Why I Decided to Become a Dental Hygienist

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What did you want to be when you grew up? Throughout childhood, we were asked this question. I assume many of you changed your answer a few times. I love to hear other’s stories, see the similarities, and even the differences, of our dental hygiene upbringing. I knew my answer at a very young age, and it never changed. I have to be honest, chocolate chip cookie dough prophy paste definitely sparked some interest for me, and it still happens to be my go-to flavor today. Don’t get me wrong, I had no clue what I was getting myself into, but I never quit.

Even though I haven’t been practicing for long, I have been mistakenly called a dental assistant or a dentist many times. I realize patients may just not know the titles of the dental professionals in the office, and that’s okay! I think it’s right to politely correct those who make this mistake because we earned our proper credentials.

Many of my patients wonder how someone becomes a dental hygienist. I love to educate patients on what we hygienists have all gone through, and the education involved to get to where we are today. We had to complete perquisites, go through the long application process, figure out how to fulcrum correctly and all that comes with correct instrumentation, use indirect vision, complete table clinic projects and research, undergo hundreds of hours in clinic, desperately search for that important board patient, and patiently wait for the results to ALL those board exams. Patients are very surprised at how much studying, preparation, and hard work is involved.

The profession isn’t always pretty; I think we all know that. Sometimes there are some rotten apples in the basket. There are days where I’m not really feeling it and just want the day to fly by. That’s normal. It happens to everyone now and then. There are some patients who can never be pleased or the patient where you worked so hard on that SRP and OHI, but there’s no success because the patient did not make an effort in maintaining their care. We all have had bad days, doubts, and those low points, but we get through them because we love preventive dentistry.

On the other hand, some patients make your day or put a huge smile on your face. It is a wonderful feeling after you’ve completed treatment and the outcome is successful. These moments make you feel proud of your abilities and the patient.

What helps me through the hard times is my support system; whether that be my family, friends, or my fellow hygienists. I’m so appreciative of the friends I’ve made because of my profession, starting from day one of hygiene school. I still remember my first day of orientation. I was one of the first ones to arrive (I’m always an early bird). As my other classmates started to arrive, we started to talk and express how nervous we all were to start the program. It still amazes we how far we all have come since then. As a class, we got through our dental hygiene program together, and it didn’t stop after graduation. We talk frequently and always try to get together as much as we can; we are pros at throwing baby showers for the soon-to-be moms in our group.

I’ve also met some amazing people along the way in my early career so far. I have been able to absorb these dental professionals’ knowledge and carry it with me onto the next stop. It’s always nice to have someone who can relate to your experiences and who’s in your corner.

Hygiene school and my profession have given me more than a career and knowledge; it has shown me I can do anything I set my mind to no matter what others say, confidence in myself, and improved my communication skills. I enjoy being part of something, whether that be the class of 2017, a team member at an office, or part of my professional association.

That’s why I’m a dental hygienist.

SEE ALSO: Finding Career Happiness as a Dental Hygienist

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Kaitlyn Machado, RDH
Kaitlyn Machado, RDH, has always wanted to be a hygienist ever since she was little. Kate was the youngest student in her class and graduated in 2017. She is extremely passionate about homecare and loves her prophy pastes and fluoride varnish. Even though she hasn’t been in practice for long, she continues to be involved in the dental field.

Kate is part of the ADHA Mentor Liaison in her state of Massachusetts, in which she is a resource for students who will be graduating. She is also working towards her Bachelors and then a Masters degree. Her goals are to eventually become a professor in a dental hygiene school program, teaching in both the classroom and the clinic floor. She is also considering becoming a dental therapist once it has been approved by the legislature in her state. When she isn’t working, she enjoys sports, being a movie buff, photography, and spending time with her family.