10 things you may not know about your hygienist

We love our hygienists, Megan and Ashley! Here are a few things you may not know about them. 

1. They are highly educated. Dental hygienists have varying degrees of higher education, ranging from an associates degree to a masters degree. Associates degrees often take 3 to 4 years to obtain while schooling through summer breaks! No matter our degree level, they all must pass the same board exams to prove our competency level and gain their license to practice. Also, they are not done learning once licensed; they are required to receive a set amount of continuing education hours to renew their license every two years. They LOVE learning!

2. They take MANY licensing exams. Unlike other medical fields who take one exam, dental hygienists often take 3 to 5 different board exams to get their license. These exams are both written and practical AND are specific to geographical location, meaning that if they wanted to live in another state they would likely have to take (and pay for) more exams!

3. Their career is VERY tough on their bodies. They are constantly having to strain their backs, necks and shoulders throughout the day.
While they strive to achieve proper ergonomics and equipment meant to reduce fatigue, the stress on their bodies still occurs over time. You can help them by allowing them to lay you all the way back in the dental chair, and move your head to the positions that they ask of you unless you have a medical reason preventing you from doing so. Eight hours of muscle strain for them is a huge toll compared to the 60 minute patient appointment every 3, 4 or 6 months.

4. They are part of the healthcare team. Dental hygienists are required to know the same science of other medical professionals so that they can properly help manage all health needs, not just oral health needs, as the mouth is connected to the body as a whole. They don’t JUST put a shine in your smile; they treat, prevent AND screen for disease whether it is systemic or oral health related. This includes blood pressure check, cancer screenings, medication reviews, and much more.

5. They are not immune from dental complications. They still need regular dental cleanings and sometimes they get cavities, too! While they are highly educated in prevention and maintenance of our oral health, sometimes they experience dental needs also. It just goes to show that we are all still human.

6. They are constantly in a battle with the clock. Their schedules are very tight and they have A LOT to do in the time they are given. Sometimes they may run behind due to factors beyond their control such as a late patient, a patient with many questions, or a patient who needed some very complex care. They try as hard as they can to stay on schedule, but sometimes it just is not possible.
By the time they are finishing up your appointment, it is likely that their next patient has arrived and is already waiting to be seen. Often, they work into their lunch break, come in early and leave late as they work hard to be 110 percent prepared for their day.

7. They make recommendations based on YOUR needs. They want what is best for you, and dentistry is NOT one size fits all. If they are recommending it during your appointment, it truly means that they feel it is in your best interest, based upon their in-depth knowledge, to utilize to achieve optimal health results. This includes x-rays, fluoride treatments, toothbrush recommendations and much more.

8. They do it to make a difference. No one would sign up for this career, go through the rigorous curriculum or many expensive board exams and tolerate the daily wear and tear on their bodies if they truly did not love this field. They are real people with strong emotions who often think about the well-being of their patients long after they've left the office for the day.

9. They WANT your experience to be comfortable and stress free. They will do everything they can to achieve this. If there is something that you know will make you more comfortable, just ask. They can provide numbing relief, pillows, and other comfort commodities to help you through your visit. If you’re comfortable, they're comfortable (as long as they can position
you correctly as discussed in No. 3).

10. You are MORE than just their patient! You become their friend. They laugh with you, cry with you, celebrate with you, and mourn with you. Your bond will grow powerful over time, and they are more than just your dental hygienist, they are your friend, confidant, and sometimes your therapist.
As tough as their day may be, this is what makes everything worth it!


Sarah Clark, RDH, IPDH, is a 2014 dental hygiene graduate of New Hampshire Technical Institute. She is currently practicing at Topsham Dental Arts and loves being part of a progressive, caring team.





Danielle O'Rourke