Dental Hygienist Real Life Problems
If you’re in the Dental Hygiene career, or considering getting into this field, I have some real life insight of what we Dental Hygienists really go through, not only to graduate and get your DH license, but the struggles to work in a Dental office, the staff, the patients and all the good, bad and ugly, problems we have to endure in the process.
I am not a writer, I am just a very frustrated Dental Hygienist trying to vent what I consider a very disrespected, oversaturated, and unappreciated profession.
A little bit of background
I am originally a foreign Dentist that decided to leave it all behind because I got married and moved out of the country. I knew I had to adapt and start from zero, so for a while I only worked as a Dental Assistant, always thinking I was going to go to school again and graduate in a US Dental School. Then realized how expensive it will be, and at the same time I was starting a family, got a mortgage, so my thoughts of becoming a US Dentist dissipated.
Until I finally felt I could do a little better than being just a Dental Assistant, and chose to go for the Dental Hygiene program at the nearest Community College.
The Dental Hygiene back then was like the perfect combination of convenient work hours, attractive wages, comfortable office setting, and recognition in the Dental field. I never heard a meaningful negative comment of what really happens when you experience it from up close.
The Dental School
Thank God I was awarded with a Pell Grant that pretty much paid for my first two years of College. I worked hard, not only in school, but also in my regular assisting job that I was able to keep part time, and of course the household work that we women usually have when we bring up a family.
Then, Dental Hygiene Program started!! Oh boy that was so much work!!, I thought it was going to be so much easier. With many years of Dental background, I thought : How difficult could it be to clean teeth? How wrong I was.
I remember having to drop off my daughter for day Care, rushing to go to work on time during the morning, rushing out of there at midday to get to school on time, and usually not having enough time to eat lunch, then going home and try to feed the family, get children showered and ready for bed. Then, when the house was finally quiet, I was able to do homework and study until 12:00 or 1:00 am to be ready for the next day. That was my daily routine for the two years of the Dental Hygiene Program.
The Program was very intense, the teachers were very strict, and many times I considered quitting. But it is just not in my nature to quit something I started, so it became an obsession to become a Dental Hygienist despite all the obstacles I encountered, including financial and marriage problems.
With many moments of great frustration, sweat and tears, I finally graduated. I thought the worst of the chosen career road had no more bumps ahead of me. Again, I was wrong.
Trying to find a job
The Dental Hygiene profession is oversaturated, too many of us looking for work, and very little job offers. The Dentists know, and try to take advantage of this. They offer less pay to desperate job seekers. For each job offer for Dental Hygienists, they receive hundreds of resumes.
It took me about 3 months to find a part time job, and I consider myself lucky. There are many hygienists that only find temp work, or 1 to 2 days per week.
Coworkers in a Dental office
Behind those friendly faces and professional appearance, there is so much drama enough for a soap opera. Believe me, I think I have seen and hear it all in a Dental office from years and years of dental experience.
First of all, you have to learn how to deal with incompetent, hypocrite women, and pretend you don’t see all the irregularities that happen in the office if it doesn’t affect your work directly. As a Dental Hygienist sometimes your help is needed with assisting duties, or maybe at the front desk, but you will have to set your boundaries, because one thing is to cooperate as a team, and another is to expect to do not only your job, but the others too.
What the Dental Hygienist would like the patient to know
We do not just clean your teeth, we are professionals with a license, we are educators, and prevent dental and gum problems. That’s why we ask for your medical history, and look around your whole mouth for abnormalities. We find all the issues, and then serve it to the Dentist.
We have a very limited time to go through your Dental appointment, so please don’t use your cell phone, or try to chat for a long time, it is disrespectful.
As soon as you get to the office, if you need to go to the bathroom, go use it. Don’t wait to be called in to decide you need to pee.
It is never okay to be late, we see patients by appointment, if you are fifteen minutes late, you won’t get the best cleaning either. It is not fair for the next patient if I’m late because of you.
If we tell you you need x-rays, there is a reason for it. We can’t see certain diseases or conditions by just looking at your teeth and decide on an accurate diagnosis. The Doctor needs them, period. Your theory of x-rays causing cancer is a myth, not science based.
If your gums are tender and inflamed, it is not our fault for trying to clean your teeth, it is actually yours for not flossing. Not brushing or flossing properly causes gum inflammation, tenderness, and bleeding.
If we tell you a deep cleaning is needed, it is not optional. If you neglected flossing for a long time, this is what you get eventually, and it is called Periodontal disease, AKA gum disease, and it is not treated with a regular cleaning.
We try to be polite and neutral with all the patients, but deep inside we don’t like rude or difficult people with a negative vibe.
Sometimes we are late for the patient, what they don’t know is that it is usually because the office overbooks our schedule to the point of the physically impossible to do everything and be on time, the Dentist tries to squeeze out of us the last penny they pay us.
Sometimes we try to recommend some dental product to you, based more on the commission we make to squeeze more money out of your pocket, than the real necessity for it.
We highly dislike cleaning stains (hate is a word I usually avoid). Smokers and tea drinkers make our day more challenging, for lack of a better word.
What the Dental hygienist would like the Dentist to know
It is unfair and even illegal to force us to clock out if a patient cancels or doesn’t show up. No other employee is forced to clock out and leave, not the front desk, not the assistant, only the Dental hygienist. I don’t know of any other profession that has to go through this.
We need to be on the same page regarding treatment recommendations. Don’t disregard the hygienist input on more frequent cleanings or maybe scaling and root planing. You should be supportive of the Dental Hygienist, or else the patient will have no respect for us next time they come back for a recall visit.
Dentists feel we earn too much and don’t deserve any type of benefits, that’s why they prefer to have part time Hygienists, so they don’t have to offer vacations, paid sick days, or retirement plan.
An overbooked schedule forces us to perform our job poorly, especially when we need to do SRP, including a full Perio Chart, which we need one hour and a half for the whole mouth, but we only have 40 to 50 minutes for the entire procedure, and it has to include time for cleaning the room.
I know there is much more to this phenomenon that is missing in this post, and would greatly appreciate all of your comments. I’m pretty sure i’m not alone in this matter.