Why Independent Hygiene?
I recently gave my two weeks notice to a dentist that I had been working with. When I explained my vision of owning my own practice…he sort of scratched his head and went….”HUH? I don't understand! Why would you want to own your own practice?”
I have come across both dentists and dental hygienists wondering the same thing. Why would you ever want the headache of owning your own practice? However, I am in my third week and I have found my place…..after ten years I have found it!
My love for people and serving people began at a young age. I wanted to be a nurse after I helped my sister (who was scared to death) to dissect her worm for her science class. I carved the little worm and was so intrigued by what was inside. It was fascinating! My love for all things science took me through my college years as I wanted to pursue a degree in Nursing. After years on a wait list and moving on with marriage and kids…nursing was not where I ended up…but followed a career after my sister who is also a hygienist. Yes the same one scared to death to dissect her worm!
Starting off in public health and then transitioning to private practice was a great avenue. I learned dental Spanish, learned the various cultures and backgrounds and then swung the pendulum to high end cosmetic dentistry. Seeing both worlds gave me a great perspective. The pendulum now has swung to the middle where we serve ALL.
Owning my own practice was a definite leap of faith. Or a dive off a long narrow cliff, the one where you hope a tree limb will save you as you slide down the mountainess rocks. Will patients' come through the doors? I just dropped how much in dental equipment? Another Medicaid patient just cancelled…again for the fourth time?
However daunting the obstacles may seem, it was a dream to provide care to others and to help them get to a place of health and well-being. For me it isn't a job, or a career, or just “cleaning another set of teeth”, it's about meeting the practical needs of others.
Owning your own practice has it's definite advantages. New equipment…I chose to start with brand new equipment, and had my office fully equipped by Patterson. I sat back and watched as a team of professionals literally configured an office into a practical work space. I no longer had to wait until the budget was set by the higher ups to determine when and if I needed new instruments, the right size gloves, a new chair…or a lab coat without stains!
My own time schedule. If a patient calls and says, “I need my teeth cleaned at six in the morning”, I can say yes or no. I am able to be flexible working around people's schedules and time frames.
How I practice. I feel very comfortable making a treatment plan, and being very honest about the condition of one's health. So it is important for me to be able to confidently approach and broach what is needed. Diagnosing is an important part of being able to provide that service.
Providing a standard of care. Call me crazy, but I want to provide the best care that I can, so every patient is seen individually in our practice. I pray every day for the person I am going to be seeing in my chair! Their needs differ, their values differ, their cultures differ, so being aware of the variety of people we see is critical. It is important that each person is treated and valued as an individual. That being said, each person receives the same standard of care. That standard of care includes assessments at each visit. Blood pressure, thyroid cancer check, oral cancer screenings, mood, behavior, stress, risk factors, diet are all evaluated at each visit.
The medical model of hygiene. No longer should you just be getting “your teeth cleaned” and talking with your hygienist about the recipes on food network. In many ways we are having to pull the medical model into our practices and being very aware that we are always on the threshold of disease vs health. Because of how intricate our bodies are, our mouths often paint the first picture of health for us. It is the gateway to the system and as hygienists' it really does tell a story. Stress, diabetes, thyroid (especially hypothyroid), hepatitis C, and autoimmune diseases can be seen as precursors in the mouth.
Meeting the needs of the community. In private practice or even in corporate dentistry there are few opportunities to really make a difference where you live. We plan on giving 10% back to the community - in pro-bono work, and direct funding to United Way, The Weld Food Bank, The American Cancer Society, Women2Women and more.
There are many reasons I am an independent hygienist, but outlined here are just a few of the opportunities. I am excited to work toward making my community a better place to live…even if it is one tooth at a time.
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