The RIC continues to explore great career paths as a way to provide resources to our audience interested in finding a great opportunity they might not know about–like being a dental hygienist. I had the opportunity to talk with Valerie Corbin of Chestnut Hills Dental (where I am currently a client). Valerie was kind enough to tell me a bit more about being a dental hygienist.
RA: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
VC: I am originally from Texas and my family moved to Pittsburgh when I was a kid. I attended the University of Pittsburgh’s Dental Hygiene program and then went on to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Management. I live in the North Hills with my husband, Seth,and practice dental hygiene at Chestnut Hills Dental in Squirrel Hill.
RA: What is a dental hygienist?
VC: Dental hygienists are licensed oral health professionals who focus on preventing and treating oral diseases (both to protect teeth and gums and also to protect patients’ total health). Usually, when you go to the dentist for your routine check-up, you spend the most time with dental hygienist while he/she performs your routine prophylaxis (teeth cleaning).
RA: Why did you pursue this profession?
VC: Growing up, a very close family friend was my dental hygienist. From a very young age, I loved going to see her and my dentist! Unusual, I know. I always knew I wanted to be in the healthcare field and, as I grew into a young adult, I asked her more and more about what I had to do to become a dental hygienist.
RA: What was the schooling/training like to become a hygienist?
VC: I attended a two-year program at the University of Pittsburgh. All registered dental hygienists must attend an accredited dental hygiene education program, whether in a community college or major university setting. Programs range from 2-4 years. After completing a two-year program, you obtain a certificate to practice dental hygiene with the option to continue school in pursuit of a bachelors degree. You must also take a written national board examination and a clinical examination before becoming licensed to practice.
RA: What is something many people might not know about your field?
VC: How important dental hygienists are in the dental practice! Dental hygienists are the eyes and ears of the office – we don’t just clean teeth! Working with patients and making them feel comfortable is an important part of the job.
In addition to treating patients directly, dental hygienists may also work as educators, researchers, and administrators. For those interested in a career in healthcare – and didn’t dread those trips to the dentist growing up – practicing as a dental hygienist can be a very rewarding career choice!
RA: What is a typical day for you?
VC: I work in a busy, growing office and see anywhere from 8-12 patients a day. Ages range from 3 and up and every patient and every mouth is different! You never know who is going to walk in – and with what problem – so we treat every patient thoroughly and individually. Having worked in the same office for a number of years, it has been especially interesting and exciting to develop relationships with my patients where I get to watch them and their families evolve as their lives change. You always have to be willing and able to go with the flow!
RA: What advice do you have for someone thinking about pursuing this field?
VC: I have found it to be a great occupation. It takes a certain type of individual to be in healthcare and, more specifically, direct patient care. The best dental hygienists I know are compassionate, great listeners, and organized people. You have to keep an open mind while dealing with patients and really hear them. I love my job and I work with wonderful doctors in my practice.
Thanks Valerie for sharing insight about what it’s like to be a dental hygienist. This is part of the RIC’s ongoing series on careers and great career paths. Click here for more stories and ideas!
* According to Three Rivers Workforce Investment Area report, Dental Hygienists make an average of $55,020 a year. It was projected that between 2006 and 2016, the category would experience an employment growth of 28.9% in our region. A degree from an accredited dental hygiene school and a state license are required for this job.