My eldest child was born at the end of 2020 and as I reflect on motherhood, I also reflect on how my identity as a dental hygienist has been shaped by my new role as a parent. As I prepare to return to work after having a second baby this year, I want to share some tips that have helped me maximize my dental hygiene skills while juggling the demands of parenthood.
During downtime, stay abreast of what’s new in dentistry
While most in-person lectures and dental conferences have resumed since the pandemic began, there are still plenty of opportunities to take webinars and online courses from the comforts of home. When I had a newborn, I took advantage of her nap schedule to take CE courses and watch webinars to stay updated on new dental research and techniques. You might not have the ability to participate in an entire weekend, but watching a one-hour webinar on new dental materials should be feasible despite your busy routine.
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Practice good ergonomics at home
New parents and dental hygienists are both prone to back, shoulder, and arm pain. Did you know that pregnant women are more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) that lingers even postpartum?1 We know too well in the dental world how common back, shoulder, and arm pain are on the job. The repetitive motions of lifting or feeding the baby can also pose a strain on wrists and back. Make sure to take care of yourself by practicing good posture at home and work through regular stretching, yoga, and exercise.
Join parent groups and share your knowledge on infant oral care
Once the fog of sleep deprivation lifted, I had the energy to join a new-parent group to meet other new parents. Our group of eight met once a week, and one of the things that drew me to the program was the inclusion of guest speakers who are experts on topics related to new parenthood. It dawned on me that infant oral care is a topic I could share with the group. I received positive feedback on my talk. It made me happy to encourage other new parents to think about the importance of oral care for their babies.
Keep up to date with changes at work
As Zoom and similar platforms become more pervasive in the work culture, ask your employer if they would be open to inviting you virtually to important team meetings while you’re at home. Not only does this help keep you up to date with changes in your office, but it also helps you build a stronger relationship with your office team.
If you reduce your work hours, temp at other offices
Working as a dental hygienist becomes even more challenging when you’re raising young children, and we’re fortunate in our profession to have the flexibility to work fewer days a week if we choose. If you decide to work fewer hours, consider taking temp shifts in other practices every so often to network and connect with other dental professionals in your area.
You need to find ways to balance career with your family life. With some effort and creativity, it’s possible to stay current and maximize your dental hygiene skills while juggling the demands of parenthood. Whether it's taking advantage of online courses, practicing good ergonomics at home, joining parent groups, or signing up for occasional temp shifts, there are many ways to grow and learn while attending to the needs of your little ones. With the right approach and mindset, you can find the right balance that allows you to be a successful dental hygienist and a devoted parent.
- Gooding MS, Evangelista V, Pereira L. Carpal tunnel syndrome and meralgia paresthetica in pregnancy. Obstet Gynecol Surv. 2020;75(2):121-126. doi:10.1097/OGX.0000000000000745