, these usually have a bit of humor and eye-rolling involved. We share the struggles, pain, and successes. We celebrate one another and cry together.

We also show similar characteristics throughout our day – characteristics that can only be attributed to one thing ─ animals. Yep, I said it. Animals. So buckle up and get ready for the ride. You get an animal! You get an animal! And, you get an animal!!!

The top 10 spirit animals of dental hygienists:

1) The Octopus: A contorting multitasker.

An octopus and a hygienist are the epitome of multitasking. Dental hygienists can simultaneously suction, scale (hand or ultrasonic), rinse, dry, educate, think ahead, provide a listening ear to our patients as well as hone in on any sound, such as our name, or that may indicate a change in the schedule or the delivery of treats.

Like an octopus, a hygienist is capable of contorting their body for optimal visualization and into very tight and uncomfortable spaces. We use tools and have expert tactile sensitivity. So do octopuses!

Even though an octopus can swim quite fast, it prefers to walk on the ocean floor. Dental hygienists love to walk through our day without any discrepancies or surprises. Thankfully, when needed, we can swim with the best of them.

Remember, it could be worse. You could be a sea cucumber. Those things are nasty.

2) The Peacock: Hot damn. I did it.

We love to share our achievements, especially when we are able to visually show other dental hygienists the results of a difficult SRP, a gift from a patient, or a heartfelt thank-you card!

One of our proudest moments comes in the form of recognition! We crave it and, when we are recognized by our patients, friends, family, peers, and employers, our feathers burst open and fan out. We share our beauty for all the world to see!

3) The Hyena: OMG! Are those donuts! The caramel glazed is MINE!

We love treats, especially when they are unexpected and delicious. We all know which patients and reps deliver on a regular basis. But, come on, when it is unexpected, like a special delivery from a referring office, we lose our minds!

How fast can we get away from whatever we are doing to check out the goods? It’s like a cackle of hyenas shooting out of the dark to grab what they want before there is nothing left.

Don’t get me started on the employers who hijack the entire thing for themselves. The leader of the hyena clan can be the worst!

4) The Chameleon: The shapeshifter

We all wear a multitude of hats ─ hygienist, assistant, front office, sterilization, etc. What about the other less recognized hats? Maybe that of an educator, teacher, friend, confidant, and shoulder to lean on?

Our work family and patients depend on us to be able to meet their needs. We are masters at intuition and can adjust and morph to fit the most colorful of situations.

5) The Velociraptor: Dangerous in desert-like environments

We have all suffered from the stifling heat. Thermostat wars are more common than not. When we are stuck in a desert-like environment dressed head to toe in PPE appropriate for an Arctic exploration, watch out!

Just like the velociraptor, it makes us dangerous. Want to see the wrath of a hygienist? Go ahead. Put the thermostat on 70. I dare you.

6) The Baboon: We can show our butts

Like our playful ancestors, we love to have fun! More often than not, we love what we do and who we do it with. We joke and laugh with others throughout the day, inserting work as necessary.

Our backsides can get rather sore from sitting on our butts, adjusting our chairs, and trying to get comfortable. We even go so far as to stand. A hot topic is often, “What chair should I get? Which one is the best? I’m sitting on a saddle chair. I’m sitting on a giant yoga ball.”

Butt, back, and neck talk never cease.

7) The Goat: Wow! So much energy… wait, why are you on the floor!

We put a lot of energy and time into seeing our patients, especially before lunch. We are excited when the patient is finally dismissed, and we do a little dance before eating. And, just like a goat that gets a shock and plays dead, we play dead too.

It’s called the post-lunch slump. Food comas are real. Wishing your patient won’t show is real. Taking a nap in a dark op sounds great. Once refreshed, it’s time to bounce around again.

8) The Ostrich: We definitely can stick our heads in the sand.

At the end of our day, we are able to do things at warp speed. Just like the fastest land bird, we run as fast as we can until our checks and balances are done. Then it’s time for us to stick our heads in the sand and escape.

We are done; we do not want to see anyone or be seen. We have put on our blinders, and it better be an emergency before anyone attempts to pull us out.

9) The Elephant: Of course, I remember you!

We have stellar memories – for teeth. Sometimes people, but mostly teeth. I can’t tell you that lady’s name at the grocery, but I can tell you she has 23 teeth and on #14 and #31, a root canal treatment, build-up, and crown. She had extra wisdom teeth removed when she was 19 in Ontario, Canada. And, she was upset at the time because it was her dog’s birthday and she couldn’t share his cake.

That’s the stuff we remember. Sometimes, really special people will make it through the barrier. Usually, they are really special awesome people or really awesomely difficult people! Ying and Yang.

10) The Camel: I can do it, I can do it, I can do it…

You drank everything for the day at 7:30 am. Two days ago. You don’t dare take a bathroom break, get water or eat the caramel glazed donut you hoarded sitting there all fresh and calling your name!

Nope. You would rather almost die of thirst and low blood sugar than put that scaler down and make that patient wait. Or, it’s self-inflicted guilt. Or worse, employer guilt.

Oh wait, you want an encore? Sure, here is one more!

11) The Giraffe: I’m so graceful, until I’m not.

A giraffe presents itself as graceful, dignified, and elegant. This very well is a hygienist in the morning hours.

At the end of the day, like a giraffe operating on 3 hours of sleep, we are exhausted and look like Barbie’s rogue sister. Or, for you men out there, Joaquin Phoenix after coming out of hiding.

There you have it, friends. Now take a good look and decide which animal represents you! Is it one animal or multiple? I’m sure your fellow hygienists can relate. Keep being your best selves. I believe in you!

Need CE? Check Out the Self-Study CE Courses from Today’s RDH!

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

Previous articleNew Dental Hygiene Grads: 10 Tips for Transitioning to Practice
Next articleEpileptic Patients: A Dental Hygienist’s Guide in Managing & Preventing Seizures
Jill M. Thomas, LDH, BS, resides in Indianapolis, Indiana, and is a Hoosier native. She graduated with an associate’s degree from Indiana University School of Dentistry’s dental hygiene program in 2001. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in general studies with applied sciences and communications. After years of clinical dental hygiene, Jill suffered from a traumatic brain injury in 2015, which left her unable to practice. After a year of hard work, she was able to return; however, concern still tugged at the back of her mind. What if she had not been able to go back? What would have happened? It was at this time she realized she needed to further her education and earn her bachelor’s degree. Since then, she has expanded her career to include writing about communication topics and exploring health and wellness in the dental community. Her hobbies include running half marathons and 5K’s, petting dogs, eating, and petting dogs again.