Where Can Your Dental Hygiene Experience Take You?

By Jamie Collins, RDH on July, 15 2021
Where Can Your Dental Hygiene Experience Take You?
Jamie Collins, RDH

Jamie has been in the dental field for nearly 20 years, both as an assistant and hygienist. In addition to clinical practice, she is also an educator, speaker, and has contributed to multiple textbooks and curriculum development in addition to being a frequently published author.

Dental hygiene is a profession many of us fell in love with. As careers grow and change, it’s not uncommon to want to map out a different path for yourself. It can take many forms, such as academia, sales or independent practice (where allowed).

As a dental professional, your experience may be more valuable outside the op than you think. Have you ever considered what doors it can open as you navigate your career?

New practice models
Many hygienists consider dentistry their passion, building a strong desire to explore additional models of patient care. For some, it’s in a community-based program or public health model, providing care to some of the most at-risk individuals in society.

Mobile hygiene has become more popular as states are adopting general supervision and independent practice regulation, allowing hygienists more autonomy. Add that to the rapid adoption of teledentistry to meet supervision requirements and innovative practice models abound.

Hygienists are rising to the challenge and meeting the need to provide access to care for millions of at-risk patients. Mobile dental equipment, and the ease of accessing more mobile-friendly products such as cordless handpieces, makes treating patient in alternative settings possible. Many find personal and career satisfaction caring for others as part of their own mobile business.

Leaving the op
There’s no shortage of hygienists exploring other avenues in dentistry and looking to escape the operatory. Whether that motivation is based on burnout, physical demands or simply a desire to work in a different capacity, a hygiene degree may leave you with few options. Don’t be discouraged! Your expertise in dental and interpersonal interaction is valuable in the industry.

Sales positions are out there, and your dental knowledge is invaluable when it comes to talking with other dental providers. Many dental manufacturers and dental distributors are eager to hire sales professionals with dental hygiene credentials. The more knowledgeable a sales rep is about dentistry, the more successful their sales tend to be. So your experience in the dental field goes quite a long way in this field.

Others find the desire to teach and mentor others, and academia or a position as a professional educator is the dream job. In academia, at least a bachelor’s degree is required to work in the clinical educational environment, while a master’s degree is required to teach didactic studies.

You might even be lucky enough to combine a career in continuing education with a career in sales. Some companies recruit hygienists to create a dental educator sales force that serves dental offices nationwide, so you can enjoy the benefits of both career paths.

A dental hygiene degree awards you the opportunity to practice and create the career you want in a variety of settings. The beauty of it is that like many careers, yours is what you make of it. We move and change jobs to climb the career ladder and, as a result, find our passion. The journey is not always a straight line.

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