I Have Had This Problem...

I have had this problem. Some of you might find this scenario familiar.  My first patient gets an alert, cheerful, hygienist that does cancer screenings, blood pressure, excellent radiographs and OHI that includes handouts.  As the day goes on the schedule gets tricky, I might get behind, I get tired and feel like I’m in a crisis state, barely keeping my head above the water. Blood pressure happens only if a pop up says I need to take it and OHI instruction becomes a quick “pay a little extra attention to brushing your gum line.”   

I guess I thought every hygienist started out like fire and then fizzled out as the day went on.  That was until I worked with a hygienist named Ishalynn. She seemed to give every patient the same high standard of care.  It didn’t matter how late the doctor ran, how crazy the schedule got or if it was her last patient. Every patient was treated like the first. 

At first, I thought it was just her and that she was some anomaly of a hygienist.  From closer observation, I found that Ishalynn makes a deliberate effort to sustain her energy.  After every patient, she takes a minute to catch her breath and drink some water. (She keeps a water bottle in a cupboard in her operatory).  It doesn’t matter how crazy the schedule gets, she knows her one-minute break will get her grounded and thinking clear.  I, on the other hand, have gone all day without any water as I rushed from one patient to the next.

I observed how Ishalynn protects her lunch breaks and lets the office manager know that scheduling emergencies through her lunch is not the best for her and for the office. This is sometimes unusual in dentistry where it is expected to work through lunch (or stand and scarf before the next patient comes).  She seemed less tired having had her break. 

Speaking of tired, does anyone else find it interesting how tired hygiene can make you?  It is not exactly the most physical job out there (I wore a pedometer once and I think I got less than 2000 steps all day).   But dental hygiene takes a lot of focus; which uses a substantial amount of glucose. 

Once, there was a study preformed on Judges.  They found after their midmorning snack the judges would grant parole to a whopping 65 percent of prisoners.  It would drop down to zero before lunch.  After lunch 65 percent of prisoners were granted parole.

It seems when we don’t refuel our body, we don’t have the glucose we need to make clear decisions.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a dentist and hygienist (myself included) work through lunch with the distorted view their sacrifice was demonstrating dedication to patients and the office. In all actuality, the patients are getting subpar care and the clinician is less effective and productive.

In conclusion:



I asked Lauren Fowler from the blog Mindful Meals to make the ideal meal plan for hygienist to sustain energy. This is what she suggests:

The key is to having a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats in your meals for sustained energy for your body and brain throughout the day. Having fruits and veggies will also provide antioxidants and fiber.


- Eggs, veggies, avocado, and fruit - Saute some veggies like peppers, onions, or mushrooms with scrambled eggs. Top with avocado. Add a side of fruit. The protein, healthy fats, and fiber in the meal will create sustainable energy and keep you satisfied longer.

- Smoothies with protein and/or healthy fats. Having a smoothie with fruit, as well as protein and healthy fats is a great, easy and convenient breakfast or snack idea. Adding greens will also boost the fiber and antioxidant content. One of my favorites is banana, almond butter, handful of spinach, almond milk, and hemp seeds. Using ingredients like a nut butter, chia, hemp, or flaxseeds, a good quality protein powder, or unsweetened coconut products are great additions.

- Avocado on whole grain toast and a hardboiled egg. Smash avocado on 1-2 slices of toast, using the avocado as a spread.


- Soup or chili. These are great to cook up a big batch for the week and bring in for lunches. Some of my favorites are sweet potato black bean chili or a butternut squash coconut soup (I like to top this with pumpkin seeds).

 - Salads. Having a big green salad with veggies, a protein like hardboiled eggs, chickpeas, chicken, or tofu, and a fat like a olive oil salad dressing or avocado. You could also top it with some raisins or nuts/seeds.

 - Mexican Bowls. Make a bowl with brown rice or quinoa, black beans, sauteed peppers and onions, avocado, and salsa. You can make a batch of these at the beginning of the week for lunches, and vary the veggies or protein you want to add. 


- Carrots/peppers or whole grain crackers + Hummus - I like Mary's Gone Crackers brand

- Hardboiled egg

- Piece of fruit

- Trail mix with nuts/seeds and dried fruit - Trader Joe's has bunch of them, or you can make your own. 

- Smoothie

- Energy Balls (homemade) - There are a bunch of recipes here, and these are great when you're in a rush for time to pack a few of these for the day and grab one in between patients. My favorite store-bought bars are Kind and Larabars as well.

The key really comes in preparing for the week by making food ahead of time to pack for lunches and snacks, as well as making time for breakfast in the morning. Then, it's about reminding yourself that taking time for lunch or a quick snack helps re-energize you, so you have the energy to give your best to patients throughout the day too.