By Keverly Sugden, RDH, BASDH
What is corporate dentistry? Corporate dentistry can be an all-encompassing term that includes dental supply companies, dental management companies, education companies, and product companies. Dental hygienists are crucial and hold full- and part-time positions in many of these corporate dental arenas.
Dental hygienists serve as educators, educational consultants, and marketing and sales representatives for dental product manufacturers. Hygienists are also employed as practice management consultants and sales consultants by dental supply companies. Dental practice management companies employ hygienists as dental hygiene directors and regional clinical directors. Dental hygienists can often take their experiences in clinical and mold them into a job description or career opportunity they never realized existed.
My personal search for expanded opportunities in dental hygiene started about six years ago. I realized that I wanted something more than just clinical, but was not sure how to go about my search. I began seeking out hygienists who had transitioned out of clinical dental hygiene. I contacted Beth Thompson, RDH, BS, founder of CareerFusion, LLC, because I was intrigued by her biography and experience. Beth became one of my greatest mentors and resources in helping me navigate the corporate dental world. Beth, and many hygiene and corporate mentors have helped me to realize my potential and understand the roles that hygienists can serve in the corporate environment.
Are you ready for a change?
When considering a transition to the corporate dental world, analyze your passions, your experiences, and your strengths and weaknesses. My experience as a full-time clinician for a large group practice management company taught me to understand corporate expectations and corporate cultures and philosophy. Hygienists looking for a change need to do their research on the company and position they are interested in. Many times, this is that starting point in a hygienist’s search for career opportunities in the corporate realm. Soul search and network, seek mentors, and set goals.
What are your options? Your options are far wider than you may expect. Here is a listing of the various corporate positions that are available in the different clinical realms.
• Dental practice management companies. A growing trend is toward corporately owned or managed group dental practices. The factors driving this trend are increasing costs for dental education and massive dental student debt. The cost for setting up and managing a dental practice and the expertise needed to negotiate dental insurance contracts has led many dentists to seek employment or affiliation with a corporate dental practice management company.
Think of names like Heartland Dental, Dental Care Alliance, Midwest Dental, Great Expressions, and many other large and small groups. Many of these management groups employ hygienists as dental hygiene directors and regional hygiene administrators. I work for Dental Care Alliance and have connected with many of the hygiene directors for other dental management companies.
Sandra Johnson, RDH, director of dental hygiene support for Smile Brands Inc., shared some insights into what characteristics she looks for in a prospective candidate. Sandra knows that hygienists working in the corporate environment need to be great communicators, compassionate, enthusiastic learners, and team players. They also need to be open to coaching.
Dona Gabzdyl, RDH, is the director of clinical hygiene for Denver-based Perfect Teeth and Birner Dental Management Services, Inc. She looks for hygienists who understand the new paradigm in oral disease diagnosis and treatment. Her ideal candidate is an enthusiastic learner who can “connect the dots” between the oral/systemic links, recognizes their patients’ individual risk factors, and takes an active stance in treating their respective diseases. Dona looks for applicants who are certified in local anesthesia, attend CE programs regularly, and are actively involved in ADHA and/or their local dental community.
Hygienists in management and leadership for dental practice management groups have experience in coaching, mentoring, education, and business acumen. Dental hygiene directors are responsible for organizing curriculum for training hygienists and the dental team, setting and monitoring periodontal protocol and caries risk assessment, and communicating with company management on all dental hygiene issues. This is a short list, and these duties differ with each corporation depending on the corporate structure and philosophy.
• Dental product manufacturers and technology companies. A myriad of opportunities exists for hygienists in this corporate realm, depending upon the size of the company. Larger companies such as Sunstar Americas, Proctor & Gamble, and Colgate-Palmolive hire hygienists in many types of positions and often offer room for movement and growth. Hygienists are employed in sales and marketing, education, and public relations.
Jackie Sanders, public relations specialist for Sunstar Americas recommends “hard work, networking, continuing to acquire additional education, and never limiting your dreams.”
Educators are responsible for educating hygienists in continuing education courses for dental schools, dental hygiene associations, and dental meetings. The director of clinical education develops the curriculum and provides training and support to regional educators and sales professionals. Professional relations managers coordinate marketing efforts, prepare educational materials, and organize speakers and events.
Smaller dental companies also offer job opportunities in education, marketing and sales, and public relations. These are often part-time positions that transition to full-time careers. Hygienists working for smaller companies wear many hats and become a key person in the growth, marketing, and branding of these smaller dental manufacturing companies.
• Dental supply distributors. Companies such as Patterson, Schein, and other dental supply distributors hire hygienists who act as practice management consultants, educators, and sales professionals. These companies strive to offer business solutions to all types of dental practices. Hygienists with practice management skills and great communication skills are very important to the success of these companies.
• Dental consulting firms and educational companies. Many large consulting firms offer full- or part-time positions to hygienists with business acumen and great communication and training skills. Educational companies look for a passion to teach and creativity in creating educational content in their prospective employees.
These are just a few of the opportunities available to hygienists interested in working in the corporate environment. There are many other job descriptions in other types of companies, and corporations understand the value that hygienists can add to their initiatives. Hygienists searching for a new career direction should consider attending a career exploration retreat such as CareerFusion to expedite and streamline the transition. Several books have been written specifically on polishing resumes and career exploration. Check out www.rdhpurpleguide.com for information about these publications. Evaluate your options, do your research, and you may find that corporate dentistry is for you. RDH
Keverly Sugden, RDH, BASDH, is an author, speaker, and practicing dental hygienist. She has published articles on group practice management and MI dentistry. Keverly is a member of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association and works with local legislators on access to care for children. She has written a training program for large group dental practices and has organized corporately sponsored continuing education courses for dental hygienists. Keverly can be contacted at [email protected].
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