ALL ABOUT DENTAL HYGIENE (school, my job, faq's, etc)

I get sporadic questions about my career as a dental hygienist so you’d think I would have thought to do a full blog post sooner, but a follower actually gave me the idea! I’ll start with my two cents and words of wisdom, then answer your specific questions at the end! PS, this whole post is my friendly opinion, NOT professional advice!


First of all, being a hygienist is all I ever wanted to do. No idea why, but it’s been the plan for as long as I can remember. I went to Wytheville Community College for my degree. Not many colleges still offer an associates in dental hygiene, so I was glad to get my studies finished in 2 years! I went to Va Highlands Community College for a year before WCC and did my core classes, but it's not required to do it that way. My year at VHCC was free and it made dental hygiene school much easier since I didn't have to do core classes AND dental hygiene classes all at the same time.

Dental hygiene school was very tough! The classes were just as hard as clinic. We started seeing patients our second semester. One of the hardest things about clinic was finding our patients. They weren't provided or scheduled for us! Another hard thing was meeting requirements. Every semester you had to make X amount of bleaching trays & mouth guards, see X amount of class I/II/III/IV patients, and eventually give X amount of local anesthesia. All while going to classes and taking tests weekly. (Class I-IV is how easy/difficult a patient is). In the beginning all you see are class I & II patients, because you're starting out and don't have as much skill. Your last semesters are more focused on class III/IV patients, which are very difficult and you usually see them in multiple appointments because of difficulty. Not only are the patients difficult to treat, it's hard to get them to return and complete their cleanings because they don't care! That's why their dental care is in such poor shape in the first place, so of course they don't care to return and have their cleaning completed.

My suggestions for getting through are to stay organized! Keep a planner to keep your patients and class work straight. It's very stressful at the end making sure your requirements are completed, but you'll make it! I actually had to continue clinic for about 2-3 weeks AFTER graduation because my patient requirements weren't completed!

The real world is SO much different than school, which seems to be the case for almost all professions. In school, we were taught how to scale a tooth shiny smooth, and all kinds of terminology and pathology. But once I started working in my private practice office, I learned SO much more in every aspect of the job, from the way an office runs and operates, to what's usually going on when a patient describes certain symptoms.

I now understand why shadowing hours are required as part of the application process to school. I've actually had a few girls shadow me and decide dental hygiene isn't at all what they thought it was and they changed their minds completely. 

Now to your questions!

Did I work and go to school?
Yes! I was fortunate to have an amazing boss that worked with my schedule, so that was a major help.  My biggest tip for that is just to try and find a job that is flexible semester to semester.

Best practices to keep teeth white:
I'm a coffee and tea lover, so don't feel guilty if you're the same! I swear by Crest HD toothpaste because it actually has hydrogen peroxide and will keep teeth white (but not as white as white strips or bleaching trays). A lot of products say "whitening" but are just more abrasive or have more silicates to help with surface stain. Products like Crest HD and Colgate Optic White toothpastes actually have hydrogen peroxide, which help change the color of your enamel. Drinking dark drinks through a straw help reduce staining. Swishing/rinsing with water after you finish your coffee, tea, soda, helps as well! Also, if I could have one with granted, it would be for every single person in the world to own and use an electric toothbrush! Doesn't matter if it's $6 or $150, they do SUCH a better job at cleaning than a manual!

Best ways to whiten teeth at home at different price points:
Okay, I have a patient at work that's about 65-70 and whitens with the Walmart brand white strips, and his teeth are GLOWING white! So you could always try a cheap store brand at first if you're new to white strips. The Crest strips that have some of the best feedback are Crest 3D White Supreme that say "whitens like $500 professional treatment" on the box. A company that I've worked with and actually recommend to patients that don't want to pay office bleaching trays fees is Smile Brilliant. Read the full Smile Brilliant blog post here. Their desensitizing gel is amazing for people that get sensitive while bleaching!

How do I deal with feeling burnout?
I've been working full-time since I graduated school 5 years ago. I haven't started feeling burnt out yet! I don't know if that's because my office is very close with our patients, so most of them feel like friends, or because I also have this blog on the side. I felt a lot happier in general once I started this blog. I love my job, but having this creative hobby is so fun! If you feel dreadfully burned out, maybe look into a different specialty like pedo or perio. Or maybe find a new side hobby that you can get into!

Will you be able to continue fashion blogging when you're a hygienist?
You've probably realized by this point in the post, but that's what I do already! (:

Is there anything you would've liked someone to tell you before you started this career?
Umm, honestly, I don't think so. Besides back and neck pain is REAL, so start out with amazing posture from the beginning! Shadowing a hygienist answers a lot of questions, I think.

Educate on the difference between a dental assistant and dental hygienist:
Lol!! So a dental hygienist is the one you see for cleanings and all the other stuff that goes along with it. Dental assisting is a whole different world! They do almost as much as the dentist, in my eyes! Assistants have to be able to set up and help with root canals, crowns, extractions, fillings, bridges, implants, and so on. There's NO WAY I could set the room up for any of those procedures, let alone assist the dentist during the procedure! The main reason hygienists usually make more than assistants, which isn't really fair, is because hygienists can create production ($$) for the office on their own, and assistants have to work WITH the dentist. 

What do I think of Smile Direct Club?
Good one!! So I had a patient that actually tried it out, and she liked it and said it was easy. She didn't finish the entire treatment just because she got lazy and quit, haha. But, it was doing its job while she was following the plan! I think it seems legit! From what I know, it's basically just like Invisalign, the computer does most of the work. But, you're cutting out the Orthodontist middle man, so it's much cheaper. I've also heard that if you have an extreme case, Smile Direct Club will recommend that you actually visit an orthodontist.

Has anyone ever bitten you?
Hahaha! After 5 years, no!! I hope I didn't just jinx that. One funny thing that happens is when I'm flossing, patients don't pay attention and they'll relax and close down and I can't get my fingers out. But I've never been chomped!

Piezo or Cavitron?
Cavitron all the way!

Eaglesoft or Dentrix?
My office uses Eaglesoft, and so did WCC for school!

Sonicare or Oral B?
Okay, Oral B is supposed to adapt to your tooth better with their round brush heads, which cleans better. BUT, I personally use a Sonicare diamond clean electric brush. Just my preference!

Waterpik or string floss?
Nothing cleans better than string floss! But if a patient hates to floss and will only use a waterpik or those single-use floss picks, its way better than nothing!

My past dental-related blog posts:


I almost got a tad emotional posting these school pictures! What's wrong with me?! Also, wowww camera phones have come a long way in photo quality 😂


All my dental goodies coming in before school started

 Mom took this, she was my very first patient (:

At a review course. Trash the lavender scrubs! 😂

Mom and Dad brought me my test results to open, I passed my boards! I was at work at Studio 6.

We somehow did it 💖

No comments