I work as a dental hygienist in a private dental clinic. My work tasks include the work of dental nurse and equipment maintenance, which is common for dental hygienist that works in private clinic.
When working on private sector, work shifts usually consist of evening and morning shifts. Morning shift generally starts at 7:30 and ends at 15:00, and evening shift starts at 13:30 and finishes at 21:00. Morning starts with opening the treatment room and equipment maintenance, so all the surfaces are wiped and the equipments are turned on.
Workday mainly consists of clinical patient work. Dental hygienist’s principal task is scaling, though there is some variability. Besides scaling, we also do tooth whitening, and some dental hygienists participate in orthodontics together with a dentist/orthodontist. On public sector, dental hygienist also does dental checks for children and adults. In addition to clinical work, the work of dental hygienist includes equipment maintenance, meaning maintaining and sterilizing dental instruments that are used in work. I am in charge of the weekly/monthly maintenance and testing of our clinic’s equipment. You also need to take care of the tidiness and readiness of the treatment room. In our clinic, dental hygienist treats around 5-6 patients per day.
Dentists are usually assisted by dental nurses, however dental hygienists always work by themselves. Due to this, work days can be very hectic, as all the tasks between the patients, such as patient switches (wiping the surfaces and the devices between the patients) and equipment maintenance needs to be done by yourself. Besides these, after every visit you need to do a patient record.
For one patient you generally book an hour-long treatment, where you map patient’s dental treatment habits, clean the teeth, give self treatment advice for those who need it, and define the need for future treatments. However this varies if it’s a different kind of treatment, for example tooth whitening. Sometimes there isn’t enough time for everything, and you need to book a follow-up appointment to finish the treatment. When the day ends, the treatment room is closed.
The best part of my job are definitely the colleagues. The personnel is really laid-back and youthful. In patient work the best part is to be thanked for the work you have done, and to notice that you have provoked some changes in patient’s health behaviour.
The worst part of my job is occasional hurry and feeling of failure. When there is no change in patient’s health, you start to doubt your own communication skills. This work also requires some physical exercise, as working in extreme positions jams your back, shoulders and neck every now and then. The ergonomics must be in order.
The best way to maintain your skills and expertise is to visit industry trainings and consult your colleagues. This way you can give your patients first-hand advice about dental health, and aim to have an influence on their health behaviour. From patient’s perspective, it is important to communicate by using clear and understandable language, and to avoid excessive jargon.
The work has met my expectations, though it is more physical than I expected.