Exit strategy: Knowing when it's time to change direction of dental career

Aug. 26, 2015
Knowing when it's time to change direction of dental career

Knowing when it's time to change direction of dental career

BY Kara Vavrosky, RDH

No matter what profession you're in, hygiene included, some days just aren't that great. From dealing with coworkers to patients, it can be a struggle just to make it through the day. It can be easy to question your career choice when you start to dread going into work every day.

I know; I've been there. It wasn't easy, but after much thought I realized it wasn't hygiene as a profession I was frustrated with; it was that the specific office just wasn't a good fit. As scary as it may be, here's how you know when it's time to move on from your current office and find a place that will reinvigorate your love for dental hygiene.


Other articles by Vavrosky


First, take an inventory of what exactly is making you struggle through the day. Be completely honest with yourself and your situation. It's not about blaming others; it's about figuring out the specific aspects of your job that are causing you distress.

Write these things down in a list. You will probably start to notice a theme. If there are internal things within your control that you can change, make those changes. It may be difficult, but it's important you do everything within your power to improve your situation.

However, you may find it's primarily external factors that are causing you unhappiness at work. These could be a variety of things, such as conflict with a coworker, or your doctor never seems to back you up.

Maybe you're seeing OSHA violations and nobody will listen to you about making changes to be compliant. Or maybe you're paid hourly, but required to clock out if a patient cancels or no-shows. It could be that your standard of care just doesn't match that of the office and doctor. Whatever the reason may be, if it's something that can't get resolved by sitting down and talking with the doctor or office manager, it's time to move on.

It's easy to think, "All these things are outside of my control so there's nothing I can do about it." While you may not be able to change things at your current office, you are ultimately in control of your own career. I'm not saying it's going to be easy, but it's time to look for a new job. Start looking every day. Make it your job to find a new job. You can't leave your mental well-being in the hands of others who are causing you such pain.

It may take time and may temporarily add to your frustration, but it's important to look for a new job on a daily basis. Even if there aren't any current openings in your area, keep looking every day. It just takes one opening to completely change your situation.

You also may want to consider looking for hygiene-related jobs outside of clinic work. Maybe teaching, research, or sales for a dental company are things that interest you. There are plenty of hygiene-related opportunities out there if you think beyond the clinic.

The beauty of taking action to change your situation is you will start to feel more in control. By having a vision and working toward it, you will begin to see light at the end of the tunnel. It won't be easy, but don't let that scare you from taking control.

Dental hygiene is an incredible profession that can be extremely rewarding. No matter how bad things may seem now at your current office, you have the power to take charge and make a change for yourself.

I know this article isn't for everyone. Many of you work at wonderful offices where you are treated fairly and with the utmost respect. Be appreciative of this and don't take it for granted. For you who are currently struggling with your situation, know that you aren't alone. It may be cliché, but things will get better if you put in the effort.

I encourage you to find the fire from within to take control of your situation and move on. Successfully doing so will change your life for the better. RDH

Kara Vavrosky, RDH, runs the popular Facebook page, Dental Hygiene with Kara RDH, and is also the founder of DentalHygieneAnswers.com, a question and answer platform for dental hygienists. Kara serves on the Clinical Advisory Board of GoodMouth, a toothbrush subscription service, and the Advisory Board of Support Clean Dentistry, an initiative to raise awareness of cleanliness in the dental office. Kara currently works for a one-doctor, family-oriented practice in Portland, Oregon.