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What Is the Hardest Part of Being a Dental Hygienist?

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Dental Hygienist with Patient

Today, hygienists are in high demand and every dental office needs them. Your services include cleaning teeth, checking the gum health, setting up patients for success, and educating them about oral hygiene, nutrition, and lifestyles. In addition, you add value to a dental practice by keeping up with medical technology as part of your continuing education requirements.

Few people realize the daily challenges of your job. Getting good at it takes effort, dedication, and time. Your career presents many obstacles that make it hard for you to do your job. Here are some of them.

The 5 Hardest Parts of the Dental Hygiene Job

1. School was challenging.

It wasn’t easy for you to start your career. Dental schools with allied dental programs have strict admissions guidelines. Not only do they look for the best-qualified students, but also students who are enthusiastic about dentistry and have a high GPA. The best dental hygiene programs have a long list of prerequisites. Before applying to a school, you had to study hard just to get in.

Then, there were the board exams. The written board exams lasted eight hours. Additionally, there was a clinical, a clinical anesthesia board, and a written anesthesia board exam. Now, you must still fulfill continuing education requirements to maintain your medical skills, such as first aid, CPR, and infection control, and to keep up with the latest technology.

2. The job market is unpredictable

You may or may not have landed your dream job.

If you work in a small office with just one dentist, you now enjoy your work because you assist the dentist in providing general medical care to patients, performing dental surgeries, providing oral health education to patients and staff, performing oral cancer screenings, and helping patients manage their oral health needs. You find your work rewarding.

There’s also another scenario. Perhaps you work in a large office with several dentists and other dental hygienists. Your role is monotonous because you’re limited to a few tasks, perhaps only educating patients about dental hygiene, repeating the same concepts all day long. Or perhaps, you’re only asked to take x-rays. Despite your proficiency in many aspects of dentistry and your excellent grades in school, the dental practice that hired you doesn’t need you to clean teeth, mouth, and gums, or any of the other things you had expected to do.

3. You suffer from chronic aches and pains.

Using your arms to clean your teeth in a repetitive motion one patient after another doesn’t give you much time to rest. If you only perform one or two tasks a day, it is crucial to be aware of your arm and hand movements to reduce your risk of long-term injury.

Taking x-rays, examining teeth, and using dental tools most of the day can lead to injuries like carpal tunnel or a ruptured disc in your spine. You spend more time at a chiropractic office or a massage therapist than you do with your family just to reduce the aches and pains caused by leaning over patients for long hours day after day.

4. You work fast all the time.

You’re always on the go because you have so much to do for each patient. When you work in a busy dental office, it can seem like your day never ends. During a dental appointment, you must do numerous tasks quickly and efficiently to maintain the oral health of patients within a limited time frame.

Your work includes:

* Reviewing the health history of each patient
* Taking vital signs
* Discussing dental concerns with patients
* Assisting the dentist during surgery
* Monitoring gum health 
* Performing X-rays 
* Checking for oral cancers
* Cleaning. polishing, and flossing teeth
* Discussing home care recommendations with patients
* Preparing charts 
* Sterilizing and preparing the room for the next patient

5. You don’t get the respect you deserve.

As healthcare professionals, dental hygienists often go unappreciated by the public despite the essential role they play in patient care. Although the profession has been around since 1923, the year the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) was founded, it remains one of the most underappreciated careers in the healthcare industry.

Despite your vital role in helping patients stay healthy, the public just thinks you do routine work, like scraping teeth, assisting dentists during an exam or surgery, and offering words of comfort to nervous patients who hate visiting a dentist.

Conclusion: How to Manage these Challenges

You can manage your career-related stress and hardship in three ways:

First, reflect and detach. Researchers have found that people who examine their thoughts, feelings, and reactions to their experiences can detach themselves from their emotions. They can remain calm and focused at work even when they are running behind schedule and they must deal with one crisis after another.

Second, even if you hate your job, you can still love your career. Having a monotonous and repetitive job at the dental clinic makes it tough to stay motivated. If you remember how enthusiastic you were when you started out in this career, you’ll quit feeling stuck and realize all the things you’ve achieved. As a dental hygienist, you help people improve their dental health every day. You educate them about oral health and teach them how to brush and floss correctly.

Third, think about all the good things you do every day. Remember all the times you helped patients feel better. Perhaps you helped them overcome their fears of dental treatment, gave them hope that they would get past their infection and pain, assisted with a dental operation, or encouraged someone to stick with their treatment plan.

You are an unsung hero in dental health care. Your collaboration with the dentist makes all the difference to everyone. Patients who use denTEL to find your dental office will be able to ask you how to take better care of their oral health.

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