I have been practicing dental hygiene for 24 years, almost 21 of those in the same practice. It is a family practice that has changed over the course of time and I have worked with many associates and specialists over the years. Before I started a family, I was working full time. After the birth of my second child I decided to work three days a week and have pretty much stuck with that same schedule. I graduated from The University of Iowa with a Bachelor?s of Science Degree.
There are many great aspects of the profession. My favorite part is helping patients keep their smile and relieving some patient?s guilt for not taking care of their teeth. I am not there to scold, but rather to educate and support. The biggest challenge would have to be the physical aspect. Over time, the positions and repetition of movements become physically taxing.
One of my favorite things about having the skills I do is being able to give back. A mission I have been involved with is El Nino Rey, sponsored by the archdiocese of Chicago and coordinated by a group of parishioners from a local church. There are two trips taken each year. The first is usually end of December, with the second in January. The groups consist of four dentists, one oral surgeon, one hygienist, a nurse, a priest, and several non- dental professionals that assist and support the dental team. In this group of volunteers there are usually 3-4 people who are fluent in Spanish. The mission serves the state of Guerrero, Mexico. During the course of the trip, the team will visit usually two different towns, spending 1-2 days in each place. There are hundreds of people seen in each town. They are always many people awaiting our arrival. We arrive with mobile dental equipment and set up the clinic. The team performs extractions, restorations, prophylaxis, oral hygiene instruction and nursing care by the hundreds in each town. In addition to the dental care, El Nino Rey provides school scholarships for students in the state of Guerrero. Personally, I have found the trips very rewarding and would strongly recommend this type of mission work to other hygienists.
In terms of everyday clinical practice, the piece of equipment that I can?t imagine practicing without would have to be the Cavi-Jet. And since I started, the greatest technological change in the way I practice hygiene would be using loupes.
My advice for anyone considering dental hygiene as a profession would be to reach out to their own dental office. I would encourage them to ask their hygienist if they could shadow them for a day.