The dental hygienist holds a unique role in the prevention of oral and systemic diseases. This honor comes after many sleepless nights of studying, persevering through the stress of dental hygiene school, and months of sacrifice. The selfless nature of a dental hygienist is unique and should therefore be celebrated. My hope for you is that you practice dental hygiene with same zeal as you do in dental hygiene school. Keeping the excitement for the profession can only happen when you are surrounded by those who encourage your learning, who respect your professional opinion, and who want to grow along side of you.
I started dental hygiene school by getting a cortisone shot in my right wrist—the one on my scaling hand. Several professors encouraged me not to pursue the program. Their concern was that I would not be able to practice clinically in the long term. I shared their concern, but my love for teeth outweighed it. I kept moving forward and conquered the intense workload of dental hygiene school, graduating with my bachelor’s degree. The degree will allow me to be considered for roles outside of the treatment room when my wrists can no longer scale.
Almost 10 years after graduating, I continue to practice two to three days a week. Overall, there is no pain associated with my clinical work. This is largely due to the exercise and massage therapy regimes I invest in. Over time, the muscle building and release of the tension prevents injury, as most of my muscle pain is due to muscle imbalance. Additionally, I have personally invested in resin-handled instruments, loupes, an air polisher, a saddle stool, and my own piezo unit.
I have had the privilege of using my dental hygiene degree around the world. My passport is stamped from Kenya, Romania, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic. What I have learned through these international travels and providing dental hygiene services is that we all smile in the same language. The energy that you give your patient—even if you can’t speak the same language—is understood. The intention of the trips is to serve others, but they end up serving me. Each patient reminds me of why I got into hygiene: to empower others to prevent oral disease. Our ability to prevent and empower others to have a healthy, confident smiles should never be underestimated.
We live in a time where there are so many opportunities for dental hygienists, both in the treatment room and outside of it. I encourage you to find a place that you are celebrated. Do not settle for a team who is not going to collaborate with you, encourage you to be better, and fuel your passion for the profession. Surround yourself with a network of fellow dental hygienists who will help bring you though the tiring clinical days and the challenges that life can often give. I am honored to be a part of RDH Graduate and we are thankful to serve such an amazing community.
Amber Auger, RDH, MPH, is a practicing dental hygienist and clinical innovations implementation specialist. With 14 years of experience in the dental industry, Auger works with practices to provide customized protocols, refocus on the patient experience, and utilize systemic approaches to periodontal therapy. She is a regular contributor to RDH magazine, a featured author for DentistryIQ, and host of #AskAmberRDH. Auger provides preventive services abroad yearly and is always willing to have more dental professionals join her team. She can be reached at [email protected].
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