Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2017 03 Sandersthumbnail
Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2017 03 Sandersthumbnail
Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2017 03 Sandersthumbnail
Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2017 03 Sandersthumbnail
Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2017 03 Sandersthumbnail

Ideas to Inspiration: Easy steps to take in dental hygiene career development

March 15, 2017
In her column for RDH Graduate, Jackie Sanders, RDH, discusses how hygienists can take steps in developing their dental hygiene careers.

By Jackie Sanders, RDH, MBA

Ideas to Inspiration has taken hold and become a popular segment of RDH Graduate. We would like to thank many of you who recently completed our survey; your questions, requests, and thoughts have been taken into consideration and will be applied to future topics.

In January, the Award of Distinction recipients answered questions proposed by the dental hygiene students of Weber State University. In February, we provided an insight to finding your “why” and understanding your driving force. This month you have asked to be provided with a few initial steps that will support your career development.


To view previous columns by Jackie Sanders, click here:


Career development has been compared to a series of stepping stones. One experience leads to the next, and each one has a purpose. Skills acquired prior to dental hygiene school may play a role in your career. Once you pass the boards and receive your state license, you have moved further down the path. Dental hygiene is a profession of continual growth that truly begins when you graduate. Each patient will provide a learning experience, and each employer will advance your personal and professional development. It is your responsibility to seek out new prospects if you have the desire.

What can you start doing immediately that will benefit your career and move you down your path?

Be an asset

Manage your integrity and remember that a “first impression” does matter. Realizing that you are a dental professional and being recognized as an asset to a practice is one of the most exciting moments for a new graduate. To be respected by an employer, a colleague, or having a patient ask for your advice is memorable.

If you are struggling with this concept, consider keeping track of your daily contributions. Record the following numbers to understand where you can be more beneficial to a practice, or if it is time to move on.

  • Daily production
  • Number of patients seen daily
  • Number of new patients
  • Broken appointments
  • Open time in schedule
  • Number of FMX or Panorex

When you become aware of how well you are doing or notice small changes, you can make changes to become more productive. You become more of an asset and will recognize your personal value. You may use this data to support a pay increase, new instrument purchases, and/or the hiring of a full-time assistant—becoming a member of a team can be rewarding.

With time you will be able to support your worth with documented data. If you choose to transition out of clinical practice, the recorded metrics can support your understanding of business, profitability, and data analysis.

Reading and continuing education

As a student, there tends to be little time for extracurricular reading. After graduation, you will find that reading dental hygiene magazines, newsletters, or journals will keep you connected to an ever-changing profession.

Articles reflective of new research, clinical tips, or the challenges of colleagues will support the continual growth required in the dental hygiene industry. Upon graduation, you are now responsible for your own educational progress. You are now accountable for the care provided to each patient, and no one is looking over your shoulder, reviewing your patient’s health history or evaluating your recommended treatment plan. You take an individual’s life into your hands daily, and you need to make sure you are aware of changes in dentistry.

Not only will reading and attending continuing education courses be a stepping stone for your career development, it can also provide you with an insight to what other opportunities lie out there waiting for you. I personally read my magazines and journals from cover to cover to stay abreast with new information. I also read each bio of every author, as early in my career reading these bios is what motivated me and directed me to what I needed to do to fulfill my dream.

Additional opportunities may be waiting for you if you have a desire to lecture, have a skill for writing, or have the compassion and drive to enter into a public health position. Each year, Sunstar recognizes dental hygienists for their contributions to the industry, and I am always moved by the achievements of these individuals, making me even more proud to be a dental hygienist.


Networking cannot be stressed enough. This is where career transitions and dreams are fulfilled.

Networking has been defined as a business activity by which individuals and entrepreneurs meet to form relationships and to recognize, create, or act upon opportunities while sharing information. Once you begin to share your desires with others, these individuals can spread your dream to their contacts and connect you with those who can assist you in moving forward. This is most evident in the dental hygiene community where it is our nature to support.

Conventions, local component meetings, staying in touch with classmates, and being bold enough to reach out to a stranger for direction are platforms for networking. My own career took a very positive turn when I asked one of my idols to lunch and queried what my next step should be. Finding those who are willing to mentor is also a facet of networking that moves one down their path by learning from those who have the knowledge and experience. Today I have more mentors than I can recognize, each of them lifting me up and helping me along my journey.

The most exciting element of the dental hygiene career is that you have the option to choose your direction and be your own driving force. One step at a time will keep you moving forward and each of your Ideas will be inspired by the continual movement.

If you have any questions, comments, would like to offer additional ideas, or just want to reach out for guidance, I would love to hear from you at [email protected].

ackie Sanders is Manager of Professional Relations & Communications for SUNSTAR. She serves as a liaison responsible for communications with professional and industry associations, educational institutions and the dental professional community. She is a recognized and active opinion leader within the dental hygiene community and associated social networking programs. She serves on the ADEA Legislative Advisory Council, is a member of ADHA IOH Advisory Committee, and serves on several Editorial Advisory Boards.