Advice from Dental Hygienists

Words of Wisdom for CDHA Student Members

During our 40th birthday festivities for the month of November, we took time out to focus on the future of the dental hygiene profession—our student members. For the benefit of our students, we called upon CDHA's dental hygienists to share their advice, guidance, and tips for coping with the demands of school and for ensuring future career success. We received sage advice and words of wisdom from experienced dental hygienists across the country. Here is what they had to say:

Love what you do and be proud that you can make a difference in people's lives and change their outlook not only about their own oral health but their general health as well. Good Luck!"
- Melisa Stroh, RDH
Calgary, Alberta


After graduation, keep in touch with as many fellow students as you can. They will be a valuable resource to you in your career. There's nobody like a fellow classmate to understand what you are going through as you start your first job and get into the workforce. Your classmates will become an invaluable network of colleagues!"

- Christine Pierson, RDH
Coalhurst, Alberta


Studying to be a good dental hygienist is extremely important; providing optimum treatment and care to our clients is essential. Good luck!!"

- Christine Kopec, RDH
Medicine Hat, Alberta


Always strive to do the best you are able to do but remember to enjoy this time in your life. When the opportunity arises to have fun, take it, or when you reflect back, you will have regrets."

- Nancy Mar Hoffos, RDH
Olds, Alberta


My fondest memories from college days were the camaraderie of all of us. Our program was three years. We had a class of 20 and many of us would get together for study clubs. We would quiz each other sometimes through the night and up to the time of the exam. Things got easier as we went along. I really enjoyed the clinicals. Finding clents to work on was a challenge, but our parents and other family members often came to the rescue.

"Well, I graduated in April 1979 from John Abott College and moved to Fernie, British Columbia in May 1979. Twenty-five years have gone by too quickly. I have and am enjoying this profession immensely. Have seen a lot of changes over the years too... I am still employed four days a week in a dental office, and until recent cutbacks, worked in public health too. This profession has been good to me. I like making people feel better about their mouths which gives them an overall sense of well-being.

"Work hard, enjoy your time as a student, as the time passes too quickly, and the rewards of this profession will be forthcoming. Take care. Good luck."

- Jan Krawchuk, RDH
Fernie, British Columbia


Take the time to look at the big picture in your community. Connect with colleagues in other dental offices, the health unit, or nearby learning institutions. Working in public health I am constantly amazed at how many hygienists don't know the other hygienists in the other dental offices or don't know what public health dental hygienists can do for them and their clients. We are all in this together and the more you know, the more you grow."

- Linda Bourcet, RDH
Fort St. John, British Columbia


I graduated in June 2003 from Camosun College. The two years I spent at the college were great! Make friends with fellow classmates and find a study buddy. Share the work load and have time for fun. Keep focused on your goal and remember that you are all reaching for the same end point, to become a dental hygienist. Work together and you will be amazed at how fun and easy the program will become for you. Good luck to all of you."

- Jennifer Hart, RDH
Victoria, BC


Enjoy the process. Soon all the struggles will be behind you. You have chosen a wonderful profession that continues to be rewarding and interesting for years after graduation."

- Kimberly Rorstrom-Wittig, RDH
Prince George, British Columbia


I have been privileged to be a dental hygienist for four years. I can still remember those stressful days in dental hygiene school, but it was all worth it in the end. To all those students still in study mode, don't give up! Your education is preparing you for a rewarding career by giving you a foundation of knowledge to build upon. Once you graduate, the learning continues with all the different advancements in the field.

"One of the things that I encourage each student to do is to look after your physical, mental, and spiritual self. Dental hygiene can be a demanding career physically, and if we do not look after our bodies, all that scaling can begin to take a toll. Remember to do some stretching and muscle strengthening to help with posture. Also, do not hesitate to use resources that are available, such as massage, physical or athletic therapists, and chiropractors. These people can be great in helping to tailor an individual program to keep us healthy so we can continue to provide great ongoing service to our clients."

- Jason Skazyk, RDH
Winnipeg, Manitoba


I would definitely have to recommend getting disability insurance as soon as you begin to practice. When you graduate you might be broke and have some debts; this may cause you to postpone getting disability insurance. Do not put it off. You will always have other financial responsibilities. You may not get insurance thinking you are young and healthy and will do it later or you may simply forget about it. If you should ever suffer from a disability, it is a lifesaver. So get started with disability insurance right away. It is a very wise decision."

- Shelly Andrews, RDH
Winnipeg Manitoba


If you are a direct entry student without the experience of being a dental assistant, as a first year or a second year student with your national board exam looming in front of you, my advice to you would be to get out there and get as much experience as you can.

"By taking your downtime from classes or during the summer months between years, hook up with a dental office that would be willing to have you shadow everyone in the office. The dentist can offer you knowledge on procedures that the books can only describe, by showing you the stages of restorations, prosthetics, and extractions. The dental hygienist(s) can give you valuable hands-on client-to-operator techniques such as dealing with uncooperative children, health compromised clients, and oral hygiene instruction techniques that work to encourage compliance with homecare recommendations. The dental assistant(s) offer a wealth of information on radiographic techniques to open that tough contact, ordering procedures, and lab techniques, to mention a few. The receptionist also can aid in telephone etiquette, computer booking, and filing systems.

"You have so much to learn outside of school ‘book learning.’ By taking advantage of the visual learning, hands-on aspects of working within a dental office before you actually enter the workforce, gives you a decided advantage when preparing your resume and is a huge benefit when you actually sit down to write that board exam. You can use the personal experiences gained through your time in the office to better understand the case studies and to help ease your way into your own clientele once you graduate and get your registration.

"This advice comes firsthand as that is exactly what I did. The act of extending my learning through volunteering was key in helping me secure my first temporary position after graduation and that in turn led to my full-time employment. As a new grad myself in 2002, the more knowledge you have to pull from the better your answers are to your clients as well the higher level of respect you will gain from those you work with and work for. Good Luck in your future as a registered dental hygienist."

- Heather Britton, RDH
Carleton Place, Ontario


Dear Dental Hygiene Students:
You have chosen a wonderful profession."

- Ida Ryan, RDH
Ottawa, Ontario


Provide the best care and advice possible for your clients and remember that ultimately it is their decision as to what they do and it is not a reflection on you if they do not comply. Don't take home the stress of non-compliant clients. Just keep after them and some day it may click."

- Susan Jutai, RDH
Pembroke, Ontario


While it is natural to be a little nervous about this exam, I have noticed that students get COMPLETELY FREAKED OUT AND CRAZY over it. Please trust that your faculty will prepare you for the exam...listen to their reassurances and advice. They know what they are talking about! You do have to prepare, but a yoga class might be a better suggestion than counting up how many potential minutes you have available to study between now and the exam date."

- Sue Raynak, RDH
Thunder Bay, Ontario


Students, don't get overwhelmed by the demands of school... it's better in the real world! Also, there are numerous resources available to you—use them!

"While in school you are handed learning opportunities. Take feedback as a way to move forward not as a put down. It is the best time to gain the skills you will need. If you don't learn it in school you won't know what hit you in the real world!"

- Chana Posen, RDH
Toronto, Ontario


t is so very terrifying on your first day as a hygienist, but remember, you know what you are doing—otherwise you'd be in the other chair!"

- Maria Peragine, RDH
Whitby, Ontario


As a recent graduate my advice to dental hygiene students is not to rush the learning process. Don't worry about competing with other students. Work at your own pace and learn everything the ‘right way.’ It will make things easier when you go out into practice even if you may feel behind in school."

- Lana MacDonald, RDH
Windsor, Ontario