The ball is in your court
A healthy career is really your choice
Unless you’ve been hiding underneath a rock, most of us
are aware that the employment landscape in dental hygiene
has changed dramatically over the past decade. I hear
complaints all of the time about saturated job markets,
too many dental hygiene schools, and dismal employment
Many of us who graduated over 20 years ago started
our careers in small, individual dental practices where we
had much more control over how we delivered patient
care. But the shift to larger practices—often with big corporate umbrellas—is making it harder and harder for a
solo dentist to keep the doors open and still maintain a
Throughout the years I’ve had the pleasure of presenting
programs about ergonomics and career sustainability to
dental hygiene students all over the country. While most
students are under a lot of stress, they are curious about
their futures and eager to discover strategies that will help
them get a job once they have an RDH after their name.
They want and need employment to get on with life and
to pay back student loans.
Since I’m not particularly fond of sugarcoating messages,
some people find my observations about employment to
be disturbing. Telling people what they want to hear, though,
if it is not based on reality, does not sit well with me.
During the school programs, I encourage student hygienists to consider purchasing their own equipment, strive
to find a dental home that matches their personal values,
and be prepared to be a contributing member in the dental
office, reminding them that a thriving business is the cornerstone for any future raises or acquisition of new equipment. Occasionally, a faculty member will raise an eyebrow
at the suggestion of owning equipment, but long gone are
the days when most offices will grant our every wish.
Several months ago, I had a very interesting chat with
a dentist and his wife, who is a hygienist, at the Chicago
Midwinter Dental Meeting. They were in the midst of
purchasing a saddle stool for the young hygienist who had
recently joined their practice. It was obvious that they both
appreciated their new employee and were willing to provide
her with what she needs to stay healthy and happy while
As the conversation progressed, the doctor and his wife
shared why they were willing to hire a brand new graduate
in favor of a more seasoned candidate. Their answer validated what I share with students. The new employee’s
attitude was upbeat and focused on how to blend in as well
has how to help their practice grow. Both were very impressed that the new graduate not only had her own loupes
and light, but that she is also a member of her local ADHA
component and wanted to ensure that she would be able
to attend professional continuing education meetings.
From their vantage point, everything she did pointed
to professional commitment.
So what lessons can a seasoned hygienist take from this
story? First of all, there are some very good employers out
there who would be delighted to have you join their practice.
Dentistry, though, is a business. Quite honestly, so are we
in a more informal sense.
It’s time we quit digging our heels in about purchasing
equipment such as loupes. Nearly every dentist uses loupes
at this point. So if you’re not wearing them, they know what
ANNE NUGENT GUIGNON
GUIGNON, RDH, MPH,
CSP, provides popular
programs, including topics
on biofilms, power driven
remineralization. Recipient of
the 2004 Mentor of the Year
Award and the 2009 ADHA
Irene Newman Award, Anne
has practiced clinical dental
hygiene in Houston since
1971, and can be contacted
Tax benefits for professional equipment
Understanding the tax benefits is another aspect
of the financial equation involving the purchase of
professional equipment. Workers who do not receive reimbursement for items purchased for use in
the employment setting, such as loupes, uniforms,
a saddle stool, etc., are eligible to deduct the cost
of such items on their individual income tax form,
providing they file a long form.
The list of deductible items also includes tuition
for continuing education courses, travel costs
to attend such events, instruments, disposable
supplies such as gloves or facemasks, ultrasonic
scalers and inserts, clinical books and professional
magazine subscriptions, and hearing protection
Check with a qualified tax professional for personal advice on your particular situation.