Mentor Advice ForumFurthering my career in dental hygiene
Sandra Navarro asked 3 years ago

Hello – 
My name is Sandra Navarro and I am a Registered Dental Hygienist. I was directed here as part of an assignment for my bachelor level dental hygiene course. My question for you all is how did you know when it was time for you to leave the clinical side of dental hygiene to pursue a new career path? Did you feel sad or miss working directly with patients? How did you know what career path to pursue outside of clinical hygiene? I think I may like to enter the corporate side of dental hygiene, but I am reluctant to give up the clinical side of dental hygiene because I worked so hard to get where I am.
Thank you in advance for your answers.
Sandra N. 

1 Answers
Lynne McHugh, RDH, BS Staff answered 3 years ago

I graduated from dental hygiene school in 1975, completed by bachelor’s in the 80s, and practiced hygiene for 12 years in a general practice before pursuing a career in corporate utilizing my hygiene background. I worked for Oral B delivering continuing education for schools and associations while also selling to dental and dental hygiene schools. Later I went on to work with Henry Schein, holding positions of increasing responsibility until I retired in 2014 as VP, Operation and Administration N/A.

I have always considered myself a hygienist and feel blessed to have had that as my background as I pursued the corporate side of dentistry. Did I miss my patients, and the interaction chair side? Yes, but it was quickly replaced by how much I was learning and the various new opportunities that awaited. Don’t ever feel you don’t have the necessary skills to enter a business role. Hygienists are organized, detail oriented, patient with great follow through, and, most important, possess emotional intelligence, which translates to being able to deal with all kinds of people.

However, don’t make the mistake by assuming that you can enter the corporate world at a high level, just because you have a degree and have been in private practice. Be willing to start near entry level and demonstrate that your skill can be an asset to the organization. Learn, do your job, ask for more responsibility and the options for growth will present itself. Chances are to get started on the corporate side you may be earning less than if you worked 5 days a week as an RDH, but the opportunities for growth can be substantial.

Companies that manufacture products that you are familiar with would be a great place to start, either in an entry level sales position or possibly in a combination educational/sales role. Distributors value a hygiene background but they tend to also want experience in one of their sales channels to find a fit.

As a hygienist, you have a lot to offer, but keep in mind it took you years to learn the business of dental hygiene so learning the business side of business will take time. There are many areas in which you can apply your qualifications: education, sales, marketing, operations, administration, supply chain. Quite literally the sky’s the limit…..go for it.