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The light at the end of the tunnel

Feb. 11, 2021
The year 2020 was hard for many hygienists, but some found new opportunities within the darkness.

The year 2020 will undoubtedly be remembered in the annals of history for numerous reasons. The COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters, political turmoil, and social unrest made it seem as though we were in a dark tunnel that we could not navigate through. Collectively, we were a captive audience as dentistry was shut down. During that time, as we worried about the future, many of us cleaned out our houses Marie Kondo style, spent time with our families (sometimes more than we would have liked), and took time to ponder what we wanted from our lives

The way the dental community supported one another by connecting virtually, despite having to distance socially, was uplifting. This was done through online dental forums, continuing education courses, and virtual conventions such as RDH Under One Roof. It is imperative that we continue to connect with one another to prevent the burnout and mental fatigue that so many have been experiencing.

The time away from the office allowed many to change their mindset and outlook on their employment. Some self-assessed and thought about what they wanted from their careers as dental hygienists. Many were motivated to start their entrepreneurial journey, write books, volunteer, or connect with their colleagues virtually.

Astrida Curis, RDH, suffered from burnout in the past and started working as a temporary dental hygienist on her days off as a way to break up the monotony. She found going to different offices helped reinvigorate her passion for her career. This motivated her to start to her own temporary staffing company, Core Dental Staffing. Her service has been a lifeline to other dental hygienists who need options as well.

As dentistry reopened after the shutdown, Brandee Rogers, RDH, became aware of her colleagues’ need for face shields that were in short supply. She designed a prototype for herself and then shared its benefits online with her colleagues. After being frequently contacted by eager colleagues who wanted to purchase her shield, she created her company, Hygenius (

In 2020, Lisa Ann Gordon, RDH, was finishing her education to become a chiropractor. She merged her love of dental hygiene and chiropractic care to establish her business to specialize in the temporomandibular joint as the TMJ therapist at  She is currently starting a virtual practice as well as her physical office, Lux Wellness Chiropractic, to help as many as she can who suffer from TMJ disorders. She sees telehealth as being the wave of the future and looks forward to merging her two passions to help the public achieve optimal health.

Despite 2021 opening without the usual fanfare and celebrations, we are hopeful for what this year will bring. Several vaccines against the coronavirus are being administered. Some states are allowing dental hygienists to help with the administration of this lifesaving vaccine. As essential workers, we can help solidify our role as health-care providers in the public’s eyes by joining other health-care professionals to end this pandemic.

The light at the end of the tunnel is approaching. By continuing to make progressive steps toward the light, we will arrive at our desired destinations. Despite the various issues we have collectively experienced this last year, the journey together has made us stronger. Our collective strength will be needed as we continue to make progressive changes in our profession and our lives to arrive at a better future. Let us continue to reach out to ones who need a listening ear, a new position, or guidance toward a new career path. I look forward to meeting all of you online in some dental hygiene forum, a continuing education class, or hopefully at the upcoming RDH Under One Roof Convention in Indiana. We are the light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes we have to go through the darkness to get to the light.

KARI CARTER-CHERELUS, RDH, DA, is a consultant, speaker, and author. She authored the book, The Ultimate Guide for Dental Hygienist Burnout, to serve as a guide to help dental hygienists in all stages of their careers. She uses her platform as CEO and founder of KMC Strategic Solutions to help improve work culture in teams and organizations. She endeavors to help her colleagues suffering from burnout and hostile work environments. She is the cofounder of the upcoming podcast Truth Scalers. For consulting or speaking inquiries, contact her at [email protected]