Turning Your Dental Hygiene Career into a Passion

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As the year winds down, many of you will be pondering about New Year’s resolutions to pursue. I encourage you to add your career to that list. Something attracted you to the dental hygiene field. At one point, your heart, soul, and mind were in love with dentistry.

Maybe this is still true, and you are content and satisfied. Or, maybe you are struggling to continue your career and are looking for something “different.” Just maybe that something different is right under your nose, though, and isn’t really all that different at all. Maybe you just need to ignite the fire that once burned so fiercely.

A few years ago, I found myself in the same sinking boat I see some of my fellow colleagues struggling to keep afloat. I dreaded going to work daily and found myself scanning the classifieds and researching new career paths. I had convinced myself that I had made the wrong career choice in high school.

My negativity, though, stemmed from my environment. I worked in an office where my schedule load was less than ideal, which dovetailed with my self-neglect I had allowed it to paint my perspective and influence my decisions. Thankfully, I meditated and prayed about my situation, and consciously made the decision to persevere. By altering my environment, I had instantly spun the situation, and my spirits began to lift.

Social Networking

Next, I delved into dental groups and associations, which intensified the flame in my career.  Being around like-minded individuals helped to build relationships with professionals who could identify with my feelings. These groups propelled my career into a passion, and they continue to fuel my flame today as I hope that I do the same for them.

While these groups are mainly on Facebook, I still consider them my little family, and we are very much connected. Through video chats, we are able to interact and build our relationships through things such as monthly book clubs where dental hygienists connect with discussions outside of the dental realm. This form of stress relief has helped immensely and redirects my attention away from the stressful aspect of my profession.

Social networking has also helped to broaden my horizons by opening doors in the ever-expanding diversity of dentistry. Seeing how my peers are making a positive impact motivates me to establish and achieve new goals. For me, merging other passions with dental hygiene has illuminated a whole new aspect of my profession. Throughout my life, I have consistently found an outlet in writing. From journaling since I was in fifth grade, writing a nonpublished book, and obtaining a minor in journalism in college, never did I dream I could use this passion in my dental career. Obviously, I found that connection and the merger has been huge.

Expanding Horizons

There is no doubt that the central focus of our attention as clinicians is to ensure the professional delivery of our educated skills and knowledge to our patients to help achieve optimal health. However, there is certainly nothing wrong with incorporating other facets into your dental hygiene career. In fact, I highly encourage you to do so especially if you find yourself yearning for more.

Growth within your profession can be as simple as implementing a personal touch with your patients in order to commence a foundation of trust or finding an alternative position within your vocation. Dental hygiene is certainly not limited to just clinical work. Teaching, authorship, dental sales, ambassadorship, and public speaking are a few examples of ways that dental professionals can spread their wings even if just part-time. Through these avenues, tension and stress should be much less as you combine a more relaxed environment while satisfying another passion at heart.

Daily Practice

While practicing in a clinical setting, I encourage you to add personal touches to each appointment. Patients often misconceive their appointment as nothing more than a number on a schedule. However, simply finding just one attribute of each patient to focus on will assist in bridging a foundation of trust. This effort can be as minute as remembering a particular personal fact about a patient’s life to show thoughtfulness.

When appropriate, I like to send cards to help celebrate, sympathize, and encourage patients. Sometimes I surprise them with small tokens such as cupcakes (if their appointment coincides with their birthday), recipes (if they are trying new dietary restrictions), or mementos (if they have lost a dear pet.) Personalizing the appointment will enhance the patients’ experience.

I like to note flavor preferences for prophy paste, sensitivity, and gag reflex. You will be amazed at how these random acts of kindness will deepen your connection with your patients and help melt away the tension/fear thus increasing the ease and comfort of the appointment.

As the new year approaches, make a resolution to revitalize your career. Analyze what you can do to enhance or emphasize your happiness. Remember why you started and discover avenues to reignite the flame and turn your career into a passion again, even if it’s not for the first time!

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Brooke Sergent, RDH, BS
Brooke Sergent, RDH, BS, graduated cum laude from Big Sandy Community and Technical College Dental Hygiene program in 2004, where she was also the recipient of the Colgate S.T.A.R. award. In 2005, she moved to East Tennessee and earned her Bachelors in Science from Tennessee Tech University based in Cookeville, TN. Brooke served on the Colgate Oral Health Advisory Board in Piscataway, NJ, in 2013. In 2014, she organized a Colgate Bright Smiles Bright Future Event for a local elementary school. Brooke currently works in private practice and serves as a BURST Ambassador.