Re-entering dental hygiene

May 26, 2005
After a "career break," it can be difficult to find entry back into the profession. Professional educator develops course to ease the pain of re-entry.

By Joyce Turcotte, RDH, MEd

Does this sound like you or someone you know?

So you thought you would only be out "for a couple of years" while the children were young and then you would return to dental hygiene. However, 10 years has passed. Perhaps you thought that after you were married you wouldn't have to work again, but the economy has changed. Maybe your children are now ready for college and the extra income is essential.

You could also be thinking about relocating to another state and need a lot of continuing education credits, or you have to retake the boards. Possibly you find yourself as the sole income provider and your current work situation doesn't pay the bills. Another option could be that you left dental hygiene years ago and you miss it. How about if you're an "empty nester" and want to return to what you loved -- dental hygiene! What about the possibility that your license lapsed and you need to re-license. Also, it could be that you burned out and quit, but you've heard that the work conditions have improved. So you are considering returning to dental hygiene.

The above are just some of the many reasons why dental hygienists are coming back into dental hygiene.

Dormant dental hygienists are looking for ways to return to dental hygiene and discovering that the profession has drastically changed. Shortages in health-care positions across the board have increased. Returning to dental hygiene is better than ever before. Of course, you still have to find the right office that fits your needs and personality. However, you are in a better position now with greater career opportunities in alternative practice settings, public health, and corporate environments.

In 1987, I mailed out the first continuing education brochure for my new business, Professional Learning Services (PLS), which based in Connecticut. I received a phone call from a local dental hygienist asking if I can help her update her skills after being away for many years. Shortly thereafter, I developed a curriculum that would help her and many others reconsider a dental hygiene career. Given today's market trends, hygienists are actively pursuing a means for re-entering dental hygiene. Through online searches and emails, they are able to discover various sources and options for re-entry.

PLS has been the leader in dental hygiene refresher programs, researching the needs and learning styles of many dental hygienists that have been away from practice. Tailored programs for small groups to meet those needs are planned. One to one attention and instruction in state of the art facilities are featured qualities of this program. Professional guidance regarding licensing, education, affiliation, state requirements, and employment are also part of the service PLS offers.

This course is designed for the non-practicing dental hygienist seeking reinstatement or the practicing hygienist updating clinical skills. There is an intense concentration of clinical and didactic instruction featuring a preassessment phase to determine the individual's needs.

General topics include:

* Infection control and OSHA standards

* Medical history, vital signs, oral assessment, radiology techniques, and interpretation

* Treatment planning, documentation, and record-keeping

* Recognition and control of periodontal diseases and caries through treatment and patient education

* Manual and ultrasonic instrument selection and application

Instrument care and maintenance

Posture and positioning

* Preventive and adjunctive services and products, and professional resources.

More than half of the course is hands-on live-patient practice.

PLS is approved by the American Academy of Dental Hygiene, Inc. and the Academy of General Dentistry, PACE, as a continuing education provider. PLS Dental Hygiene Refresher Program is affiliated with Tunxis Community College in Farmington, CT. Several pre-requisites further enhance the preparation for a smooth transition into the course and profession.

Several states on the east coast have waived the NERB exam as a re-entry requirement in lieu of this refresher program. State boards generally require preauthorization of each candidate by the state board. Other states and some regions in Canada have approved the program for continuing education requirements. This program also satisfies continuing education requirements in many states.

Offered three to four times a year, the next program will be Friday through Sunday in mid-September. An extended program is available by arrangement.

For more information, please contact Joyce Turcotte RDH, MEd, the president and CEO of Professional Learning Services at 31 Lois Circle, Monroe, CT 06468. The voice mail phone number is (203) 261-2857. The fax number is (203) 459-2911. Or visit the Web site,, for updated continuing education information.