Barrymore Pira

Breaking the poverty cycle and inspiring others

Aug. 10, 2022
It wasn't easy, but Heather Barrymore is proud she pulled herself out of poverty and made a great life for her and her daughter. A dental hygienist was her inspiration.
Jackie Sanders, MBA, RDH, Chief editor, RDH magazine

Each week the RDH PIRA (Patient Impact & Rise Above) recognition program, sponsored by Water Pik, Inc., features a dental hygiene clinician who excels in their role and goes the extra mile in their job. The past two years have been a challenge for many clinicians and as we return to the operatory, we want to acknowledge those providing patient care—clinicians who are changing their patients’ lives, influencing their patients’ health, and making a daily difference. This week we honor Heather Barrymore, RDH.

A hygienist inspired her

I grew up very poor with little to no guidance in life. When I was in my early 20s, I waited 16 hours overnight in a line for free dental care because I needed an extraction and could not afford it. I was inspired by the person who provided the care. She gave me a local anesthetic and extracted my tooth while I sat in a lawn chair in a college gym. I was so inspired that I enrolled in college, even though I had minimal self-esteem. This began my path to the person I am today. 

It was not an easy path. In fact, not much in my life was easy. I was adopted at age 10, and I’m the first person in my family to receive a college degree. I did what I had to do to survive while attending college. Now I’ve been in the dental field for 18 years, and I give back by volunteering at free clinics. I know that kind words of encouragement can mean the world to people who don’t receive much encouragement. This profession means the world to me, and I enjoy giving back. 

More PIRA honorees

"Hygiene is so much more than scraping teeth. We are lifesavers."
Giving her all to help her community

Today my life is much different and nothing like my upbringing. I’m so thankful I’ve been able to change that cycle for my daughter. I’m thankful a dental hygienist saw something in me that no one else did. I’m thankful to have a great career that allows me to provide health care and dental care for my daughter and myself.

Not everyone receives love and support at home, so I make sure to show love and encouragement to all people, especially the underserved. I encourage others to follow their dreams, even if they don’t believe they’re good enough. I’ve told many people they should become dental hygienists, and a few have listened to my recommendation. Helping others and spreading positive vibes is what I enjoy most! 

I’m now in my 18th year in the dental field and I’ve been a team lead. I’m proud to say I broke the cycle of poverty for my daughter and myself. I can provide a stable household with love and support. Looking back on my life, no one imagined I would become the person I am today. Perseverance played a huge role.

Visit the PIRA website to nominate someone today! Good luck, and we look forward to hearing from many outstanding and qualified colleagues!