"Why study dental hygiene?"
"Why don't you just go into dentistry?
"Isn't dental hygiene just all about cleaning teeth?"
I've heard these statements many times when I tell people I study dental hygiene. I just get tired of hearing it. I also get tired of explaining what the profession of dental hygiene is all about. I think people have this stereotype about dental hygiene and dental hygienist. They tend to believe a dental hygienist is just the dentist's assistant.
Having the opportunity to work in my school's dental clinic, I see a lot of people, both patients and dental students, have this misconception of what dental hygiene is all about. There is so much work that goes into a dental hygiene besides just cleaning teeth. I am going to school to get a bachelor's in the science of dental hygiene. I am taking various science and dental related classes. I am working my butt off just to get by and you all think I am getting a degree in "cleaning teeth".
People that study dental hygiene are taught to be the front line defense of protecting their patient's oral health. We are the first people you're going to see before you see the actual dentist. We make sure that your oral health is in check and if not, we make changes to improve your oral health. With my patients, I check blood pressure, I do a head and neck exam, I do health history and etc. all before I actually do the cleaning or also known as prophylaxis. Your mouth is part of your body. If your oral health is bad then the rest of your body's health will go bad too. Our job is to prevent that.
When people tell me I should just study dental, I want smack them in the face. I wanted to get that hands on experience early so that's why I love dental hygiene. Being able to work with patients during my second undergrad semester of my sophomore year is better than waiting my third year in dental school to see my very first patient. That's six years of waiting; no thank you.
I want people to educate themselves about what dental hygiene is all about and what your dental hygienist does. By educating then you respect the profession and the field of study.