Born to do hygiene?

Feb. 1, 2007
if you have cash on hand or an empty credit card, you might be Born to Shop. If you love motorcycles, you might be Born to Bike.

by Mary Mondejar

If you have cash on hand or an empty credit card, you might be Born to Shop. If you love motorcycles, you might be Born to Bike. If you like life on the edge, you might be Born to be Wild. If you love people and teeth, there’s a good chance you were Born to do Hygiene!

You have made an individual dedication that is signified by your graduation, eight-hour workdays, and CEUs. Why not think about your collective dedication to dental hygiene? You are already a living testimonial to the profession. Why not take your education a step further? Online programs for advanced education offer limitless opportunities.

What led you to this profession? I was a UPS package delivery driver with good dental insurance and a need for restorative work, which led me to a great dentist with a super team. Their love for what they do was contagious! The next thing I knew, I was attending college classes with a focus on dental hygiene school.

The college offered a personality test that assessed whether or not my goal was attainable. The results were astonishing. I was told I was not cut out for science and would be better off in sales. I told them, “I thought dentistry included sales.” I persisted in following a path toward dental hygiene. I even saw the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel and remember asking myself, “How hard can this be?” What’s important is that I finished, and I’m doing what I may have been born to do - dental hygiene.

Since dental hygiene school, I have entered into a covenant relationship with my patients and found myself knee-deep in a very organized profession. There are righteous regulations, daily decisions, and a never-ending stream of patient entertainment that support my choice in dental hygiene. That’s right; the patients are fascinating and everybody’s got a story. Perfect for me, since I would talk to the wall if it would answer!

I remember a little story about an old pencil maker who took his newest pencil aside, just before he packed it into a box. “There are five things you need to know,” he told the pencil, “before I send you out into the world. Never forget these five things and you will become the best pencil you can be! The first thing is that you will be able to do many great things, but only if you put yourself in someone else’s hands. From time to time you will experience a painful sharpening, but remember that this will make you a better pencil. Also, keep in mind that you will be able to correct any mistakes you make along the way. And the most important part of you is what’s on the inside. Remember that upon every surface that you are used, you must leave your mark. No matter what else happens, you must continue to write.”

The pencil listened carefully and promised to remember these things so that it could live life with heart and purpose. This little story has had a great impact on the transitions in my life, the goals I have set, and the sacrifices I have made to reach my goals.

Are you willing to make sacrifices to live up to your dedication? Think about it. Although we took an oath to deliver competent dental hygiene, we can make our dedication more meaningful by making voluntary offerings. For instance, you may be willing to come in early to review charts. You may be willing to work into your lunch period or stay late to accommodate a patient, or clean a room for the dental assistant whose head is spinning. You may help file charts, even though this isn’t part of your job description. Unexpected circumstances befall us all. If you consider these things part of your dental hygiene duties, you may possess one of the greatest qualities important to a successful career in dental hygiene - flexibility.

Frequently, the dedicated demonstrate a lack of faith by allowing themselves to fizzle out. I could have fizzled out by now since graduating from dental hygiene school 10 years ago, but I developed a plan. Like many of you, I have felt the creeping pain of the carpal tunnel and the nagging neck, and have even felt myself slipping into apathy (akin to slipping in and out of consciousness). Out, foul spirit! Heal yourself with the help of stick-to-itiveness or a higher source.

Without a plan, you may eventually wear yourself out mentally and physically. Be resourceful. Limiting your working hours, hoping you won’t fizzle out, isn’t enough. Devise a strategic plan. Maybe, just maybe, the answer for you is advanced education. I highly recommend the online program I participated in at St. Petersburg College, in Pinellas Park, Fla (Tami Grzesikowski, RDH, MEd, can be contacted at [email protected], if you’re interested). In less than a year and a half, my BASDH degree is nearly complete.

The RDH Under One Roof workshops and seminars offer a great deal of encouragement and support for advanced education. The speakers and trainers are prophets, proclaiming a change for the future of dental hygiene. Do you see yourself in that future? Do you want to play a part?

You need advanced education to find happiness in your daily work, to stimulate your mind, and to give your patients the care they deserve. Do you have to do it? No. Do you really need to do it? Yes. Dental hygiene is going places - are you? Listen to the prophecies and follow your heart. Don’t let the profession lose you to burnout, physical pain, or lack of interest. Don’t start education in a different field. We need your clinical experience and people skills. Help us help you stay in dental hygiene and enjoy a bright future with the rest of us.

Are you willing to make sacrifices to live up to your dedication? A sacrifice isn’t a sacrifice until it’s really a sacrifice, and the only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth of the hole.

Are you doomed to do hygiene, or were you born to do hygiene?

Editor’s Note: The author recommends a specific distance-learning online program. However, the ADHA has a more complete list of programs that should be considered. At, click on “education & careers” on the home page. Then click on “education” and download one of the three Adobe Acrobat files relevant to your situation.

Mary Mondejar, RDH, graduated from St. Petersburg College in 1996 and is an ongoing student there, receiving her certificate from the online bachelor’s program in 2006. Mary’s passion is continuing education and patient education. Licensed in Florida, Connecticut, and Texas, she currently works as an independent contractor serving St. Petersburg/Clearwater/Tampa as “Mary the Temp” and is in her fourth year as a floating hygienist for Coast Dental. She can be reached at [email protected].