3 Things I Wish I Would Have Known When I Graduated Dental Hygiene School

Making the bridge from hygiene school to private practice is an exciting time in every dental hygienist’s career. But even as much as you’ve been preparing for the past two years, there are still a few things yet to learn.

Efficiency Comes with Practice

More than likely, you probably feel a little nervous about having to see a different hygiene patient every hour. Up until now, you’ve had your patients in your clinical chair for 2-3 hours at a time, arranging FMXs, quad scalings, perio charting… and being checked by an instructor between every step. A one-hour appointment has only been a figment of your imagination.

Now you’re in independent practice. You’ve proven that you know how to care for a patient and there’s no need to second-guess yourself. The checks and grading are gone, and you have to work more efficiently.

While you might feel a little stressed in the beginning, you’ll get the hang of things with practice. After a week or so, you’ll be able to have your own routine that keeps you on schedule (at least most of the time.) Like any learning curve, you need to be patient with yourself…but also keep a careful eye on the clock! If you don’t have time to provide a particular service (like sealants or impressing for whitening trays,) have the patient make a follow-up appointment.

Treatment Planning is Way Different

In hygiene school, you worked up lengthy treatment plans that spanned months in advance…and that was just for gingivitis. But in private practice, there’s just as much of a focus on restorative treatment planning as there is preventative care. While hygienists can’t diagnose dental disease, you can screen and identify potential treatment needs and prepare a list prior to the dentist stepping in for an exam. Your hygiene treatment plan will only make up a portion of these suggestions, and often take up less space than what you can write on a post-it note.

Prepare your patient for what you’re observing during their visit, make suggestions as to what the dentist’s personal preferences might be to treat those issues, then let him or her make the final call. Until you’ve worked with the same dentist for an extended period of time, it will take a while to “get” their treatment protocols and know whether or not it’s your time to make the call. As mutual respect builds between yourself and the dentist, he or she may then choose to allow you to make the choices regarding what soft tissue management therapies occur, and when.

Be Ready to Create Long-lasting Personal Relationships

After spending an hour or more with someone two to three times a year, you get to know them on a personal basis. Over the years, the friendships and personal connections in dentistry are an essential part of what makes the job fulfilling; especially if you’ve worked in the same town or practice for an extended period of time.

Although a degree of professionalism is necessary in every case, there will be those patients and families who you wind up close to in both your professional life and social circles. You’ll see them at little league games, school events, the grocery store, town hall meetings, church, or local charity events. They’re more than just a set of teeth that need to be cleaned…they’re why you find satisfaction in what you do every day.

Kwikly makes it easy to network with Minneapolis and Twin Cities dentists in your area, so you can continue to grow professional and personal networks while picking up dental hygiene jobs when you need to earn extra cash. Our mobile app allows you to choose your availability and select temporary job openings based on your schedule. Unlike traditional dental staffing agencies, you’re in control of who you’re working for and when you work. Join our team today