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Dental hygienist is fed up with so-called ‘full-time’ positions; another wishes to start consulting business

Jan. 29, 2016
Flossy answers questions from a hygienist with a back injury who's through with so-called "full-time" positions, a Canadian hygienist worried about the economy, and more. Dear Flossy is an advice column covering nonclinical dental hygiene careers.

Dear Flossy is an advice column dedicated to professionals looking to expand their dental hygiene careers beyond traditional clinical practice. Get the column delivered to your inbox by subscribing to RDH eVillage Focus. Please send your questions for publication to [email protected]. (Questions may be edited.)

Dear Flossy,

I have been a full time clinical hygienist for 39 years. I just couldn't continue so took a part-time position as a clinical instructor in an excellent hygiene program. I love it, but at 61 and no master’s degree, I don't know what future there is in education. I feel I have so much to offer the profession but am not sure how to find my options. I look forward to your column and hope I can be a part of my profession for many years to come.

—Hygiene instructor

60 is the new 40! Seriously, in my opinion, it is never too late to continue your education. I am sure you have much to offer the profession, and we are in need of dental hygiene educators. There are many online and distance learning programs where you can obtain a master’s degree: click here for a list.

You may also want to consider continuing your position as a clinical instructor, as the profession is in desperate need in this area. Myofunctional therapy and thermography may be other choices for you. I hope this column offers further suggestions for you. Best of luck!

—Maria Perno Goldie, RDH, MS

Dear Flossy,

I am a 46-year-old dental hygienist who has been practicing for 16 years. I have bachelor degrees in biology as well dental hygiene. I have three years’ experience teaching as an adjunct instructor in our local dental hygiene program. Prior to dental hygiene, I was a chairside assistant, and prior to that a laboratory technician! I have been in dentistry most of my life and know nothing else.

In the past few years I have become decreasingly dissatisfied with my career. The area that I live in is oversaturated with hygienists, which has driven pay and benefits down, yet the cost of living keeps increasing. The majority of doctors here hire only part time so they don't have to provide benefits.

I left my so-called "full-time" position, and have been working in various offices through a temporary agency since July 2015.

In addition, I just had to have a three level cervical fusion and feel that my career is what caused my cervical discs to degenerate. I am looking for a way out of clinical practice that will not drastically reduce my income!

Any advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated!

—Me and my back need a way out

Have you considered a position outside of a private dental office? With a BS degree, you may be able to consider a career in the corporate arena, in public health, or as an educator. There are companies that hire dental hygienists to teach Lunch & Learn presentations. Your local public health agency may need someone to help with a program. Dental hygiene needs educators, and it seems you already have some insight in this area. Other options are working in a group practice as a treatment coordinator or in a medical office taking blood pressures and reviewing medical histories.

—Maria Perno Goldie, RDH, MS

Dear Flossy,

I've worked as a dental hygienist in Alberta, Canada, for 20 years. Our economy here has recently taken a dive and unemployment is the highest it's been in decades. Dental fees have gone way up over the last 10 years or so and our new provincial government is talking about enforcing a limit to the fees dentists can charge. Many dental offices will be feeling the pinch. I'm thinking about opening a consulting company to help offices through the hard times and help them maintain or even increase production in spite of the current environment. Any advice?

—Entrepreneurial-minded Canadian hygienist

As a fellow Canadian and married to a man who supplies equipment to the oil fields, I completely understand the current economic climate. Although worrisome and troubling, there are opportunities. This is a critical time for dentistry to define its destiny and certainly not a time for complacency. Understanding key forces that are affecting the consumer is critical. My personal advice would be “go for it” and help practices understand the consumer wants and needs. I truly believe that the public is ready to hear the messaging about oral and overall health.

Baby boomers who make up the majority of our population are retiring later. The average patient today is not as concerned with the “perfect smile” as they are with maintaining quality of life and health. We have a tremendous opportunity to educate and empower our patients to understand the effect oral inflammation has on every aspect of their life. There is a trend towards a more integrated, holistic and collaborative approach to patient care involving a number of healthcare providers. Dentistry and dental hygiene are vital contributors to this movement. All the very best to you.

—Jo-Anne Jones, president, RDH Connection Inc.

Editor’s note: Keep reading this column for future updates, and consider attending the RDH Under One Roof career mentorship special session. We would be delighted to see you there.

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