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Finding peace: 4 ways to reduce dental hygiene career stress

Sept. 25, 2017
Sarah Clark, RDH, focuses on four tips that help newcomers to the dental hygiene profession control stress factors.

By Sarah Clark, RDH, IPDH, CSMC

As a dental hygienist, the fast-paced work environments that we are exposed to often create high stress levels. This can contribute to an undesirable career outlook. Here are four ways to reduce career stress and increase the joy in your career.

1. Learn to detach

At the end of the day, it is not your fault if your patient was upset because the water that you rinsed their teeth with was too cold, or you were not their usual hygienist. This is an unfortunate emotional expression of your patient and not a direct reflection of you. It probably is not the first time it happened, and it will not be the last. Give the client grace, and move on. Detaching from these negative emotions is essential for a calm mind, and will pave a path for less stress in your career.

2. Practice self-care

It is OK to admit that we don't love our job 100% of the time. While you may not love your job, you can still love your career. It is essential to say no to extra duties when you are already overwhelmed. Take vacations or time off to recharge, and immerse yourself in something you enjoy such as a good book, a weekend spent enjoying nature, or a nice hot bath. We can’t pour from an empty cup, so we must be at our healthiest, both mentally and physically, to achieve joy within our career.

3. Be a helping hand

It is true that you will attract the energies that you emit. Offer a helping hand to coworkers and be genuine. When you come from a place of truly wanting to be helpful, others will take notice and you will receive help in return. Teamwork is an amazing stress reliever, especially when it is not forced.

4. Focus on the good

Working in health care can be extremely trying. Often, we care more about our patients’ health than they do, and it can take a toll on our self-confidence as a clinician. Just remember, every small win is still a win! Did you get a patient to buy a recommended product? Or, maybe they said they finally enjoyed their visit to the dentist? For every 10 disappointing moments we have, it takes one great moment to assure us that what we are doing is making a difference and we are meant for this career!

It may take practice to begin utilizing these techniques effectively. Simply working on them each day you will soon realize the power of stress-management. Remember, we will all have a hard day now and then, but your mindset and choice of reaction are what will lead you to your desired outcome.

Sarah Clark, RDH, IPDH, CSMC, is a dental hygienist from Maine whose mission is to help other dental professionals practice self-care and management of the emotional and physical stressors of a healthcare career. Sarah is a stress-management coach, blogger and writer. More information can be found at and she can be contacted at [email protected].