Ideas to Inspiration: Answering four questions about dental hygiene careers

Jan. 18, 2017
Jackie Sanders, RDH, answers four questions about dental hygiene careers from students at Weber State.

By Jackie Sanders, RDH, MBA

Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to meet individuals who have assisted with my professional development and who took the time to listen and share in a good brainstorming session. I have had numerous mentors who have guided me and provided encouragement, while also being privileged to have colleagues whom I can turn to when needing friendly advice. Whatever you choose to call the process, I knew that I needed to support others as much as I had been supported and began “paying it forward” by listening to the ideas of others.

Throughout the process, two words have continuously resonated in my conversations, and they are the driving force behind “Ideas to Inspiration©,” helping to make your dreams your realities. You must start with an idea and through the discussion process, your beliefs and steps will present themselves, providing you with the inspiration you need to take action and move towards your dream.

Each month, I will share stories of inspiration with you providing you with an insight to how dreams are made. By sharing these stories, there is a hope that you will discover how to make your own dream a reality.

The Sunstar RDH Award of Distinction recipients will begin this month by answering a few questions sent to us by the dental hygiene students at Weber State University. Through their answers, our hope is you will be inspired.

1. What tips/suggestions would you give to find a job in a great dental office?

When searching for a great job, a valuable benefit will come from doing your research. If you are looking at corporations, make sure you research compensation, benefits, and other key metrics on sites like glassdoor.com. Try to avoid objective opinions on social media sites. Go with your gut and know your worth in a practice. At your interview, ask key questions such as "What is the office culture?" and "What is the patient base like here?" This can guide you toward what challenges may be presented.

If you were to break down this question into smaller steps and elements, you would probably ask yourself to define the perfect job? Are you seeking a calm six to eight patients a day? Do you want to work with a dedicated dental assistant? Do you want to be the only RDH in the office, or does working with numerous RDHs sound like fun? Are you in it for the money, do you need benefits, and do you want to stay at the same office until you decide to retire?

Whatever the answer may be to your question, clinical experience will be the building block for future professional transitions. The additional knowledge acquired through daily patient treatment is priceless. Each patient has something to teach you, and these experiences are what will help you decide what your future may hold. Time is a good teacher. Many alternative career choices for dental hygienist require clinical expertise, knowledge which can be attained through managing a financially successful dental hygiene department, and the development of a networking community.

2. If you were to go back and do anything different while you were in school what would it be?

Gain more confidence in treatment planning and communicating the sequence of appointments to the patient, such as the sequence of complex procedures like implants, dentures, and smile makeovers.

Save while you are in school and pay on loans while they are interest free.

3. What advice would you give to best help with the transition from school to the work force?

Be flexible! Be flexible with everything—time management, appointment sequencing, running late and patients coming early, appointments transitioning into something different than planned. Each office will be different and, if you are working at multiple offices, you will need to learn to not compare how things are done.

Make sure to do things you enjoy outside of work to keep a healthy work/life balance. Eat healthy and take care of yourself!

Remember the dentist and office staff can be a support system for you. Good communication skills can be an asset and being brave enough to ask for help or advice when you don’t understand. Remain open and listen to recommendations.

4. Where do the keys to success lie?

Experience. Positive attitude. Networking.

There are benefits in staying connected to your fellow classmates who are walking a similar path to you. Each patient you see will increase your confidence and every question or challenge you have can be shared with a peer, providing you both with a learning experience. You have graduated with a degree in dental hygiene, but the lessons really begin with every patient, each day, and each case presentation.

Networking is a term used repeatedly, and it’s a word that may be confusing to the dental hygiene student or new graduate. The word is not reflective of a party or a big room of people, but more about sharing your vision with someone who may share it with someone else who may have the ability to bring part of your dream to a reality, and then share more with someone else. Networking is like stepping stones where, as you keep moving forward, you continue to get closer to your destiny.

“Life isn’t about finding yourself; it is about creating yourself.” (Unknown)

Jackie 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.