by Anne Nugent Guignon, RDH, MPH
During the holiday season, most of us shift our attention to caring for others. We spend hours selecting the right gift, shopping for the best price, creating beautiful wrappings – all in anticipation that the gifts we give will bring happiness, comfort, or a smile to the faces of those in our lives.
Dental hygienists are caregivers at heart. We nurture those that we care about. While it may seem selfish on the surface, when is the last time you took time to really take care of yourself? For the most part, it's our nature to work with whatever equipment an office provides, even if the workspace forces us to work in a toxic environment, ignoring the toll on our physical and mental well-being. Thousands of hygienists have been injured through the years as a direct result of using equipment that did not fit their bodies.
The importance of investing in your own career has been a central theme of this column over the last 11 years. A growing number of dental hygienists are selecting the products and supplies that they work with, and more are also purchasing their own equipment. It is amazing how many hygienists own their own loupes – clinical equipment that is rapidly becoming the standard of care. Headlights are now becoming more common. A growing number of us now purchase our own hand instruments and ultrasonic inserts. We're also buying our own polishing handpieces and operator stools.
Many clinicians today now have an annual purchasing plan, either a personal list or one supported by their dentist employer. An increasing number of hygienists understand how risky dental hygiene practice is to their physical well-being and are totally comfortable developing a strategic plan to buy quality equipment over time.
Some hygienists feel that it is the doctor's duty to provide a safe working environment and balk at the idea of spending their own money on work-related equipment. While that may be ideal, reality has proven otherwise. So it makes sense to do whatever it takes to protect your body from unnecessary aches and pains and a potential permanent injury. Plain and simple, no one will ever pay you enough to get hurt on the job.
Dental companies are now some of our best supporters. Over the past 10 years, a growing number of companies have committed to designing equipment that makes dental hygiene practice safer and easier. There are new hand instrument designs, new power scalers and inserts, better magnification loupes, headlights, and operator seating options.
More companies are recognizing dental hygienists as serious purchasers, particularly among smaller companies that manufacture or sell a small range of products. In fact, the fastest growth segment for many companies today is the dental hygiene market.
In addition to creating safer equipment, companies are developing creative financing strategies to facilitate our purchases – often including interest-free pay plans that put less stress on our budgets. Dental dealers are also getting the message that our dollars are just as green as the doctor's dollars, and many are accepting our orders via a credit card. Clearly, our purchasing power has broken through the glass ceiling. Several companies offer special pricing for ADHA members, on products purchased during CE programs put on by dental hygiene organizations, or conferences such as RDH Under One Roof. It is also possible to deduct the cost of any equipment that is not reimbursed as a business expense if you itemize deductions on your tax return.
Once you embrace ownership for your career, the thought of purchasing your own equipment becomes not only palatable but a commitment to the longevity of your professional career. You will never feel the same about your professional career. If you move to a new practice, you can take the equipment or supplies with you. Equipment ownership creates empowerment and lays the foundation for your professional comfort zone.
Happy holidays and may your holiday wishes include a safer workplace environment!
Anne Nugent Guignon, RDH, MPH, provides popular programs, including topics on biofilms, power driven scaling, ergonomics, hypersensitivity, and remineralization. Recipient of the 2004 Mentor of the Year Award and the 2009 ADHA Irene Newman Award, Anne has practiced clinical dental hygiene in Houston since 1971.
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