I love to do, what I chose to do
Many people often wonder what drove me to love scraping and whitening teeth for a living. What was it about being confined to one room and picking at teeth that could be amusing? After all, working inside a mouth is viewed by the general population as “gross”. Why would anyone think “Yep! That’s what I’ll specialize in”. Was it the feeling of fulfillment seeing positive changes that occur after a good dental cleaning? Maybe the “I can see a huge difference” coming from the happy patient that had never had a cleaning. Or, perhaps, the flexible lifestyle that being a Dental Hygienist brings: being a rock-star hygienist during business hours and a rock-star family woman after 5pm… I’d say, all the above!
While studying in college and working on my undergrad, I knew the medical field was where I wanted to be. Some of my favorite academic exposures were during my Anatomy class where I had to learn about every single bone in the body, every single vein and artery, and even the heart and brain. Studying about our body and how it works fascinated me! I wanted to read and know more. I wasn’t sure specifically what field I would dive into but I knew I needed the flexibility the medical field would provide for my family to grow and for me to carry out my goals as a mother. In addition, I wanted to work in a practice where I could have fun sharing my knowledge and have a “work family” that shared the same passion and drive as me. Dental Hygiene fit those specifications perfectly! Not only was the fact that it’s a two year program attractive, I knew this field was one I could sink myself into and gain a massive amount of fundamental knowledge not many care to learn about.
I have been a hygienist for five years now. I can certainly express how much I truly love this field. I love a good challenge, and every new patient can bring that to the table. For starters, gathering critical medical information is essential in getting to know a patient’s oral history. Along with health history and radiographs, a good thorough oral evaluation is needed to complete the pieces of this new patient puzzle. The challenge is then presented; is this going to be my routine gold star hygiene appointment? Or does this person have periodontal issues and in need of a more specific deep cleaning? If so, is the patient healthy enough systemically to proceed? Perhaps, I found a suspicious lesion under the tongue during my oral cancer screening and this individual is now being referred out for a biopsy. It is the desire to solve the unknown that I find fascinating in this profession and the reason it keeps me on my toes about advancements within my scope.
My challenge doesn’t just stop in the medical sense. I also face the challenge of making every patient feel at ease under my care because, let’s face it, nobody gets excited about having their mouth examined so meticulously. I use this as an opportunity to ask a gazillion questions but I do it in a way that makes my patients feel like they are having a conversation with an acquaintance or a friend. I pride myself in getting to know each patient as a person; they are not just another warm body filling my seat. After all, we have a good hour together to chat about the most trivial subjects or more sensitive and personal ones; my patients decide. I uphold patient-clinician confidentiality!
Satisfying has to be the best way to describe what I feel as hygienists, both, at a professional level and at a personal level. I am sincerely satisfied when I see a patient return after a hygiene appointment with firm, happy, healthy gums. Not only is the difference felt, but most feel tremendously motivated to move forward with making changes. It is rewarding knowing the patient is willing to take on a whole new routine in return for overall improved health. Next, the satisfaction that comes from the act of physically removing tartar. Oh yes! Satisfaction! I L-L-LOVE to see tartar breaking off, chunks at a time. It is just a fact; I am knocking off the build up that has been irritating my patient’s gums for the past four to six months and giving them back that unmistakable sleek glossy feeling again. Seeing healthy beautiful teeth as the tartar is clearing off, creates a visual for me of how well the tissue will respond and the intended positive healing that it will bring.
Finally, the satisfaction I feel at a personal level about having chosen this profession is obvious to those that know me. I am beyond happy about where I am in life because of a career choice that fit oh-so perfectly with my personal family goals. I am a proud wife and mother to two amazing kids: a ten-year-old little boy, and four-year-old little girl. Life is busier than ever for us. Juggling home, school activities, athletics and everyday life brings a long To-Do list every day. I can’t hide my love for the outdoors and try to make it out on the weekends for some fresh air. Our most common activities include: hiking Sabino Canyon, sledding on Mt. Lemmon (when there’s snow), biking the Loop trail or even going for a splash at Patagonia Lake. My kiddos share the same love for the outdoors and are always up for an adventure as long as there are sticks, pine cones or water to occupy themselves with. If there wasn’t an outing for whatever reason, there’s always a barbecue at one of my siblings’ home to occupy our time. I come from a family of 8 children … you heard right, EIGHT! We are very close and, odds are, someone is cooking up a delicious weekend meal ready to host whoever would like to join.
All these reasons are why I love to do, what I chose to do. It takes a motivated, compassionate and patient individual to appreciate all that this profession has to offer. In addition, the office I am part of, the schedule I maintain and the people I am surrounded by on a daily basis help me enjoy it to the fullest. It is reassurance that this is what I was meant to do. A happy and healthy rock-star family woman makes a happy and healthy rock-star hygienist!