Registered Dental Hygienist to Medical Doctor: My Career Change Story

by winnell

Registered Dental Hygienist to Medical Doctor: My Career Change at (almost) 30

Comparing these two pictures side by side, you see two very different people. I mean, they’re both me of course but my surety and wit are completely different. To the left, is me, a rising dental hygiene student in my junior year, ready to take the big step of becoming a registered dental hygienist and on my way to landing my ultimate career path at the time, to become a dentist.
On the right, is a wide-eyed first-year medical student, so sure of my path ahead after making a career change and essentially starting over. To think I entered NYU Dental at the age of 18 with so much thrill to be living in the Big Apple and ready to take the biggest bite out of it but in fact, I got bit by another bug. In fact, a few years into my career as a Dental Hygienist, I started itching. There were many nights I stayed up doing loads of research, scratching my head about the thoughts running through my mind and epiphanies that were unfolding before my eyes.

I began considering a different career path. I started to see with each patient that their complex medical histories correlated to various manifestations in the mouth. This gave me much fulfillment. I started to see that anything beyond prevention and patient education would not truly fulfill me. I couldn’t see myself drilling into tooth enamel, extracting teeth and doing root canals for the rest of my life. This is not to say that becoming a dentist is unfulfilling, but I just could not see it for myself.

I knew and loved that rewarding feeling of seeing my patients transform their bloody, spongy diseased gum tissues to a firm, pink and stippled “gummy smile” due to improved oral hygiene. I loved encouraging my patients to follow up with their primary care physician to check nutritional deficiencies, PTH levels, and diabetes as there were so many correlations I could see in their mouth.

All of this investigative treatment planning and patient empowered transformations drew me to medicine. You never know where life will take you, but it’s clear that my career destiny was around the corner.

It’s never too late to invest in yourself and your dreams. If you are interested in becoming a Dental Hygienist, I have provided some additional information below.

What is a Dental Hygienist?

Dental hygienists give protection and oral care under a dentist’s oversight. They clean patients’ teeth and examine their mouths for indications of harm, gum disease, and different infections. Hygienists show patients how to maintain great oral hygiene. The extent of training—what services they are legitimate to deliver—contrasts as per the standards of the state where they work in.

Dental hygienists differ from dental assistants. While both work in dental practices under dentists’ watch, they contrast in their employment obligations, education prerequisites, and income, just as the quantity of hours they regularly work. Dental assistants escort patients for examination and treatment rooms, set them up for assessments and procedures, and sterilize instruments and deliver tools during dental procedures.  They additionally arrange appointments, keep records and may take and develop X-rays. In contrast to dental hygienists, they do not inspect patients’ teeth, however in certain states, they are permitted to apply sealants and fluoride.

Dental Hygienist Duties and Job Description

Dental hygienists normally do the following:

  • Eliminate tartar, stains, and plaque from teeth
  • Apply sealants and fluorides to prevent tooth decay
  • Take and evaluate dental x rays
  • Survey patients’ oral wellbeing and report discoveries to dental specialists
  • Record persistent care and treatment plans
  • Instruct patients about oral hygiene methods, for example, how to brush and floss effectively

Dental hygienists utilize numerous kinds of devices to manage their responsibility. They perfect and clean teeth with hand, power, and ultrasonic instruments. At times, they use lasers. Hygienists eliminate stains with an air-cleaning gadget, which splashes a mix of air, water, and creating pop. They clean teeth with a fueled device that works like a programmed toothbrush. Hygienists utilize x-ray machines to take pictures to check for tooth or jaw issues.

Dental hygienists assist patients with creating and maintaining great oral wellbeing. For instance, they may clarify the connection among diet and oral wellbeing. They may likewise offer guidance to patients on the best way to choose toothbrushes and other oral consideration gadgets.

The assignments hygienists may perform, and the degree to which they should be directed by a dental specialist, shift by state and by the setting where the dental hygienist works. For instance, a few states permit hygienists to analyze certain medical conditions freely without any supervision by the dental specialist. If you are interested in watching a video of The Day in the Life of Dental Hygienist, click here.

How to Become a Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists generally need an associate’s degree in dental hygiene although many schools provide a Bachelor’s degree as well. Programs normally take 3-4 years to complete. All states require dental hygienists to be licensed in the states you chose to practice. This is accomplished with successful passing of clinical and written board exams.

Education for Dental Hygienists

Dental hygienists normally need an associate degree in dental hygiene. Bachelor’s and postgraduate degree programs in dental hygiene likewise are accessible but are less common. A Bachelor’s or postgraduate degree are required for dental hygienist jobs in research, clinical instruction, or clinical practice within school or public health programs.

Dental hygiene programs are typically found in community colleges, technical schools, and colleges. In 2017, the Commission of Dental Accreditation and some portion of the American Dental Association, licensed an excess of 300 dental hygiene programs.

Most dental hygiene programs expect candidates to finish prerequisites, which frequently incorporate college level courses. Specific necessities differ by school.

Most schools require you to attain the prerequisite introductory English writing, psychology, sociology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology, and mathematics, usually statistics.

Curriculum of study incorporates physiology, nutrition, radiology, pathology, anatomy, embryology, clinical patient management, and periodontics, which is the study of gum diseases and associated immunology.

Additional courses taken in dental hygiene school cover oral health education, preventative counseling, health promotion, community oral health, medical and dental emergencies, infection control, provision of services for patients with special needs and bloodborne diseases, and the legal and ethical principles of dental hygiene practice.

Important Qualities of Dental Hygienists

Critical reasoning. Dental hygienists should utilize critical thinking aptitude to survey and assess patients.

Communication abilities. Dental hygienists should precisely speak with dental specialists and patients about the oral hygiene care plan and communicate how this leads to optimal systemic health.

Thorough. Dental hygienists should adhere to explicit principles and conventions to assist dental specialists with diagnosing and treating a patient. Contingent upon the state in which they work as well as the treatment they provide, dental hygienists may work without the immediate oversight of a dentist.

Finesse. Dental hygienists should be excellent at working with their hands. They by and large work within the limited confines of the oral, requiring fine motor skills while utilizing delicate metal instruments.

Relational abilities. Dental hygienists should work intimately with dental specialists and patients. Many patients may present in agonizing pain or have fears about having dental treatment, and hygienists should be able to understand while being sensitive to their feelings.

Problem Solving abilities. Dental hygienists create and execute oral hygiene plans which are intended to maintain or improve patients’ oral health.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations for Dental Hygienists

Each state requires that dental hygienists be licensed but these prerequisites differ by state. In many states, a degree from an accredited dental hygiene program and passing evaluations on written and clinical national board examinations are the necessary requirements for licensure. To maintain licensure, hygienists should engage in a cetain amount of continuing education courses every few years. For explicit requirements, contact your state’s Board of Dental Examiners.

Dental Hygienist Jobs

What Settings Can Dental Hygienists Work In?

Dental Hygienists work settings vary within their wide scope of services. They can work in community health settings, schools, prisons, nursing homes, private dental practice, hospitals, faculty practice clinics, federal government.

Job Outlook

Work of dental hygienists is expected to grow 6 percent throughout the following ten years.

The demand for dental hygienists will increase as the population ages. As the enormous aging population expands and more individuals are keeping teeth, uniquely longer than in the past, the need to maintain and treat teeth will keep on driving demand for dental care.

Studies connecting to oral health and general wellbeing, and endeavors to grow accessibility to oral hygiene service providers, will continue driving the interest for preventive dental hygienists. Likewise, interest for dental hygienists is required to develop as state laws progressively permit dental hygienists to work at an advanced practice level of training. Like every other decision in life, be sure to evaluate the Pros and Cons of the profession prior to taking the leap!

Dental Hygienist Salary

The average yearly pay for dental hygienists is $76,220. The lowest 10% of earners made under $53,130, and the top most 10% made more than $103,340.

The average yearly wages for dental hygienists in the top enterprises in which they work are as per the following:

Workplaces of dentists       $76,510

Workplaces of physicians   $72,690

Government                         $60,390

Most dental practices hire dental hygienists for part time work.  Because of this, it may be difficult for dental hygienists to obtain employee sponsored health insurance. Dental Hygienists employed within government centers may have lower salaries, but they are afforded amazing retirement, 401K, health and life insurance benefits.

I’ll be linking the most popular colleges to train as a dental hygienist below.

Dental Hygienist Entry Level Programs

Dental Hygienist Programs in Texas

  1. Amarillo College
    Health Science Division
    Dental Hygiene Program
    O. Box 447 Amarillo, TX 79178-0001
    Web Site: www.actx.edu
  2. Austin Community College District
    Division of Health Sciences
    Department of Dental Hygiene Eastview Campus, 3401 Webberville Road
    Austin, TX 78702-0000
    Web Site: http://www.austincc.edu/health
  3. Blinn College
    Health Sciences
    Dental Hygiene
    O. Box 6030 Bryan, TX 77805-6030
    Web Site: http://www.blinn.edu

Dental Hygienist Programs in Florida

  1. Broward College
    Dental Hygiene Program
    Dental Hygiene Department
    3501 Southwest Davie Road, Bldg. 8, Room 132
    Davie, FL 33314-0000
    Web Site: broward.edu
  2. Daytona State College
    School of Dental Sciences
    Dental Hygiene Program
    1155 County Road 4139
    DeLand, FL 32724-0000
    Web Site: daytonastate.edu
  3. Eastern Florida State College
    Health Sciences Institute
    Dental Hygiene Program
    1519 Clearlake Rd.
    Cocoa, FL 32922-0000
    Web Site: http://www.easternflorida.edu

Dental Hygienist Programs in New York

  1. Erie Community College
    Allied Health Division
    Dental Hygiene Program
    6205 Main Street
    Williamsville, NY 14221-7095
    Web Site: ecc.edu
  2. Eugenio Maria De Hostos Community College
    Allied Health Department
    Dental Hygiene Unit
    500 Grand Concourse
    Bronx, NY 10451-0000
    Web Site: hostos.cuny.edu
  3. Farmingdale State College of New York
    School of Health Sciences
    Department of Dental Hygiene
    2350 Broadhollow Road
    Farmingdale, NY 11735-0000
    Web Site: http://www.farmingdale.edu/

Dental Hygienist Programs in Ohio

  1. Columbus State Community College
    Allied Health
    Professions Dental Hygiene
    550 East Spring
    St- Box 1609, Union 319 Columbus, OH 43215-1722
    Web Site: cscc.edu/DentalHygiene/index.htm
  2. Community College
    Health Careers and Sciences
    Dental Hygiene Program
    2900 Community College Ave.
    Cleveland, OH 44115-0000
    Web Site: http://www.tri-c.edu/programs/health-careers/dental-hygiene/
  3. Hocking College
    Dental Hygiene Program
    3301 Hocking Parkway
    Nelsonville, OH 45764
    Web Site: https://www.hocking.edu/dental-hygiene

If you would like further assistance with becoming a dental hygienist, feel free to message me anytime and I am happy to assist you in locating the perfect program for you. Let’s work together to see if dental hygiene is the perfect career for you.

If you are interested in joining a community  of supportive future medical professionals, hearing never before seen or heard personal stories, and obtaining the most up to date advice for finding your purpose in school and career, become a patron and  join the premium membership portion of my blog to be a part of the Win with Winnell family!

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1 comment

30 ways turning 30 has changed me for the better - Madame Winnell March 6, 2021 - 12:49 am

[…] made the decision to switch from a career and dentistry to medicine and it has been the best decision […]


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