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6 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting My Dental Hygiene Career… In the Middle of a Pandemic

June 25, 2021
by Alana Munro, RDH

So that’s it! Board exams are done and passed, the stress of studying endlessly for weeks at a time is behind you, and you can finally celebrate the joys of being an educated professional. Any new career can cause a mix of emotions, as you are closing one door and boldly stepping into another; you are excited, nervous, and afraid of what obstacles may come next.

Throughout my first year as a working dental hygienist, I found myself making a mental note, a list of things I wish I had known before starting this new career. I kept saying to myself throughout the interviews, job offers, and first clients, “if only I had known… then it would be easier.”


Now, a year into my dental hygiene career, I think about these times that have shaped me into the hygienist I am today. After compiling my thoughts and experiences with those of numerous colleagues across Canada that were going through the same first year challenges during a time of uncertainty (Covid-19),  I am sharing 6 things every new grad should know before starting their dental hygiene career.

Think Long-term

“Begin with the end in mind.”- Stephen Covey

I know it sounds quite funny, but, once doing so, you will find that thinking long-term sets you on the road to success. Therefore, do your research before sending out resumes. Get an idea of what kind of office you want to work in—pediatrics, orthodontics, periodontics, or general practice. Do you want room to grow within the profession? Or better yet financially? Do the hours of operation work with your lifestyle? Does your personality mesh well with the workplace and its members? By preparing yourself with a list of needs for success for the interview process, you can enter each one feeling confident in what is being discussed and negotiated. Remember that they aren’t just interviewing you; use this time to also interview them.

Almost Everything is Negotiable

  You get what you ask for in this life. If you ask for nothing, you get nothing.”- Dr. Phil

When sending out resumes and waiting for the call backs, it can be tempting to hop on the first offer received. Now, in some rare cases, maybe that first offer ticks off all the boxes for your desired career; however, that is often not the case.

My advice for you is to know your worth! Do no accept an offer below median, just because it was the first one that came along.

According to NerdWallet, a survey showed that only 38 percent of recent graduates negotiated their salary upon receiving a job offer. I think it is safe to say that many new grads do not have the confidence or knowledge needed to secure the best offer. Be confident in what you are asking for; the fact of the matter is, many offices are willing and prepared to tweak a salary offer, benefits or other discussed aspects. With that said, go with grace and lead with thoughtful inquiries about things that matter most for your happiness and success.

The Most Beautiful Thing You Can Wear (aside from FIGS) is CONFIDENCE

“I am not afraid… I was born to do this.”- Joan of Arc

Patients will only have as much confidence in you as you have in yourself—it’s true. In the early weeks of my dental hygiene career, I would seldom mention the fact that I was new at the office, let alone new on the job. The occasional long-term patient would recognize a new face and eventually ask, but for the most part I was like any other hygienist I was working alongside. I noticed that because I lead with a confident mentality, it was a surprise to many when mentioned it was my first hygiene job. With confidence I found my groove and was able to adjust my schedule to fit my needs, and, of course, nothing sells confidence like a fresh set of pink figs.

Getting In The Groove

A new job is like a blank book, and you are the author.”- Unknown

It takes time to adjust.  You are no longer given one hour per quadrant like you had in school; instead, you are down to one hour per patient in the working field, and that is a hard transition. I want to encourage new graduates to take the initiative to go in a week or two before their start date (or better yet while you are still in school) to shadow; get all the practice you can in your new space, learn the flow of the office, where things are and how each appointment typically goes.

Don’t be shy to ask for buffer time between each patient. I found that by doing so, it gave me the ability to not feel as rushed and to provide my patients with the proper quality of care. You will soon realize that the learning is not over and has only just begun.

No Lunch Break? That Ain’t it Sis

“The willing horse is always overworked.”- Charles Darwin

Darwin said it right in one sense or another: the more you are willing to do, settle for, or willing to do without, you best believe you’re doing it. Unfortunately, it is an unethical trend that is seen in far too many offices across Canada. Little to no break in an 8-hour day shouldn’t be a norm that we allow in the dental community for any profession and yet it is still so common 30 years later.  Why is that? The answer is because we, as a body, allow it to happen. Often we justify it with “that’s just the way it is” when really, that’s NOT “the way it is.”

I believe as dental hygienists we do far too much mental and physical work to go without proper breaks or lunches. Unfortunately, very little attention has been given to the stressors of the job. Do not settle for anything less than you deserve. There are offices out there that have more flexible schedules and an understanding for the profession.

Making Money Moves

“ Get your wallet honey, this looks expensive.”- Irene Iancu

For many like myself, this was the first time I had a real paycheck in my hand—signed and addressed with my name on it.  I had a feeling of pure accomplishment. Like any other millennial my first thought was: “What can I buy? Where can I spend this money? And how fast?” My advice to you is to save, save, save. Adulting is expensive; between student loans, car payments and rent, you will soon realize how little is left over for fun. Ultimately, my advice to you is to treat yourself first, but modestly. Set a budget for your monthly expenses and know your limits.

I hope these little tidbits of advice can be of use to any students getting ready to graduate, going through the interview process, or even navigating your own new dental hygiene job. Keep on saving smiles.


  1. Helhoski, Anna. “How Do You Compare? Average Salaries by Age and Occupation.” NerdWallet, 5 May 2021, nerdwallet.com/article/loans/student-loans/average-salary-by-age.

About the Author

Alana Munro is a proud graduate of the Southern Ontario Dental College. As a working dental hygienist in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Alana strives to always provide her clients with the highest level of care, ensuring that each experience is stress free and relaxing.  With a millennial mentality, Alana is eager to share an inside look into this new chapter of life through her Instagram page.  Helping future hygienist navigate the trials and tribulations of school through quirky reels, motivational messages, and tips & tricks on how to save smiles. Check her out: IG @toothfluencer.

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4 Comments » for 6 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting My Dental Hygiene Career… In the Middle of a Pandemic
  1. Gread advice Alana. You entered into a challenging and uncertain time however a time full of opportunity; a time that will have strengthened you in so many ways. I have no doubt you will have a great impact on our profession!

  2. Lucci Brecevich says:

    Congratz Alana !!
    I know all that you wrote here was and is true for you. Is super thst you share with others in this difficult feild. Watching you struggle with studies, change schools and freinds and finally graduate was truley a feet to remember!! Yet the best was yet to come. Your full of suprises. Watching your move to another province , settle in during covid times, search for your perfect career position while bravily and sucessfully negotiate your desired pay rate and benefits was extreemly impressive !!!
    Your advice is great.
    Keep making plans.
    Keep chasing your dreams. &
    Keep sharing your life.
    And plzzz!.KEEP SAVING SMILES !
    With all your learned skills and wisdom you will go exactly were your heart desires.

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