Hygienist to Hygienist: Notes of Inspiration in Dental HygieneApr 18, 2022
Hygienist to Hygienist:
Notes of Inspiration in Dental Hygiene
By Suzanne Vila, RDH, PHDHP, B.A.
Earlier this month, I attended the 2022 Dental Hygiene Summit that was hosted by The Verber Advanced Dental Institute. Throughout my 30+ year career in dental hygiene, I have always enjoyed attending hygiene meetings because they always inspire me. Spending time with other hygienists has always made me feel like part of an important professional community.
This year was the first in-person summit since 2019 for me. The pandemic made almost all in-person events nearly impossible. And even when we could be together, we have been socially distanced and masked. Now that CDC guidelines have eased, we were able to join each other at the summit in a way we’ve longed for over two years, a way to inspire each other together, in person.
As of August 2021, less than half of the hygienists who left the workforce because of the pandemic have never returned and the nation is seeing a shortage of dental hygienists.1 Shortages equal stress to employers and to practicing hygienists who are left to pick up the extra work, manage super busy schedules, and deal with patients who are often more nervous than usual and have been without regular dental care for years.
Now more than ever, hygienists need inspiration from each other!
After the meeting, I wished that I had been able to ask all of the hygienists there for quotes to inspire other hygienists. My second best option was something with which we have all been very familiar these last two years - I turned to virtual hygiene groups.
I reached out to several online dental hygiene groups nationwide and simply asked for notes of inspiration from other hygienists. Soon, student dental hygienists are going to be joining us as registered dental hygienists. So, with that in mind, I planted the seed of notes to new grads and newer hygienists.
The response to my request was overwhelmingly positive! While I wish I could have included all of the words of wisdom, I’m writing an article, not a book. (But a book could be in my future!)
With the responses, I created a few categories and matched quotes to each: ergonomics, self-care, patient relationships, quality practice, workplace advice, and education. I was even contacted by an ADHA member who recently published a study about career paths for those who have completed their post-bachelor’s studies.
Notes to Inspire
Thanks to my many wonderful dental hygiene colleagues, here are words of wisdom to inspire your dental hygiene spirit:
“Save your neck and back - Take up yoga.” - Veronica, RDH
“Take care of your body because this profession is hard on it. Practice good ergonomics & invest in good loupes with a light & a saddle stool.” Lisa, RDH
“Do not fear your dreams! We are preventionists, a rare profession.” Elaine, RDH
“Always pat yourself on the back after each day…You’re a Rockstar Healthcare Professional.” - Jill, RDH
“Take care of yourself. Develop a balance between your work life and your personal life.” - Linda, RDH
- Your Patient Relationships:
“Working in a sterile environment doesn’t mean having a sterile relationship with our patients!” - Inga, RDH
“Be your best self by giving your patients the compassionate care they need.” - Elaine, RDH
“Approach your patients with empathy.” - Judy, RDH
- Quality Hygiene Practice:
“Write thorough notes! Never skimp on documentation.” Jill, RDH
“Seeing the positive results of providing sincere, genuine, thorough care to a patient will remind you of why you chose the profession.” - Amy, RDH
“Remember everyone wants a good check up. Teach your patients good oral hygiene, little tricks to maximize the effectiveness of their efforts and it will pay off for you on their return visits. It is a win win!” - Darlene, RDH
- Workplace Advice:
“Find a practice that treats you like family…then, treat your patients that way too.” - Mary, RDH
“Be kind!” - Sherri, RDH
“Never be afraid to ask other hygienists for their opinions, tips, and tricks.” - Rita, RDH
“Keep learning and find something new to learn every day. And find something new to educate your patients about no matter if you’ve seen them 100 times.” - Andrea, RDH
“Never stop learning!” - Tari, RDH
“Invest in yourself and your career.” -Kathy, RDH
“Learn all that you can, be open to all options!” - Angie, RDH
Career Path Study
While interacting with my colleagues virtually, I was contacted by Jessie Jones-Teti, RDH, who had just published a study she did for her master’s thesis. In it, she included themes and quotes that she thought would be perfect to include here. Considering that many of us thrive upon continual learning in our profession, I agreed.
These themes and quotes came from a specific question that she asked those in her study:
“What words of wisdom would you offer to a dental hygienist thinking of pursuing a master’s or doctoral degree?”
Themes included increased opportunities, personal & professional growth, credibility, educational investment, and a ‘just do it’ attitude. Respondents overwhelmingly supported pursuing graduate-level studies in dental hygiene because it provides them with more opportunity and credibility within their profession.2
The Takeaway - Hygienist to Hygienist
We are part of an incredible, ethical, intelligent, and dedicated group of professionals who want to support each other’s success. Whether that support comes from an in-person meeting, an online professional group, or your own office dental hygiene team, we have a lot to offer each other.
If you are feeling burnout, chronic fatigue/frustration, or just having an occasional bad day, just know that there are so many dental hygienists out there who are here for you, to listen, to support you, and to offer advice to help you get through the rough patches and help inspire you.
And if you are a hygienist who is thriving and loving your profession, I invite you to share your words of wisdom so that you may lift and inspire others within your profession. We need your positivity, your wise words, and your inspirational attitude!
About the Author: Suzanne L. Vila, RDH, PHDHP, B.A.
Suzanne is a Registered Dental Hygienist in Central PA who works in private periodontal practice and at a local college as an adjunct dental hygiene faculty. After a thirty-year career in dental hygiene, Suzanne is now creating non-clinical projects involving professional enhancement, public health initiatives, and patient education. In addition to being a passionate dental practitioner, Suzanne enjoys teaching fitness classes such as Pilates and yoga, volunteering with the local dog rescue Pitties.Love.Peace, and spending time with her family and their two rescued pit bulls, Rudy & Freya.
- Rappe, Jess, and Erika Hoeft. “Research Reveals Impact of COVID-19 on Dental Hygienists.” American Dental Association, 22 Feb. 2022, https://www.ada.org/about/press-releases/research-reveals-impact-of-covid-19-on-dental-hygienists
- Jones-Teti, Jessie, et al. “Career Paths and Satisfaction of Dental Hygienists Holding Master's and Doctoral Degrees.” Journal of Dental Hygiene, vol. 95, no. 6, Dec. 2021, pp. 54–62., https://doi.org/https://jdh.adha.org/content/jdenthyg/95/6/54.full.pdf