Stop Using the “F” Word.

by Irene M. Iancu, BSc, RRDH, CTDP, OM


If your dental fairy godmother popped out of your compressor room tomorrow and granted you three dental hygiene-related wishes, what would they be? New instruments? An air-polishing device? Paid vacation time? Let’s assume the fairy godmother doesn’t exist, but those needs are still very significant to you. What would you do for them? Or would you simply use the F word and move on with your day?

To be clear, that F word is fine. “Oh, it’s fine; my scalers are only slightly worn down.” “It’s fine; I’ll do what I can with what I have.” It’s fine; I’ll continue to be underpaid because my boss is laid-back and doesn’t ask much of me.” Punch in, punch out, and go home to immediately Google, “What jobs can I get with dental hygiene credentials that remove me from direct patient care?”

In this issue of Oral Hygiene, you’ll learn practical techniques to incorporate technology to make the most of your appointments. You’ll read about strategies to align your team to follow the same playbook, morning huddles, protocols, and documentation. You’ll recognize that now, more than ever, in the history of dental hygiene, we are living in the highest-demand job market since I graduated in 2007.

This is your chance to stop using the F word throughout your day. Now is the opportunity to interview the office you wish to join and to list the requirements you expect to incorporate into your ultimate patient care routine. Now is the time to regain and reignite the fire you once had for nonsurgical periodontal therapy. Now is the time to challenge yourself, your skills, and the technology available.

If I were a potential client, Irene, the RRDH, would be thrilled to interview a team member with a list of questions that include what-ifs and specific asks – particularly the desire to have innovative technology available to deliver the ultimate patient experience.

To attract a qualified candidate like you, Irene, the practice owner, knows that you must work hard, enjoy your career, remain motivated, and treat clients with the highest level of care. I must continue to step up my game, show up daily, and lead by example. I need to provide for my team the same way I provide for my family and my Toy Poodle, Lou, who deserves only the highest quality kibbles.

I worked in practice for seven years without getting a raise. When I finally did, it was one dollar. That doesn’t even cover the added guacamole on nachos at Chipotle. I cried, accepted it, returned to work, and resented what happened but said, “It’s fine; (insert excuse here).”

I was fired years later from practice because I challenged internal systems and changed how I completed my chart notes. My charting style took up too many lines in our paper charts and was unacceptable for my then-employer. Unfortunately, there is no unique formula for success or finding your dream dental practice to call home. But, even so, you should listen to your inner voice, follow your intuition, and try to do your best for the health of your patients and their loved ones.

Take your time, do your research, write your list, and know that just because there isn’t a fairy godmother living in the cold and wet depths of our compressor rooms, you still have the power to speak for your future self to create the life, practice, and profession you choose.

Identify the problems, discuss the consequences, and be part of the solution. And remember, stop using the word fine and prepare for those tough conversations.

About the Author

Irene is an RRDH and entrepreneur who has expanded her scope of practice in Orthodontics, Restorative Dental Hygiene, Myofunctional Therapy, and advanced periodontal therapy. Her dental practice, Toothlife Studio, celebrated two years in Aug of 2022, where Irene and her team of 10 provide cutting-edge dentistry. Irene’s goals are to create a positive environment for team members and to create a fun and engaging dental experience for new patients. Her favourite things to do when not working on teeth: Irene hosts a popular dental podcast (Tooth or Dare), writes for various publications and has an incredible community on social media on her @Toothlife.Irene and @Toothlife pages. Joined with fellow like-minded dental professionals eager to learn, share and save the world one tooth at a time.