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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

The Perks of Being a Dental Hygienist

July 30, 2014

Dental HygieneNot everyone wants to work an 8:00 to 5:00, Monday through Friday job. For many, part-time is a better fit for their family demands, financial needs or a lifestyle already filled with special interests, hobbies or commitments.

Dental hygienists often enjoy the opportunity to work as many hours as they choose because many dental offices do not employ full-time dental hygienists. Some dental hygienists work a day or two for more than one office, which adds even greater flexibility to their schedules.

“I have the best of both worlds,” says Melissa Mauldin who graduated from SJVC’s Dental Hygiene program in Visalia almost eight years ago. “I am a career woman who also gets to spend a lot of time at home with my children.”

Well-trained dental hygienists are in demand, which puts them in a position to command a comfortable salary. That higher salary compensates for a shorter work week.

“If anything ever happened to my husband, I could financially support myself,” says Melissa, who is a Registered Dental Hygienist. “That’s always important to me.”

Melissa found a couple of very important advantages to SJVC’s DH program: The A.S. Degree program is only 16-months long, which puts qualified professionals into the workforce much sooner than other programs, and enrollment qualifications are based on completion of prerequisites, good grades and an interview process that determines strong motivation and compatibility of the Dental Hygiene program candidate.

“I researched different Dental Hygiene programs in my area and was happy to find that SJVC was not based on the lottery system,” says Melissa. “I did not want to worry about getting picked.”

The enrollment process is streamlined to meet student needs and get them into class as soon as they are ready. Successful completion of the DH program is also student-focused. Externships allow soon-to-be-graduates to work in the real-world so that they can acclimate to their profession’s environment and further hone their patient skills.

Graduates from SJVC’s Dental Hygiene program sit for their National Board exams to become Registered Dental Hygienists (RDH). There is a lot of preparation for students so that they do well all along the way, far in advance of this important exam.

“At SJVC, if you start to struggle with a class, a teacher will pull you aside and tutor you,” says Melissa. “They don’t want to see you go below a B. They give you a lot of help to get ready for your National Boards.”

Melissa was happy with the end result. “My class got a 100% pass rate on the National Board Exam.”

A career as a dental hygienist is attractive to many, not only for the opportunity to work part-time, but to work in a pristine environment with a group of professionals who provided much-needed service and education to their patients.

“You have to have people skills and be prepared to work with a lot of different personalities,” says Melissa. “It is important that you are a team player because it’s not just you; you’re working with a doctor, office manager and dental assistants.”

For those considering a career as a dental hygienist, Melissa has some good advice: “If you don’t know exactly what a Registered Dental Hygienist does, you should go to a dental office and job shadow; ask a hygienist questions and actually see what we do.”

Dental hygienists perform services, such as teeth cleaning, sealants, treatments and x-rays, as well as provide education that promotes oral health and proper nutrition. “I enjoy educating my patients and making sure their mouths are healthy,” says Melissa.

Good patient interaction is essential to success as a dental hygienist. Sometimes, a lot of patience is required.

“Some patients, especially children, are nervous about being in a dental office, and you have to talk them through things to help them to be comfortable,” says Melissa. “You can’t be frustrated and must just stay calm,” while trying to stay on a schedule for the next patient.

“I think it’s a great career,” says Melissa. “I like to be around people and work with other people.”

Life as a dental hygienist is full of responsibility, professionalism and service to others. It is also a life of greater freedom.

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