Wouldn’t it be great if everyone knew exactly what they wanted to do at an early age and went for it? A friend of mine from Old Dominion knew what she wanted to do at an early age. April has been a Dental Hygienist for 21 years and she still loves it! And, she has a beautiful smile!
Q: What is the title of your profession?
A: I am a Dental Hygienist.
A: I clean and polish the enamel of theeth, scale below the gumline to smooth root surfaces, and takes radiographs (X-rays). Hygienists wear lots of other hats in the office, too: confirming patients, sterilizing instruments, filing insurance, providing dental hygiene instruction to patients, and even assisting the dentist sometimes.
A dental hygienist has different job responsibilities in each state. Some hygienists can even open their own practices without a dentist (Colorado)! Many states allow hygienists to give local anesthesia. This is such a help especially when you have a patient that is uncomfortable with a procedure.
Q: Have you always worked in this field?
A: I have worked 21 years as a licensed Registerd Dental Hygienist (RDH) (ouch!) hurts to type that. I have always worked (part time or full time) since I obtained my degree (BSDH- Bachelor of Science Dental Hygiene).
Q: Why did you choose this profession?
A: I loved going to the dentist when I was growing up. Actually, I think I had a crush on my Dentist (we’ll call him Dr. Mike). I was an athlete and I was always chipping or cracking something because I didn’t want to wear my athletic mouthguard. (kids should always wear them!) I had to have a root canal on my front tooth when I was 8 years old. Many would say that would be a horrible experience. I had no problems. Everyone was very nice and friendly.
As I got older and in high school, I continued to look forward to my visits to Dr. Mike. I was always talking with the little kids in the waiting area and reassuring them about their care and how nice everyone was at the office. Dr. Mike offered me a part time job in the summer before my sophomore year in high school. It wasn’t anything huge, I just went in and kept the reception area clean. I helped kids brush their teeth before appointments, and I played with them or read books to them. I LOVED IT!
While I was in my Junior year of high school, a nice lady came to visit on career day. She was a dental hygienist. She explained the difference in being a Dental Assistant and a Dental Hygienist. I knew I had found my profession!
Q: Did you go to college or a trade school for this profession? Do you have to be licensed?
A: I was blessed in the fact that the Dental Hygiene program with the BEST National Board scores in the country was in my home state of Virginia. I applied early in my Senior year and was accepted in the Spring. I attended 4 years at Old Dominion University. (even had to go for a few summer classes, NO FUN!) One must keep a 3.25 GPA or you are removed from the program.
There are very few Bachelor programs for Dental Hygienists (meaning to ACTUALLY have a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene) Most schools are two year programs. There is not one Board/licensure for the United States. One must be licensed in each state to practice where they want. I have five (5) licenses and I am required to keep them updated through CE courses or I must forfeit them. (CA, FL, VA, RI, NC).
Q: Does your job require continued education? What type? How much?
A: Each state that one is licensed requires different CE credits/courses.
Q: Does your profession require travel? How much?
A: I don’t usually travel with my job per se; however, I have attended CE courses all over the country. Once one has been in the field awhile, one wants to hear/see the best speakers and health car providers in the profession.
Q: What is the typical schedule/hours?
A: I LOVE my job….I typically work 6-8 hours a day.
A: Helping people, that is the best part of my job. Not everyone is blessed with growing up with a positive dental experience. Some people dislike (even hate) the dental office. I love when someone comes in and struggles with their homecare and then the next time I see them there is a “turnaround” with the attitude and/or oral hygiene. That makes me feel like something I said or did helped them! I also feel I make great money…..
A: I would advise young people to make sure that they want to help people.
Q: If you had to do it all over again, would you choose the same profession?
A: I would choose this profession over and over again.
Q: Do you receive a pension?
A: There is usually no pension involved, meaning one needs to save for their own retirement. Some dentists will do profit sharing which means that the hygienist will get a percentage of whatever procedures (money taken in) during his/her work day.