Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2017 08 Laughterthumb81817

Dear Flossy: I want to get into public health and corporate

Aug. 14, 2017
Lory Laughter, RDH, answers a question about a career change for a hygienist who already has a marketing degree.

By the Dear Flossy columnists:

Dear Flossy is an advice column dedicated to professionals looking to expand their dental hygiene careers beyond traditional clinical practice. Please send your questions for publication to [email protected].

Dear Flossy,

I’m writing to you for some advice on dental hygiene career options. I’ve been an RDH for almost four years now. Dental hygiene is actually my second career. I also have a degree in business marketing. Prior to hygiene, I taught English abroad and did sales. I loved everything about hygiene. I love interacting with my patients, educating them on their overall health, and I love the flexibility. During the last six months, I’m starting to get tired of private practice—the hustling to keep up with time, production goals, lack of appreciation from the office, and the body aches from time to time.

I’m currently weighing in other areer options in the dental hygiene field, and I’m really interested in how to get into community/public health and dental corporate. Do you have any advice on how I can land my feet into these fields? Do I have the qualification for a position? Would I need to go back to school and get a master’s in public health? Would I need to take classes in data analytics to get into the research field? Are there many opportunities in community health?

As far as corporate, I saw on LinkedIn that many RDHs are working for companies in product sale, research, product development, marketing, etc. I think these jobs would be more in line with marketing degree. I’ve looked on all companies' websites for job openings and haven’t had any luck. I was hoping that an RDH who went in this direction can offer some advice. There’s a dental convention in my area in about four months, and I was hoping to try and speak to some reps if they’re not too busy speaking to hundreds or even thousands of other people.

I don’t regret becoming an RDH. Patients and the general public respect what we do, but 95% of dental offices think where just overpaid technicians that “just clean teeth.”

Thank you for your time and what you do for our profession,

Searching for another career

Hello Searching:

Congratulations on the first big step to diversifying your career—a bachelor’s degree! Business marketing is a degree you can take with you and add value to your career options.

After some searching and asking those I know in community and public health, your options really depend on your location. I found a few of these types positions on and would suggest you create an account and check there often.

Your experience, passion, and education will all be valued in public health positions. You may look into taking some noncredit or other courses in pubic health-care delivery or public health statistics at a local or online college. Community colleges are not only great for the classes at a reasonable tuition, the campuses and courses also allow for networking.

While a master’s in public health would serve you well—and I highly suggest it—you do not need the degree to begin your journey. As you wrote, you could use your experience and degrees now to start in the field and then add your master’s when you know your desired focus direction.

Corporate positions in the dental field, unfortunately, do not always go to dental professionals. Your marketing degree would be a benefit in this area and I would highlight that when seeking openings or applying. I have worked with corporations in a variety of roles, but always on a consultant or independent contract basis. I am not sure this is the type of employment opportunity you are seeking. Visiting the websites and checking often on the “careers” section is a good way to keep abreast on opportunities.

In addition, I feel networking is essential if this is the direction you choose to pursue. Go to the dental and dental hygiene meetings, get to know the corporate representatives and entities in your area. Build a name for yourself on a local, state and national level—and it works best in that order.

Another avenue to the corporate side of dental hygiene is through writing, especially research or technical writing. If you enjoy writing, I suggest taking a course or two on dental writing or industry writing skills. There are dental hygienists who teach these courses and are a wealth of information. These same RDHs also have connections.

You are not alone in your passion for dental hygiene but concerned over some of the day-to-day happenings in private practice. Our career is mentally challenging, socially frustrating at times, and physically demanding. Diversifying is an excellent way to extend your time in the profession you chose.

—Lory Laughter, RDH, BS, MS