By giving back, you can boost your dental hygiene career

This article is intended to inspire you to consider giving back to the profession. I believe by doing so you will find your passion again. Once you do, you’ll find opportunities you never knew existed (or maybe just forgot existed).

Oct 16th, 2014

All across the country, dental hygienists are struggling to find positions that utilize their extensive skills and talents. According to RDH magazine, many hygienists report dissatisfaction with the current job market. The source of this discontent is not the focus of this article. This article is intended to inspire you to consider giving back to the profession. I believe by doing so you will find your passion again. Once you do, you’ll find opportunities you never knew existed (or maybe just forgot existed).

I have been a dental hygienist for almost 20 years. Thanks to dental hygiene, I was able to stay home and take care of my children while going to work part time and feeling like a productive, intelligent adult (motherhood has a way of making you forget that you are, in fact, an intelligent adult). The work has always been rewarding, both financially and emotionally. Grateful to my mentors and professors who taught me so much, I was able to take care of people.

As my children got older, I felt it was time I gave something back to the profession that had given me so much. I volunteered at a Missions of Mercy event, travelled to the Dominican Republic as part of a dental mission, and began a career as a dental hygiene professor.

Being a Latina and seeing the great need within the community for oral health education and services, I became involved with the Hispanic Dental Association. At first, my goal was just to share my dental skills and knowledge with those who needed it. But I quickly learned that the organization could offer me so much more — not just in providing ways in which I could use my clinical skills and expertise, but in allowing me the opportunity to use my voice to enact change.

Every professional organization is founded for a purpose. Most organizations seek to advance a cause, a business, or a profession, providing services and opportunities for their members. Benefits of joining professional organizations include:

  • Jobs — Via job boards or similar avenues, professional organizations help their members find jobs.
  • Mentoring — One of the most valuable assets any professional can have is a mentor who can advise and connect you with the right people. Mentor relationship are not easy to find and require dedication on both the mentor and the mentee.
  • Professional development — The cornerstone of any professional organization is its ability to advance the interests and education of its members. Courses, lectures, and workshops offered keep members up to date on industry trends and technologies.
  • Networking — The ability to meet others who share your core values, goals, ambitions and are committed to their advancement is, to me, the most valuable facet of professional organizations. Most organizations have an annual conference that allows you the opportunity to explore and showcase your interests.
  • Scholarships — In seeking to advance the organization, scholarships and stipends are often awarded to members continuing their education.
  • Peer support — This is especially helpful if you have innovative ideas regarding the future of your profession.
  • Authorship in journal — Writing about topics which interest and inspire you will likely interest and inspire others. Too often, professionals avoid this very powerful tool to advance their career. As a result, the same authors continually submit articles regarding what is important and interesting to them and that may not accurately depict the sentiments and opinions of others.

The professional organizations a dental hygienist may choose to join include:

  • American Dental Hygienists Association Becoming an ADHA member means you can take advantage of up-to-date information about emerging technologies, insights on professional and educational opportunities, legislative developments, and a calendar of events you can use to network with your peers. ADHA leadership has worked steadfastly to increase the scope of practice for dental hygienists across the country and continually works to create partnerships which promote the interests of dental hygienists.
  • American Academy of Dental Hygiene With a clear mission, “Advancing Individual Professional Growth through Leadership, Mentorship, and Fellowship”, the AADH serves as the only organization which distinguishes dental hygienists much the same way fellows in other professions do (i.e. ) New members of the academy must have attained seventy-five hours of Academy approved, or agency recognized continuing education courses (given or taken) within five years prior to application. Additionally, the Academy offers its members the ability to become continuing education providers. It is the only dental hygiene organization who offers its members that benefit.
  • Hispanic Dental Association A national, non-profit 501(c)3 organization comprised of oral health professionals and students dedicated to promoting and improving the oral health of the Hispanic community and providing advocacy for Hispanic oral health professionals across the United States.
  • National Dental Association The NDA promotes oral health equity among people of color by harnessing the collective power of its members, advocating for the needs of and mentoring dental students of color, and raising the profile of the profession in our communities.
  • American Dental Education Association The mission of ADEA is to lead individuals and institutions of the dental education community to address contemporary issues influencing education, research and the delivery of oral health care for the health of the public. ADEA’s activities encompass a wide range of research, advocacy, faculty development, meetings and communications.
  • American Association of Public Health Dentistry Founded in 1937, the American Association of Public Health Dentistry (AAPHD) provides a focus for meeting the challenge to improve oral health. AAPHD membership is open to all individuals concerned with improving the oral health of the public.
  • International Federation of Dental HygienistsThe IFDH is an international, non-governmental, non-profit organization which unites dental hygiene associations from around the world in their common cause of promoting dental health.

This list is not intended to be comprehensive. There are other organizations a dental hygienist may join that may better suit her goals and interests.

I have met many incredible people through the organizations I’ve joined. Many men and women share my vision, my passion, and dedication. These are people I never would have met had I not decided to give back. Recently, I was elected as a member of the Hispanic Dental Association’s Board of Trustees. In January, I will travel to Texas and meet with other leaders in the organization to discuss the contributions we can make to further our organization, our heritage and the dental profession. I will be there representing women, New York City and dental hygiene, the profession I love. In this way, I continue to grow and, hopefully, inspire a new generation of dental hygienists to continue the work of taking care of others.

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