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5 Non-Traditional Career Opportunities for Dental Hygienists

 

As dental hygienists, we love what we do! But scaling teeth day in and day out can be tiring to some. Thankfully, our industry has reached a pivotal moment where there are now countless non-traditional career opportunities both in and out of the clinical setting. Dental hygienists are finding themselves leading initiatives, managing teams, advising policy and bridging the medical-dental divide.  

 

If you're looking for a break from your daily routine, consider expanding your knowledge base and transitioning to one of these non-traditional roles.  

 

Myofunctional Therapist  

Dealing with disorders of the muscles, Myofunctional Therapists deal with disorders of the muscles and functions of the face and mouth. It's a program of specific exercises that strengthen the tongue in order to target the facial muscles used to chew and swallow. Myofunctional therapy includes exercises meant to improve the strength of the muscles within the oropharynx, working to reinforce the proper position of the tongue within the mouth. 

 

Sleep specialists use this therapy to improve breathing problems during sleep, especially in children. Moreover, it is used by dentists and orthodontists concerned about the movement of teeth that occurs when the tongue pushes against teeth.

  

Myofunctional therapists are typically licensed dental hygienists or speech-language pathologists and integrated into various clinical care settings. Because there is no governing board overseeing the industry, myofunctional therapists do not necessarily have to be certified, but there are two well-known organizations that do provide certification courses: 

  1. Academy of Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy (AOMT) 
  2. International Association of Orofacial Myology (IAOM) 

Oral Health Practitioner  

Many dental hygienists are passionate about educating others on the importance of oral health. These days, there are many creative ways to bridge the medical-dental divide. Oral health practitioners in various medical settings are vital to the future of our healthcare in Canada. From providing oral health education to nurses to providing preventative and therapeutic treatment, the opportunities in this field are endless.  

 

Brand Ambassador  

Brand ambassadors typically work as independent contractors and usually receive commission based on direct sales. These brand ambassadors tend to use social media to promote their selected brands. If you're interested in sales and promoting dental brands, this career choice could be for you.   

 

Independent Consultant  

Looking to transition to the world of independent coaching or consulting? This path can really take you wherever you want to go!  

Whether it be working one-on-one with a client, focusing on health coaching, motivational or professional career coaching, or perhaps you'd like to take the team approach. This would allow you to work with other health professionals in developing in-house programming to improve patient experience, increase patient revenue and even work to improve customer retention.  

 

Own or Manage a Dental Program 

Depending on where you live, dental hygienists may even be able to own or manage mobile dental programs in non-traditional practice settings. This could include schools, universities, workplaces, hospitals, or even private homes. Do the research: In Ontario, travelling dental hygienists are becoming more and more commonplace.  

 

Author 

Have you worked in the industry for some time? Do you enjoy writing? If you're looking for a change of pace, try submitting a few pieces to a dentistry journal or magazine. Of course, you can widen your horizons so you're not limiting yourself to just dental publications. Other avenues include blogs, local newspapers, and journals geared towards healthcare and medical professionals.  

 

New Chapter 

Remember, you're not limited to your clinical role. If you're looking for a change, why not use your dental hygiene experience to explore a more non-traditional opportunity and enjoy your new chapter! 

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Introducing a Tooth Whitening Program to Your Practice

 

Tooth whitening is big business. Generating over $1 billion in sales every year, professional whitening stands out as the most frequently-requested dental procedure. It’s also major source of revenue for dental practices across North America. 

 

Together, a dentist and their hygiene team can create comprehensive whitening programs that integrate whitening into a long-term oral care plan. That way, whitening can serve to facilitate financial gain to hygiene and other ancillary offerings. 

 

In a recent piece for Hygiene Town, Mary Jane Livingston and Jennifer Vasquez provide insight into the process of creating a professional whitening program at your practice. Here’s what to keep in mind in offering tooth whitening to your patients. 

 

Professional Whitening 101: How the Tooth Whitening Process Works 

There are several reasons why teeth lose their natural whiteness: diet, genes and oral hygiene all play a part. 

 

Darkening can occur both in the tooth’s outer enamel layer and the secondary layer of dentin. Tooth enamel, made of phosphate and hydroxyapatite, can develop surface stains that attach to the biofilm. These so-called extrinsic stains typically stem from the patient’s diet and habits – frequent smokers and red wine drinkers are likely to have enamel stains. 

 

Stains within the dentin, known as intrinsic stains, can result from medications, fluoride exposure, genetic conditions or systemic conditions. It is more difficult to remove stains from dentin than enamel. 

 

Professional whitening gels use hydrogen peroxide (or a compound containing H2O2) to break the bonds of light-absorbing colour molecules on the teeth. These molecules, called chromophores, contribute to the darkened or stained appearance of teeth. Once the peroxide breaks the molecular ‘glue’ that holds the chromophores together, the teeth look whiter and brighter than before. 

 

Tooth whitening is not a one-time solution – the procedure has a cumulative effect of breaking down stains over time. Additionally, since the average person’s teeth become two to three shades darker every ten years, requiring multiple whitening treatments to maintain the results. 

 

Still, the popularity of professional tooth whitening (not to mention sales of whitening strips, tooth whitening strips and other home treatments) speaks for itself. Many patients are more than willing to invest the time and money necessary to improve the appearance of their smile. Dental practitioners can benefit by investing in a tooth whitening program. 

 

Introducing a Whitening Program to Your Dental Practice 

The benefits of a teeth whitening program go beyond offering your patients brighter smiles. 

 

Tooth whitening brings an emotional component to your dental care. It gives people a greater sense of confidence and satisfaction, which in turn boosts their motivation to maintain better oral health overall. A whitening program increases the likelihood of patients returning for hygiene appointments and other treatments. 

 

Consider the following in determining the best teeth whitening system for your patients. 

 

1.      Contact time. Modern whitening systems use a heat-activated mouthpiece to decrease treatment time, which reduces the risk of the bleaching agent causing sensitive teeth. Shorter contact time also means shorter appointments and increased efficiency. 

2.      Concentration. Higher concentrations of hydrogen peroxide (24 to 38%) produce more dramatic results, but also the risk of sensitivity. More concentrated whitening products may not be suitable for all patients. 

3.      Hydrogen peroxide versus carbamide peroxide. Carbamide peroxide provides a lower concentration of hydrogen peroxide and increases contact time, which can increase the risk of tooth and gum line sensitivity. A more concentrated formula with shorter contact time may be preferable for patients who require a shorter contact time. 

4.      Open versus closed environments. Closed-system environments (such as bleaching trays and whitening mouthpieces) result in superior whitening results by keeping the active ingredients in the whitening compound concentrated. 

5.      pH level. Consider the patient’s enamel health and sensitivity when choosing a whitening gel. When mouth pH drops below 5.7, enamel demineralization can occur. 

 

Thinking of introducing a whitening program to your practice? Get the right start with industry-leading instruments. Browse our catalog of dental handpieces, supplies and other dental tools. 

 

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7 Truths About Hygiene School to Remember When It’s Getting the Best of You

 

Late-night study sessions. Lifelong friends. Stress, tears, and anxiety. And, above all, the satisfaction of pouring it all into a hard-earned degree in dental hygiene.

 

When Kara Vavrosky looks back on her time in hygiene school, those are a few of the things that come to mind.

 

Most dental hygienists would concur. Dental hygiene school is a rewarding experience, of course – but at times, it’s also a gruelling one.

 

From the writings of hygienists who’ve been there, here are seven truths about hygiene school to reflect on when you’re feeling the pressure.

 

1. It Pays to Be Organized

By now, you’ve learned that dental hygiene school isn’t like other post-secondary programs. The coursework is dense, the deadlines come fast, and the practical fieldwork leaves no room to play catch-up.

Put simply, procrastination isn’t an option.

 

Kara Varovsky, who wrote about her experience in Today’s RDH, admits she spent more time in her first week at hygiene school staring at the books and assignments than sitting down doing them. To keep up, she had to make a concentrated effort to begin tracking and prioritizing homework and exams.

 

Keeping to-do lists and assignment sheets might just feel like more work at first, but it can save a lot of time and stress in the long run.

 

“If you’re having a really tough time, take it one day at a time until you can handle taking it week by week,” Kara suggests. “Ask yourself, “What do I have to get done by tomorrow?” It makes everything feel achievable when you break it down and don’t look too far ahead.”

 

2. Some Stress is Normal

Few registered dental hygienists would deny there were times that hygiene school pushed their limits, especially in the first year.

 

It’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed in the beginning. But as the weeks and months pass and you gradually find your footing, hygiene school will become far more manageable.

 

Kimberly Rorstrom-Wittig, a hygienist in Prince George, British Columbia, encourages dental hygiene students to keep looking forward. “Keep focused on your goal and remember that you are all reaching for the same endpoint, to become a dental hygienist.”

 

However, it’s important not to ignore the toll stress can take on your mind and body. As Jason Skazyk, an RDH in Winnipeg, writes: “One of the things that I encourage each student to do is to look after your physical, mental, and spiritual self. Dental hygiene can be a demanding career physically, and if we do not look after our bodies, all that scaling can begin to take a toll.”

 

3. Mentors Make Life Easier

Whether it’s a classmate, an upper-level student, an instructor or a graduate, all hygiene students can benefit from the support and advice of a trusted mentor.

 

Don’t hesitate to ask your colleagues for tips and advice. Even students in the same year as you may have hints and strategies you hadn’t considered.

 

Heather Britton, who practices in Carleton Place, Ontario, urges hygiene students to look for mentorship opportunities everywhere – even those outside the hygiene profession.

 

“The dentist can offer you knowledge on procedures that the books can only describe, by showing you the stages of restorations, prosthetics, and extractions,” she writes. “The dental assistant(s) offer a wealth of information on radiographic techniques to open that tough contact, ordering procedures, and lab techniques, to mention a few. The receptionist can also aid in telephone etiquette, computer booking, and filing systems.”

 

4. Trust Your Instructors

Why do we have to fill out pages of classifications and descriptions for every patient in the clinic?

 

Why so many competencies, rules and requirements?

 

Why won’t my instructor just give me a straight answer?

 

If you’ve spent a few weeks in hygiene school, you’ve probably asked a few these questions yourself.

 

At times, hygiene school can feel overly strict, repetitive, or just plain confusing. Frustrating as it may be, it’s all designed to prepare you for practice. Your instructors aren’t just there to teach you practical know-how, but to impart professionalism and critical thinking skills. All three are essential to becoming a registered dental hygienist.

 

Think of it this way: every obscure term you memorize and head-scratching conundrum you solve goes towards making you the best hygienist you can be.

 

5. You’re Not Alone

“My fondest memories from college days were the camaraderie of all of us,” writes Jan Krawchuk, an RDH in Windsor, Ontario. “We had a class of 20, and many of us would get together for study clubs.”

 

There are so many benefits to joining a study group in hygiene school. Not only does it get you to study at regular intervals (instead of cramming the night before a test), but to share and discuss what you have learned beyond the level of memorization.

 

6. Don’t Compare Yourself to Your Classmates

School isn’t a race. Everyone develops different skills at different paces and having a slow start doesn’t mean you cannot excel as a dental hygienist.

 

It is often tempting to compare your progress to that of your classmates. As a recent graduate, Lana MacDonald knows from experience that it’s not a useful exercise.

 

“My advice to dental hygiene students is not to rush the learning process,” she says. “Don't worry about competing with other students. Work at your own pace and learn everything the ‘right way.’ It will make things easier when you go out into practice even if you may feel behind in school.”

 

7. Don’t Forget to Have Fun

Whether you choose an accelerated program or a four-year degree, dental hygiene school is a significant part of your life. Take the opportunity to make friends and create memories you’ll look back on fondly.

 

“Always strive to do the best you are able to do, but remember to enjoy this time in your life,” advises Nancy Mar Hoffos, an RDH in Alberta. “When the opportunity arises to have fun, take it, or when you reflect back, you will have regrets.”

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Is Your Dental Practice Using Too Many Chemicals?

With more and more people making an effort to be informed on the chemicals and materials they’re exposed to every day, many dentists are looking to reduce the number of chemicals used in their practices.

Cutting down on chemicals dental practice

 

Proper cleaning and disinfection in a dental office is a legitimate concern. After all, if disinfection isn’t done properly, a patient could be harmed. Everyone in the practice is responsible for ensuring the safety of all patients that walk through its doors.

 

The best way to avoid making a patient sick is to make sure that any sources of infection are properly contained. Unfortunately, it’s all too common to hear that evacuation systems aren’t cleaned daily—or aren’t properly disinfected when they are cleaned.

 

Reasons for the lapse in cleanliness could partly be due to the work involved, but also the perceived dangers of the continuous use of chemicals every time the system is cleaned. Over the past three decades, newer and stronger chemicals have been introduced to keep surfaces, water lines, and evacuation systems clean and sterile. However, the number of chemicals can also create issues, and many are harmful on their own.

 

The alternative is microbiological cleaners. But what are they, and how do they work?

 

Microbiology

 

It was over 150 years ago that doctors figured out washing their hands before surgery drastically reduced the patient’s risk of infection. This jumpstarted the field of microbiology, or the study of microscopic organisms.

 

Once we started looking, we discovered bacteria everywhere.

 

It’s estimated that there are more bacterial cells in a human body than there are cells that make up that whole person. The sheer number of microbial organisms that constantly surround us is staggering, which is why it’s so hard to create sterile environments. We need to use intense stressors like temperature, pressure, or chemicals to eliminate microbial growth.

 

We simply must accept that we are, and always will be, swimming in a sea of bacteria. The good news is, though, that the clear majority of bacteria won’t make you sick. Most bacteria really do not affect us. In fact, there are plenty of microbes that actually keep us healthy. Your gut, for example, is chock full of bacteria that is helping you to remain healthy and digest your food.

 

The good bacteria in your gut also keeps dangerous, harmful bacteria at bay. It’s this same principle that makes microbial disinfection such a good alternative.

 

Microbial Disinfection

 

As an alternative to chemicals, disinfection can be done using microbial cleaning products. These products seed and jumpstart the growth of “good bugs.”

 

These good bugs not only help to kill harmful ones, but they also work to keep the bad bugs away. This is one clear advantage to chemical sterilization—the harmful bacteria is kept at bay for longer.

 

Products like Bio-Pure can keep an evacuation system clean of harmful bacteria on a continuous basis. It does this by introducing a cleaning microbe into the system. Microbial growth is exponential, which means one microbe can quickly become 10,000,000. This army of good bacteria cleans out all other microbes and creates a barrier against bad bugs.

 

Short of cleaning out the system before and after each use, Bio-Pure is the most effective way to keep a system clean and safe at all times. Plus, there’s no need for harmful chemicals.

 

Click here if you want to learn more about Bio-Pure and whether it’s a good fit for your practice!

 

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