What I Learned From Taking Clinical Boards Years After Graduating

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Earlier this year, my husband David was looking for a new job. He’s in marketing, and was interviewing all over the states. After he was considering a job in New York, I had a little panic attack about moving and not being able to practice because of my boards credentials. So, I decided to sign up to take the CDCS board exam 8 years after graduating hygiene school. And I’m not going to lie, I was nervous. I feel comfortable with my scaling abilities, but the paperwork, having a qualified patient and organizing everything made it a little overwhelming. Here are a few things I learned with this experience:

1.    Read the Candidate Guide multiple times. I know that seems so simple, but read it! Three or four times even. It tells you everything you need to know, like patient arrival time, paperwork needed, and instrument requirements. Knowing all this before the exam definitely helped decrease stress on the day of since I knew exactly what was expected.

2.    Know the grading scale. Every exam grades differently. Some have an assessment aspect, some have higher point values for calculus errors, some take points of for time. Know exactly what you’re going to be graded on for your specific test so you aren’t worried about something day of that won’t effect your overall score.

3.    Come prepared. If you can, bring an extra set of scalers. Most schools will have extra instruments that you can loan. If you’re planning on this, bring a sharpening stone since you never know how sharp they will be. It does take time away from your exam if you drop an instrument, so ask before the exam starts to have some close to you just in case something happens.

4.    Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The floor monitor and site employees are there to help! They can answer your questions about anything from paperwork to patient requirements. This isn’t the first time someone has asked them a question and, honestly, you’ll probably never see them again, so ask away!

5.    Ask your colleagues. Before my exam, I didn’t know anyone who had taken CDCS before. That definitely made me nervous since I didn’t have anyone guiding me through the process. I was able to reach out on some of my local dental hygiene groups, and so many people responded with support. I had hygienists who took the test within the last year go over my selection, walk me through the check in and check out process, answered some paperwork questions I had. Another reason why I love dental hygiene- we are all in this together!

6.    Use all the time if you need it. In practice, we never get 2 hours to complete one quadrant of periodontal debridement. However, using the full 2 hours was so helpful! I was able to take my time, explore tooth by tooth, and chat with my patient about post op instructions and home care. Letting myself take the entire time made it less stressful.

If you’re thinking of taking clinical boards long after graduation, you can do it! It will definitely be a little stressful, but you will push yourself and grow in a new way. Hygienists are smart and resilient and you are no different. Good luck!


If you have questions about clinical boards, please email us! We’d love to help. hygieneedge@gmail.com


Did you take boards years after hygiene school? What was your experience? What did you learn?

Start Early to Save for Retirement

Hygiene Edge

Thank you to James Jolley for great retirement information for hygienists!


It’s never too early to start saving for retirement.  The sooner you can start saving for retirement the longer your hard earned money has the ability to compound.  Even if it’s as little as $50/month you could see the rewards pay off in retirement.

To demonstrate how your money can compound over time here is a hypothetical story of two hygienists named Georgia and Sienna.  These two friends are recent college graduates who are both working for practices that do not offer a retirement plan for their dental professionals.  They both decide that they will need to add to their retirements on their own but choose to at different times in their life.  For this scenario they will both earn a consistent 5% on their investments.  They will be putting their money into a tax-advantaged account such as a Traditional or Roth IRA.

Georgia’s story

Georgia has always believed that you should “pay yourself first” and to save at least 10% of her earnings.  Georgia is 23, employed, and has decided to open an IRA and to start contributing.  Georgia is planning to invest $5,500 a year in this IRA for the next 10 years (for a total of $55,000).  After that time, Georgia will not make any further contributions to her IRA.

Sienna’s Story

Sienna, on the other hand plans to wait until the age of 45 to begin savings for her retirement.  She plans to add $5,500 each year until she reaches the age of 65.  The total investment over the 21 years equates to a $115,500 investment.

Both are now 65 and ready to retire.  So which one is more ready for retirement?  Sienna’s $115,500 IRA is now worth $206,278.  Georgia’s $55,000 IRA has a value of $363,418 a difference of $157,140 and that is investing $60,000 less than Sienna!!!

Time and the power of tax-deferred compounding proved to be a benefit for Georgia.  Traditional and Roth IRA’s are great tools to start putting money away for retirement.  As a refresher, Traditional IRA’s are not taxed until you begin taking distributions.  Roth IRA provide tax-free distribution as long as the account has been opened more than five years and the owner is over 59 ½.  By investing your earnings in a Roth or Traditional IRA it allows you to potentially accumulate retirement savings faster than a general account where taxes would be charged annually on earnings.

No matter your age, I’d suggest to start putting money aside as soon as you can into a tax-advantaged account.  As I have shown in this scenario, the time value of money is an important aspect in reaching your retirement goals. 


James Jolley

James Jolley is a Financial Advisor for Wells Fargo Advisors in Salt Lake City, Utah providing retirement planning for medical professionals.  He can be reached at 800.662.3733 or by email at james.jolley@wellsfargoadvisors.com.  

Wells Fargo Advisors is not a tax or legal advisor.

Traditional IRA distributions are taxed as ordinary income. Qualified Roth IRA distributions are not subject to state and local taxation in most states. Qualified Roth IRA distributions are also federally tax-free provided a Roth account has been open for at least five years and the owner has reached age 59 ½ or meet other requirements. Both may be subject to a 10% Federal tax penalty if distributions are taken prior to age 59½.

The opinions expressed here reflect the judgment of the author as of the date of the report and are subject to change without notice. The material has been prepared or is distributed solely for information purposes and is not a solicitation or an offer to buy any security or instrument or to participate in any trading strategy. Additional information is available upon request.

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How To Find Patients In Dental Hygiene School Student Essay Winner

How To Find Patients In Dental Hygiene School Student Essay Winner

Congrats to Ashley Stroupe, the winner of our student essay contest, for writing the amazing article below on how to find patients in dental hygiene school. She wins a  national boards study program from StudentRDH.com, being published here on Hygiene Edge and $100. Also, she and ALL of those who submitted an article receive our, "Tips To Passing Clinical Boards," book because we love you!

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Dental Toys for the Young and Old

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1. Hu Friedy Nevi Plush

Unfortunately, these cute Nevi Scalers can't be purchased. Hu Friedy does do regular giveaways from them on their social media accounts and they give them out at events like RDH Under One Roof. If you order Hu Friedy instruments, ask your rep about them and they could maybe find a way for you to get your own.

2. Lilac Paper Company Tooth Fairy Plush

This cute little plush is perfect for gifts with little ones. On the back, it has a little pocket to place primary teeth for the Tooth Fairy to find. They only a few days days left on their Kickstarter, so if you want your own, go check it out and support today! They have lots of other great gift ideas on their website as well.

3. Ikea Toothbrush Plush

I mean, how can you NOT want an amazing giant toothbrush plush? One of my personal favorites, as well as my daughters.

4. Smilemakers Tooth Toy Set

With giveaways like tooth sunglasses, a tooth fairy tiara, and a tooth shaped stress ball, any dental profession would want one of each for themselves as well as their kids, nieces, nephews, neighbors, etc. Is it bad to order this set for Halloween to give to trick or treaters?

5. I Heart Guts Tooth Plush

So cute wisdom tooth that isn't super "cutesy" like a lot of dental products. They also have other amazing organs which would be perfect for friends or patients going through other medical procedures.