April 23, 2024
9963 Santa Monica Blvd. #1446 Beverly Hills, CA 90210

From hygiene school to dental practice: 4 ideas to be less intimidated

It’s no secret making the move from dental hygiene school to practice can be stressful. Take these four ideas to heart and it will go more smoothly.

Hygiene school is like boot camp—it’s tough and will often push you to your limits. Despite that life experience, it’s still intimidating to transition from student to working hygienist. All recent graduates struggle with acclimating to a new environment, new workflows, new coworkers, and new protocols, but there are ways to make that adjustment easier.

Here is our top advice to help you navigate the transition as smoothly as possible.

Be patient with yourself

Let’s face it: as a newly minted clinician, you’re not going to know every single aspect of hygiene or how to handle all situations right away. For example, many new hygienists struggle with time management. Going from having two or more hours per patient during training to just one hour in a clinical setting is a big change, but you must be patient with yourself and trust that with practice, you’ll find the rhythm that works for you.

During the first few months at your new job, you’ll absorb a lot of information that will help you grow and become more confident in your skills. New hygienists, especially young clinicians, may have difficult patients who push back on your treatment recommendations because of your age.

Use these situations as opportunities to practice patience by demonstrating your qualifications and confidence. You can always channel your hygiene mentor and how they discuss similar issues with patients. The more patience and kindness you show yourself, and the more practice you get, the more your confidence will grow.

Don’t be afraid to raise your hand

It’s important to learn and grow independently, but it’s just as crucial to “raise your hand” and ask questions when you’re stuck. Whether you’re questioning a treatment, confused about a protocol, struggling with time management, or anything in between, you need to feel comfortable to reach out and ask for help.

At Aspen Dental practices, there are many people to reach out to for guidance. In addition to in-office hygiene mentors, there are hygiene territory managers to support you so you can be as successful as possible. For example, hygiene managers can place you in additional classes or trainings if there are skills you want to expand or polish, connect you with other hygienists, and help you through rough patches. The resources are always available as long as you ask for them.

Remember your “why”

If you’re feeling overwhelmed in your new position, it helps to come back to your “why.” Most of us become hygienists because we want to care for patients. Some of our most challenging experiences are dealing with difficult patients who resist treatment. By taking the time to explain to them why you’re recommending a treatment and educating them about the value of caring for their oral health, you can turn those challenging experiences into something rewarding. When you help difficult patients accept treatment, seeing them come back for later visits happier and healthier makes everything worth it.

When you put your patients first and remember why you got into hygiene, it’s much easier to make the jump from school to clinical setting. Let your passion power you through difficult times, and it won’t be long before you feel at home in your new position.

The right fit makes everything easier

Yes, transitioning to full-time hygiene clinical work can be difficult, but knowing you’ve found your dental home makes everything easier. When you interview for a job, you need to know what you value most—whether that’s schedule flexibility, autonomy, or benefits—so you can communicate that to a potential employer. Be sure you visit the office, get a feel for the atmosphere, shadow a current hygienist, and see how you’ll fit into the culture.

When you know you have a supportive environment, it’s much easier to practice patience, grow your confidence, ask questions, and put patients first.

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