Recently, writers at Today’s RDH posed its readers a rather thoughtful question:
How do you, as a dental hygienist, define ambition?
A total of 82 dental hygienists, young and old, shared their answers. And it probably won’t surprise you to learn that every one of them had a slightly different approach!
Many of the people surveyed equated ambition to career growth, and outlined what they planned to move forward: sharpening their skills, furthering their education and so on.
Some thought back to the reasons why they entered the profession in the first place, while others took “ambition” to mean broadening their role as a hygienist.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this survey is the desire dental hygienists have to do more. The responses paint a colourful picture of all the ways this career can evolve.
In the spirit of the new decade, let’s celebrate a few of the ways our fellow dental hygienists have defined their ambition in 2020 and beyond!
1. Focusing on Preventative Dental Care
“My ambition is to bring the public forward in knowledge of what a dental hygienist is and start having people get healthy. Change the model of dental health from restoring and treating disease to prevention.”
Bit by bit, the model of dental health is evolving from a restorative approach to a preventive one. And no one is in a better position to champion this shift than dental hygienists! Since you work closely with patients even before they require treatment, you’re in the perfect place to impart advice that can benefit their oral health for years to come.
2. Deeper Role in Day-to-Day Operations
“Ambition is the continuation of advancement, whether in the continued pursuit of clinical excellence or transitioning into different aspects of patient care.”
Who ever said hygienists should stick to the chairside? I don’t need to tell you that the office RDH often knows more about the practice’s ins and outs than anyone under that roof. Many hygienists are leveraging their expertise to successfully segue into aspects of dental management and administration, whether it’s helping to bring on new patients, taking charge of procuring dental tools and supplies, or ensuring the hygiene department is up to current standards.
3. More Holistic Approach to Patient Care
“Looking beyond the dentition to the entirety of the head and neck and oral/oropharyngeal cavity. Embracing all there is to know about not just the oral-systemic link, also the cancers of the head and neck oral and Oropharynx, and our role in each area.”
Research has emerged establishing a link between periodontal disease and systemic conditions such as heart disease, cancers, and diabetes. Ambitious hygienists are putting this knowledge into practice to help patients prevent and manage the systemic effects of periodontal disease.
4. Broadening Horizons
“Ambition would be to work on legislation to advance a dental hygienist to a position like a PA. Not necessarily the dental therapist model but very close.”
Do you dream of one day being able to practice hygiene independently? Wish you could apply your knowledge of dental care delivery in a senior role? Well, you’re far from alone in that! In fact, there are scores of dental hygienists out there hoping to expand our opportunities outside of the operatory.
Hygienists are increasingly seizing the chance to lead initiatives, manage teams, and advising policy. There are more non-traditional career opportunities for hygienists in healthcare, management and sales than ever before! What’s more, some hygienists, like the individual quoted above, are also advocating for a broader clinical scope of practice ‒ perhaps along the lines of a dental therapist.
5. Mastering the Art and Science of Hygiene
“My definition of ambition in the dental hygiene profession is someone who does their best work on each and every patient.”
It’s an exciting time to be a registered dental hygienist. As the scope of practice continues to expand, so too will the career opportunities...but only for those who are prepared to take them!
Whether you’re just starting out in your career or well along the path, it’s never too late to refine your knowledge, improve your skills, and continue your hygiene education.