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Hygiene on the move: A reflection of the fabulous profession of dental hygiene

Oct. 20, 2020
Dental hygiene is an evolving profession and full of movers and shakers. Brooke Crouch, RDH, looks at how this important profession is advancing patient health and its own bright future.

In honor of National Dental Hygiene month, I thought it would be a great time to reflect on the various ways dental hygienists are practicing hygiene and making a difference in their patient’s lives. Most of the time, when we graduate, we are so glad to have survived the rigor that is dental hygiene school, our focus is on getting into practice to start caring for patients. As new graduates we come out with immeasurable excitement and eagerness to begin our careers. Oftentimes those careers begin in private practice, and for many that is where they stay and retire, but for others that is just the beginning.

According to the American Dental Hygienists’ Association, there are over 150,000 hygienists practicing in the United States.1 Hygienists across the country are making huge strides in our profession, all in very different ways. For example, there are hygienists that own their own mobile dental hygiene practices, and they travel across their state delivering services. In most of these cases, the hygienists are working independently, but have a collaborating dentist and provide data via teledentistry for the dentist to review. Mobile dentistry services are on the rise and hygienists across the country are interested in learning how to work independently and provide care in a mobile capacity. There are hygienists providing these services to a wide range of their community; some are school based, while others are older adult based and focused on nursing home care.

Then there are hygienists that decide to take their experience and focus on teaching in the academic setting. This is another remarkable choice for a dental hygienist. It is already in our nature to be educators; we are constantly informing our patients on a variety of topics. We of course educate them on their oral health, but we also discuss their overall health and how that impacts their oral health. So, for many hygienists the path into education is a clear one, and it provides a great opportunity to give back to our profession and help shape its future.

Some of our hygiene colleagues choose to pursue the path of education, although not through academic institutions nor necessarily to dental hygiene students. Many hygienists across the country have become national speakers, devoting their time to educating other professionals on various topics. For example, some hygienists become experts on topics like oral cancer and oral cancer screenings. And their career becomes educating other medical and dental professionals on these topics to raise awareness.

And yet other routes hygienists are taking is that of influencer, key opinion leader, podcaster, and social media expert. These are unique positions but are a great way to get oral health messages out to the public. If you have never listened to a dental podcast, you are missing out. They are a fabulous way to stay up to date in what’s trending in dental. Driving to and from work is a great time to tune into a podcast! And then there’s the social media experts, and this is something that I am personally enjoying. Several hygienists will post daily or weekly videos to their social media, including Instagram. It is so entertaining to watch and learn from these videos.

Dental hygiene is such an evolving profession and full of movers and shakers! Dental hygienists are true patient advocates who are passionate about learning and bringing the best care possible to our patients. We, as a profession, strive to stay up to date and bring the most current information and standards of care to the patients we serve wherever that may be. One way to stay current and happy in dental hygiene is to network with your fellow hygienists. We must learn from each other and cheer one another on as colleagues and friends. And although each hygienist may practice in different ways, both inside and outside the operatory, we are representing an amazing profession. Happy Dental Hygiene Month to all my fellow hygienists!

Reference

  1. Oral health fast facts: Add a few to your next health story. American Dental Hygiene Association. https://www.adha.org/resources-docs/72210_Oral_Health_Fast_Facts_&_Stats.pdf
Brooke Crouch, RDH, is a remote supervision dental hygienist, outreach coordinator, advocate, educator, oral health champion, consultant, and volunteer. Crouch is vice president of the American Mobile and Teledentistry Alliance and chairs and sits on several clinical advisory, oral health action, and community-based boards and committees. She has successfully advocated for a dental policy change to Medicaid in Virginia, and for a law change allowing medical assistants to apply fluoride varnish to children. Contact her at [email protected].