My name is Nicollette and I graduated with my degree in dental hygiene May 2018. I am in my bachelors program right now and I am thinking about furthering my career in dental hygiene. I want to step away from private practice and maybe work in corporate and learn about the business side of dental hygiene. My question is, what exactly can I do if I work for a corporate company such as Colgate, Procter and gamble, Henry Schein etc. What are the pros/ cons. Do you enjoy learning more about the business side of dental hygiene compared to working with patients one on one in private practice. I would love to hear from you!
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.
My experience and advice for dental hygienists seeking an alternative career paths is: #1 Take advantage of connections and networking within our profession provided you possess excellent communication skills, are dedicated, and passionate. For example, if you are interested in a corporate educator position, find out who some of those people are that you know or respect, and reach out to them for advice and insight about those positions. If your interest is in a higher degree, talk to other dental hygienists with their master’s to learn what they feel has been most valuable. A meeting that many hygienists participate in that are interested in speaking or consulting positions is the Speaking Consulting Network http://www.speakingconsultingnetwork.com. The meetings also have corporate representatives who are easy to connect with that may have advice regarding alternative careers with their companies.
My advice is to educate yourself as much as possible about the alternatives you are seeking, dream big, and plan meticulously as you use the dental hygiene community as a large network of valuable connections. Attending the American Dental Hygienists’ Association annual meeting is also an important way to network with others doing exactly what you may wish to pursue.