Why I Love Being a Clinical Dental Hygienist

We are so lucky to have Sharon Coombs, RDH, BSDH reflects on why she loves dental hygiene for our Hygiene Edge Blog! We love dental hygiene and love hearing how the profession has changed people's lives! Thank you so much Sharon! 

My name is Sharon Coombs and I have been a clinical dental hygienist for four and a half years.  

My dad is a dentist and growing up I spent a lot of time in his office doing odd jobs.  When I was about 15 years old his hygienist needed a little bit of help while recuperating from a surgery, so he asked me to come in after school to help out a little bit. I began to train in the office to be a dental assistant and I found that I really enjoyed seeing patients every six months and feeling like I somehow made their lives better.  

My choice to be a part of the health field was definite when I had a life changing experience interning as a CNA at the LDS hospital in Salt Lake City in the post op ward.  There was an elderly woman who was NPO (nothing through the mouth). I remember being in her room when she asked me to take a sponge and just wet her mouth down a little bit. It doesn’t seem like an epiphany moment, but at that moment I realized that I was doing something for this woman that she could not do herself. I went home that day determined to be a part of the medical field and serve my patients in order to improve their lives. 

I have chosen to practice dental hygiene in the clinical field because it is in the clinic that I can treat patients and see the difference oral health has made in their lives. I love being able to teach my patients how to take better care of themselves, starting with their teeth and mouth. In the office, there is nothing more exciting than a patient coming in for their continued care appointments and being able to measure their improvement.  In contrast, it can also be very disappointing when things are getting worse, but that is when I get to continue to educate and help them to realize why they need to take charge of their health.  

Another reason I have chosen to work as a clinical hygienist is the benefit of having my own schedule. As of now, my full-time job is taking care of my two little girls. I tell my patients that I come to the office on my day off.  I enjoy being able to take a break for a day and talk with adults about a subject I am passionate about. I work in the office only two full days a month, but occasionally pick up days temping for other hygienists or coming in for an hour or two if a patient needs urgent care. I love the flexibility of creating my own schedule because I know that, right now, my girls need me at home with them. I am grateful that I can work with a dentist that is willing to work with a schedule that I feel is best for me.  I plan to pick up more hours/days once they are in school, but for now, this works perfectly for our family.  

I love the continuing education courses available to us.  I feel that as hygienists we are the face of the office and patients have the first opportunity to get to know the office through us. As such, we have the responsibility to create a relationship of trust from the very beginning.  Patients trust our opinions and should always feel that we will help them to receive the best care possible, and help them make the difficult decisions that are often related to dental care.  In order to do so we must be educated and up on all things “dental.”

My dad used to ask me if I would ever consider going to dental school, and after 4 years of practicing dental hygiene I can answer him with a resounding “No!”. I love the diagnostic, restorative and surgical sides of dentistry, but I love being able to take time treating my patients and really getting to know them. Our office gets very busy at times, but I feel that the (ideally!) 50 minutes I get with each patient can make or break their experience in our office. I always try to make them feel like there is no other patient in the office but them.  I always hope that they leave feeling like they had my full attention for the entire length of the appointment. I enjoy getting to know each person that sits in my chair. I love having time to converse with them and really figure out what works best for their individual home oral health care.

I love, love, LOVE dental hygiene!!  This is the perfect career for me and my family.  I love walking into the office each time I work and feeling the familiarity of it all. The people I meet, treat, and work with make being a dental hygienist so much fun. I enjoy the continued education courses because you can never have enough learning. The people, the schedule and the further education makes dental hygiene MY career choice and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sharon has been practicing Dental Hygiene for 4.5 years in Utah. She began working in her office when she was 15 years old as an odd job helper. In her spare time, Sharon loves to be with her family, husband, and 2 girls, as well as cook and try new recipes.