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Put your. health first and you'll enjoy your dental hygiene career more.

Wellness 101 for new dental hygienists

March 26, 2024
Break the habit of putting yourself last and you'll prolong your career and enjoy it more. Wellness means taking time for yourself, no matter how impossible that may seem.

Health-care practioners tend to put our own health on the back burner. For many of us, prioritizing our health and wellness can be a challenge when working in a health-care setting. Why is this?

It often comes from lack of time or not prioritizing yourself in your everyday schedule. Most of us work structured days and long hours and allotting time for yourself is often ignored. This can be a common pattern that sometimes goes unnoticed.  

How often do you leave work and think about running an errand? Not often, I bet. The thought of having to spend another minute outside the comfort of your home can be daunting after an exhausting and strenuous day. Self-care is often pushed aside to when we think we’ll have more time or energy and time to spend on ourselves. 

Practicing hygienists are realizing that if they don’t take preventive measures, burnout is inevitable. This doesn’t mean that the job is entirely to blame, but burnout usually stems from the job. We should be taking better care of ourselves knowing how taxing the job is on our bodies and mental health. 

Recently graduated hygienists are more aware of burnout because it’s now discussed in school and among peers. New graduates are encouraged to ask questions when they interview for positions and request working interviews to assess their compatibility with an office. They learn more about the job opportunity, the time commitment, the schedule flexibility, and the work/life balance.

There’s a better understanding among today’s health-care workforce about the importance of true wellness, which is comprised of physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, and environmental components.1 All these aspects distinguish our level of health and mental stability. 

The next time you feel burned out or exhausted from your job, take a moment to assess your workday and week. Does it consume you? Do you have time for yourself throughout the week? Are you having to constantly advocate for a safe work environment or a healthy work/life balance? 

If you find yourself battling these issues, it may be time to re-evaluate your workspace or have discussions with your employer to communicate your concerns. This won’t necessarily equate to your emotions being heard or recognized; however, it may help you better understand if this environment is for you, or if you unknowingly chose a setting that truly does not support your personal needs.

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Avoid Dental Hygiene Burnout
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Maintain enthusiasm for your profession as a new grad

How to avoid burnout as a new hygienist

  • Pioritize routine self-care appointments—chiropractic, physiotherapy, massage, yoga.
  • Limit hours worked. If possible, opt for a three- or four-day workweek instead of five-plus days.
  • Ask your employer to provide quality instruments and operatory supplies to protect your body from occupational pain and injury.
  • Refresh your mind with educational seminars and lunch and learns to prevent job fatigue.
  • Don’t compromise and work in a setting that does not mentally or emotionally support your needs or align with your values.
  • Ask to implement block booking to keep variety in your day and avoid a repetitive daily pattern.
  • Limit the daily patient intake to six or seven rather than eight or nine. This will help you provide quality care while not overworking your body.

Wellness is a responsibility we must have for ourselves. It’s a commitment to our bodies that translates into a healthy practitioner. If you’re feeling tired, burned out, and unhappy, your quality of care will suffer. This will lead to dissatisfied patients and an unhappy employer or colleagues. Take the time to make changes and identify the areas that need attention. I promise that you’ll thrive in your personal and professional life!


1.  Stoewen DL. Dimensions of wellness: change your habits, change your life. Can Vet J. 2017;58(8):861-862.

Maryam Khan, BSc, RDH, works in Toronto, Ontario. She has more than 12 years of experience in the dental world. Currently Maryam is working as an educator and hopes to guide the future batch of hygienists with the same passion she has for dental hygiene. She’s focused on teamwork, career longevity, and patient satisfaction. Find her on social media @hygienewithmaryam. Stay connected!