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the life of a dental hygienist
Being a hygienist certainly isn’t glamorous, but it does offer its own unique rewards.
Dear loved ones,
It’s 6:30 p.m. and I just walked through the door. I know my scrubs are wrinkled, my hair is a mess and I have a complete look of exhaustion on my face. I likely have someone’s periodontal ligament hanging from my scrubs, prophy paste in my hair, my hands are chapped with hand sanitizer and I wear the tell-tale indentation of loupes across the bridge of my nose. I smell like a dental office and I look like the dentist from “Little Shop of Horrors” took me out on the town. I am completely exhausted and can only respond to chocolate or wine.
I can only imagine that you must be wondering what happened to the alert, coffee-guzzling early bird who sang “Have a great day!” while sashaying out the door earlier this morning. So, let’s rewind and find out what went wrong.
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It’s the crack of dawn and I’m awake before everyone else, ensuring that I have a set of clean scrubs and a lunch bag full of snacks to get me through my day. After hustling through morning traffic while getting caught up on Facebook posts from “Trapped in the Op” and my local Dental Peeps page (not that I condone Facebooking while driving!), I arrive at the office to find the office is low on masks (someone forgot to place our order) and one of our assistants is running late. Also, despite the multitude of certifications and higher learning degrees required to perform my job, I was informed in the morning huddle that I didn’t meet my “production goal” yesterday, so I need to work harder today. It’s fine; I’m a professional, I got this.
My first patient waltzes in 15 minutes late; she also needs to use the bathroom and wants a toothbrush and mini paste because she forgot to brush this morning. As I bring Princess Late-Magoo back to her throne, she proceeds to spend the next 10 minutes pointing to various restorations in her mouth to inform me of which ones have crowns, as if I’ve never seen one of those before or something? It’s fine; I’m a professional, I got this.
So, now I’m running behind, which is totally cool because my next patient arrives early for her appointment and is clearly annoyed that she’s been waiting in the, oh, what is that called, oh yeah, the “waiting room.” I get a passive aggressive mumble in response to my “How are you this morning?” and notice that my patient also has adult braces. This will be fun. She gives me the silent treatment while placing her arms straight above her head to aggressively text on her shattered-screen iPhone as I desperately attempt to awkwardly move around her to treat her ortho-induced gingivitis. It’s fine; I’m a professional, I think I got this.
My next patient is Mr. Jones. He loves me, so we’re good. My stomach starts growling. Turns out Mr. Jones needs an FMX and has a major gag reflex. The FMX looks like it was taken by my dog with his lack of opposable thumbs, but it reveals that #19 needs to be removed. I get to explain this to him because the doctor has already de-gloved so that he can water his wheat in Farmville. (Who still plays Farmville?! I mean, really?) My stomach growls more. Mr. Jones is upset because he’s been coming to the practice for years and now this?! I run to the back room to masticate a handful of cashews while using the restroom simultaneously. It’s fine; I’m a professional, BUT maybe I don’t got this. The front desk advises me that Mr. Jones wasn’t actually eligible for his FMX and wants to know why I took a full set today. I begin wishing I had super powers allowing me to turn water coolers into wine.
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I’m officially running 30 minutes behind and the schedule now reveals that the front desk just put in an emergency patient over my lunch hour because their gums “looked weird.” My next patient has the lips of Angelina Jolie and the temperament of an on-set Christian Bale. I spend the better part of my next hour holding the poor suction while Little Miss Lips makes out with it and/or moans for the chance to take it to Funky Town. To make matters worse, the cashews barely helped and my stomach is now in full whale-during-mating-season mode. It’s fine; I’m going to try to be professional, but I absolutely don’t got this.
I enter my lunch hour with about 12 minutes to actually heat up, eat and attempt to digest the twice-microwaved leftovers whose origins are dangerously unknown. The back room is full of assistants who are more enamored with their phones than having a conversation with any nearby human, along with the front office staff who each get – count it – 60 full minutes to enjoy their not-so-petite filet mignon surrounded by delicately mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus. I have 37 text messages, a missed phone call from our vet, a bunch of Facebook notifications and one grouchy attitude while walking into my afternoon. It’s fine; maybe today’s not a professional day, and I certainly don’t got this.
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My afternoon begins with Brenda from the front desk entering from the outside, drenched in Bath and Body Works’s Moonlight Path in an inadequate attempt to mask her cigarette habit. I spend the remainder of my afternoon dealing with patient notes such as “Patient doesn’t want to do SRPs, just wants his free cleaning,” “Patient in a hurry, needs to be out early” or the classic, “Patient does NOT want the floss lecture.” I’m running behind again, but this time it’s because my doctor has 45-minute conversations with every patient he examines. My patient won’t let me tip them back in the chair, so I spend the better part of an hour contorted like The Elephant Man while wondering if Mr. Upright sleeps sitting up. It’s fine; I think I’m still a professional, but I certainly don’t got this.
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I argue with a patient about needing to take his premedication even though it’s “just a cleaning,” someone refers to me as “the cleaning lady” and my loupe light battery pack begins to die. My patient decides to cure her periodontal disease with coconut oil, someone requests nitrous oxide for a prophy and I hold my tongue as my patient pronounces it “die-ah-bee-tus.” I wrestle a patient’s tense lower lip in a desperate attempt to scale his lower anteriors, I have to explain why the dentistry my patient had done in Mexico is failing and I work among someone’s perio breath, which can only be described as a cocktail of fecal matter and moth balls. I have to explain why fluoride isn’t a poison to a tobacco user, reassure my patient that the cavitron isn’t new and politely smile as a patient laughs about her non-existent flossing habit. It’s not fine; I’m done being a professional, and I for sure I don’t got this.
It’s the end of the day. I appreciate your text messages to check in on me, but did you really think I’d be done on time? I don’t think I’ve had a sip of water all day, my neck is killing me and I have a headache. The guilt sets in with, “Are you going to go to the gym?” or worse, “What are you planning to make for dinner tonight?” I realize that I lifted the lead apron and did the limbo with the X-ray sensor cord several times today, so no need for the gym and Chinese take-out it is! I get in the car to realize this is the first time I’ve sat down today where I wasn’t 8 inches from someone’s face, busy catering to polish flavor requests or smiling past the “No offense, but I hate the dentist” comments. I am drained.
While today was a wild day and tomorrow promises similar challenges and uncertainties, I’d be remiss to ignore the incredible moments that carry me from one ridiculous patient to the next.
Today I had the pleasure of celebrating a successful periodontal re-evaluation, high-fived my patient for improved pocket depths and smiled in approval at my patient’s recent electric toothbrush purchase.
Today I battled sugar bugs with the help of Mr. Thirsty and helped my pediatric patient pick out a toy and took her picture – cheesy smile and all – to be added to our “No Cavity Club” wall.
Today I comforted an extremely phobic patient who wouldn’t trust anyone with a white coat and a degree in dentistry. My empathy, kindness and support encouraged her to trust me. By the end of the appointment, she beamed with pride for conquering her immense fear of receiving dental care.
Today I treated patients who specifically requested me by name because it’s my smiling face, whacky stories and attention to detail that they appreciate most.
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Today I enjoyed congratulating my long-time patient on her engagement, ogling at baby photos of a patient who has struggled with infertility and acknowledging my patient for his new promotion at work.
Today I held the hands of my elderly patient as he poured his heart to me about his wife’s recent passing. I remained strong as I comforted him, listened to stories about her life and provided him with reassurance. I fought back tears as I archived his wife’s chart and realized I had lost someone that I had, for years, considered to be part of my family.
So yes, my dear loved ones, my career is incredibly exhausting both physically and emotionally. It isn’t glamorous, and it certainly isn’t for the faint of heart, but it is rich in heart and abundant in reward. I have the esteemed responsibility of connecting with people, improving the quality of life for those within my community and changing lives every hour of my day. For that, I’m incredibly grateful that I get to spend a day in my own scrubs.
Extra Information About a day in the life of a dental hygienist That You May Find Interested
If the information we provide above is not enough, you may find more below here.
A day in the life of a dental hygienist – Dental Products Report
A Day In the Life of a Dental Hygienist – An Ultradent Blog
A Day in the Life of a Dental Hygienist – Fortis College
A day in the life of a dental hygienist – PubMed
A Day in the Life of a Dental Hygienist – CariFree
A Day in the Life of a Dental Hygienist – Carrington College
Frequently Asked Questions About a day in the life of a dental hygienist
If you have questions that need to be answered about the topic a day in the life of a dental hygienist, then this section may help you solve it.
What does a dental hygienist typically do in a day?
Treatment of patients, updating patient records, reviewing radiographs, and frequently maintaining and inventorying equipment in the dental office are all part of their typical day.
Is it stressful to work as a dental hygienist?
Dental hygienists are given a set amount of time to treat our patients thoroughly and to the best of our abilities, but for some, it can be very stressful to stay on time day in and day out. If that means we have to see and smell disgusting things, it’s totally worth it for the health of our patients.
What aspect of being a dental hygienist is the most challenging?
b>Treating patient after patient without assistance should be acknowledged as being an extremely difficult task/b>. Many office staff and dentists strive to cram as many patients into the daily schedule for the hygienist to treat.
How does it feel to work as a dental hygienist?
Dental hygienists do hands-on work that helps people improve their oral and general health. It only takes two years to earn an associate degree in dental hygiene to start your career. Dental hygienists ‘b>earn competitive wages and enjoy flexible work schedules’/b>.
What percentage of dental hygienists experience burnout?
According to one study, 22% of dental hygiene students met the criteria for emotional exhaustion and depersonalization, which has been linked to burnout.
Is working as a dental hygienist or a dentist more difficult?
Both require additional training beyond the fundamentals of college, with a registered dental hygienist (R.D.H.) needing more education than a doctor of dental surgery (D.D.S.).
Is math a big part of dental hygiene?
Many hygienists assist in the creation of paperwork, such as patient bills or insurance claims, so they must be able to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. They also need to be able to calculate the amount of material required for a particular job based on the standard mixture.
What difficulties do dental hygienists face?
Due to repetitive motions, poor posture, and subpar tools, the physical demands of a dental hygiene job can lead to musculoskeletal conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome and cubital tunnel syndrome.
Can a dental hygienist earn six figures?
According to the U.S. Labor Department, the median annual salary for a dental hygienist is $3,000, which is higher than the median annual salary of $9,000 for a registered nurse. In large cities, dental hygienists can make six figures.
How much can a dental hygienist earn at the lowest level?
In the United States, dental hygienists earn an average salary of $8,432 per year, or $2.52 per hour, with the bottom 10% earning just under $6,000 and the top 10% earning over $37,000.
Are dental hygienists physically taxing?
Due to their clinical work habits, dental hygienists are at a high risk for developing musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), with 96% of them reporting pain as a result of repetitive movements, bending, twisting, reaching, incorrect operator and patient positioning, and static posture.
When do the majority of dental hygienists retire?
Nearly 20% more dental hygienists plan to retire before the national standard retirement age among those 60+ years old, while more than half of all dental professionals intend to do so. Gen X: Dental professionals aged 45 to 59 years represent 44% of survey respondents.