Over Dental Hygiene

I graduated hygiene school with such high hopes and delusions about my future. I couldn't wait to get to work and start making what I thought was a great paycheck. My first few jobs were pretty good, but the recurring theme is no paid time off (no sick pay, no health insurance, retirement, etc). I did find a job in a NQHC and thought this is it! This is going to be great! Well, it was a nightmare. Five days a week of killing my body on difficult patients with zero support from the dentist. This NQHC was the most disorganized place I had ever worked in my life. Employees were viewed by admin and the COO as disposable commodities (even physicians). Needless to say the turnover rate is very high. This was the first run at them getting into dental care. The dentist herself was overwhelmed and chaotic in her work. I could never go to her for any assistance or guidance or anesthetic for pt care. As you can imagine I had many patients who were untreatable without anesthetic. I even had a few who could not tolerate the rubber cup for polishing. I was literally abandoned in my work and left to struggle on my own entirely. Patients would bring extra persons with them to appts, I truly HATE having an audience. I also found that I hate that open clinic where people just move about freely, no privacy whatsoever. Patients would bring toddlers who would run amok and then stand with their face inches from my patients mouth while I am about to begin scaling. Ok, I am sorry but I cannot provide child care nor should I have to. I have enough to deal with trying to handle my patients. One instance I had a 13yo in my chair, the asst brings Mom and the younger sibling over to my room (yay..I just love an unnecessary audience) and the younger sibling proceeds to shove my patient as I am working in her mouth! Unbeleivable!!! Then my patient is trying to shove back. Mom is completely useless with these girls. I went to the dentist later and her reponse was, "thats your deal". Really??? Whose deal would it be if someone was scratched with a scaler? Someone other than the patient? My operatory was also an ergonomic nightmare. It has the cabinetry in the back...so I literally had to fight and twist my back to try to get anywhere close to the 12 o clock position to work and I am a slim woman! The chair did not recline enough to allow proper positioning for ergonomics for me. Then again I had so many aggravating pts who would not allow the chair to recline enough to make it moderately easy for me to work. I had a girl high on drugs one day. The dentist could hear everything I was dealing with in my room as she sat in her office. Never helped me. After I finish up with the high girl who stole items out of the medical rooms and was trespassed. the lovely dentist tells me "you could have refused to see her". Well that information could have been helpful AN HOUR AGO! Then a had a guy with a street gold grille on his anteriors. Drs note says she wants him to have a good cleaning then she plans on working on making the margins on this grille fit him better. SO I clean him up. I didnt polish the grille for concern of the finish. But he became belligerant after going out to the waiting room and examining his gold saying "you scratched my gold...i paid $200 a tooth for this gold...." dentist would not see him or speak to him. TOld me it was impossible to scratch it. We had to call the cops on him. The dentist was a backstabber. I could go on and on. The crazy iones who refuse to swallow their own saliva, after only an xray. I can't believe the coddling thses ppl expect. I have no tolerance for it anymore. I told one lady that she could swallow her saliva, that I have done it all my life when I was in the dental chair and I am still alive to tell it. After this place and the abuse I never want to return to dental hygiene. I dont. We abuse our bodies for what? We get no benefits, no paid time off, no sick pay, no retirement and what we do get is a HIGH likelihood of disability. Then no one will be there for us. If we have ten minutes without a patient someone is having a fit. We cant have a break like people in other jobs. I want to be able to have a coffee break without someone breathing down my neck that I am not with a patient. The entire dental staff has left. Some by choice and some were let go. I am so relieved to not be there anymore and I have no desire to practice hygiene again. I don't know what I will be doing. I almost think assisting an Endodontist would not be bad, at least you are not stuck ALONE with difficult patients.
sickofdental sickofdental
36-40, F
3 Responses Sep 6, 2012

Dear sickofdental,...I feel you sister. Especially the abandonment we feel and the demand that every single minute of our time be used...unrealistic, if you are competent enough to manage your time well then you are suspect...everyone thinks we make so much money and forgets how long it took us to get our education and that we were taught that our jobs would be challenging but just not that we would be pissed on by the people who's pockets we line. I wish I could hug you right now because I understand the frustration and feeling like there is no place to turn. we'd make a career change but to what? I don't have an answer but I wanted to reach out to you however, you already know you aren't alone....be good to yourself!

I just found your post and I have to say it was amazing! I swear every thing you said was exactly everything I have been complaining about for 10 years now! I hate dental hygiene with a passion but feel so trapped because at this point I have no other skills. I often blame my job for causing me to suffer from depression but still can't find the strength to walk away. I could go on and on but I'm sure you know that! Lol my question to you is where did you go after you finally took that brave step of quitting? I've been racking my brain on what to consider as my next career adventure. It's not that I'm not willing to do the work, I'm even considering going back to school but just have no idea what path to take. Thank you for your post, it's nice to know I'm not the only hygienist that feels this way. I can never figure out how the hygienists out there claim to love their job! It's horrible! Anyway I hope everything worked out for you, that would give me hope!!

I am currently working front desk. Still over dentistry altogether. Hoping adding more admin skills to my résumé will help me make my way out of the field entirely. The office is very draining we work late hours and some Saturdays also dr always has some marketing event to go to. Needless to say I hate it. I want to get home before 7pm. That's one reason I chose dental.

Also front desk is always "blamed" for everything that goes wrong and being responsible for things patients themselves as grown adult people should be capable of doing(I.e. providing ins info, obtaining their X-rays) I could go on and on. Essentially my goal/hope is to be in an admin position preferably for a city within the year. Dental could only be tolerable on a part time basis. But considering the instability lack of true benefits sick and vacation pay I want OUT.

I know some hygienists go into dental supplies sales. With your knowledge of all that is dental i think it can be very lucrative. Another thing to think about is public health hygiene and also research.
Life is too short to continue to do what you hate. Be brave!! You have all kinds of great skills!! Find a place where they can be used and valued. You deserve to be happy.

Sadly most dentists will NOT hire a RDH to work as an assistant. There are very few RDH jobs in my area so I have applied for countless DA jobs with 0 calls for an interview. I think when they see that I am a RDH they assume I will not want to work as a DA seriously and will find a RDH quickly and quit. So you might have a terrible time finding DA work. Also DAs have bad experiences too in some offices.
I am so sorry to hear about all your problems. I completely understand. I had high hopes too. I had no idea benefits are unheard of in RDH and that there are so few jobs now for us. I am trying to get out of RDH because I can't support myself after 4 years of looking for work!