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A DSO might be just the thing to advance your dental hygiene career.

The future of dental hygiene is about embracing change

March 25, 2024
Ignore those misconceptions and see what this RDH has to say about DSOs, and why one might be a good choice for you and your career.

For nearly 15 years, I’ve lived and breathed dental hygiene. After graduating from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center with a BS in dental hygiene in 2009, I became a private practice hygienist. From there, I joined Aspen Dental and worked in clinical hygiene for almost six years. When the opportunity for being promoted to territory hygiene manager for the Pacific Northwest arose in 2016, I moved across the country to Washington, even though I knew I was taking a huge risk for me and my family. 

That risk turned out to be well worth it! Next, I advanced to the role of division director of hygiene support. As of December 2023, I’ve embarked on a new career journey—vice president of hygiene operations at Aspen Dental. With a world of possibilities ahead of me, I want to share some of my goals for the future, the most important and exciting aspects of hygiene, and some advice for both new and seasoned hygienists.

Debunking misconceptions

Working for a large dental support organization (DSO) such as Aspen Dental means wrestling with a host of common misconceptions. Too many people—both tenured and new hygienists—think DSOs offer low pay, that they over- or under-treatment plan, and provide zero flexibility. Unfortunately, Aspen Dental often gets lumped into this category. These misconceptions could not be further from the truth.

Aspen Dental offers competitive base pay, uncapped earning potential with profit sharing, and benefits for both part- and full-time employees, including 401(k) plans, paid time off, paid holidays, flexible work schedules, and free continuing education.

Hygienists at Aspen Dental-branded practices have access to professional development, more than 10,000 continuing education credits, hands-on training, and the latest technology. We want to make sure our providers have all the tools and skills they need to be successful and provide the highest standard of care to our patients.

In my new role, I’ve committed to building out even more live continuing education courses to give hygienists the most up-to-date, top-of-the-line training possible.

Making life easier for hygienists

One of my biggest goals in my new role is to create a culture that makes hygienists feel appreciated, valued, and respected at Aspen. We want to be the employer of choice for hygienists, whether they’re just starting out or have been in the profession for decades.

When I think about the future of hygiene, I’d love to see the advent of license portability. Currently, when a hygienist wants to make a big move, the process of becoming licensed in another state can be extremely time-consuming and costly. This limits hygienists' opportunities and their ability to venture and explore in their careers and their lives. Hygienists should be treated like medical providers, needing to take only one board exam that would provide licensure in all states.

From a growth standpoint, license portability would make the recruiting process easier. We would be able to recruit hygienists from all over the country, which is especially important for niche and rural markets that desperately need greater access to dental care.

License portability is a huge step toward making hygienists feel valued, appreciated, and more comfortable taking risks and pursuing new opportunities.

Keeping dental hygiene dynamic

Even after 15 years, I’m still excited about hygiene. It’s a dynamic profession that always offers something new, whether new patients, new technology, new conversations, or new procedures.

Aspen Dental-branded practices support the dynamic nature of hygiene by implementing the newest technologies. From a digital dental assistant that provides voice-activated perio charting to 3-D intraoral scanning to cutting edge laser treatments, we’re constantly moving into the future. New technology also requires new training, so we provide the necessary training for hygienists to master these state-of-the-art protocols.

In this profession, we’re always learning, and I want to equip hygienists with everything they need to provide the best possible treatment with the latest technology for every patients.

Taking the big risks

Throughout my life and career, I’ve embraced the big risks, even when they were terrifying. Making those changes has paid off personally and professionally. For instance, when I moved across the country for the territory hygiene manager position with Aspen, I was expecting my second child and had to take a leap of faith for the sake of my career and family.

There’s so much opportunity in hygiene, from education and recruiting to hygiene support and dental technology. If you’re interested in another area of hygiene, go ahead and change it up. The flexibility of our career allows us to try new things and find what excites and satisfies us.

Don’t be afraid to take the risk—apply for that job, make the move, get the new license, embrace the life-changing promotion. You will undoubtedly learn and grow along the way.

Kimberly Cameron Jones, RDH, is the vice president of hygiene operations at Aspen Dental. Throughout her 15 years in the dental industry, she’s worked in both clinical hygiene and hygiene management. She is passionate about supporting the growth and continued development of her hygiene team.