My name is Heather Crockett. I began my career in dentistry working for a terrible human. He laid instruments on his patients chest over their bibs and would scream at his assistants. That role wasn’t much for me, I used to be timid and scared to death. Another assistant helped me scoot over to the hygiene assisting in that office instead, for my sake, bless her angel heart. I was so grateful! Although, the hygienists probed super fast and I had to write all the depths down by hand (not to mention everything 4 mm and above we would write in red). I learned how to be quick in that office! Thankfully my time there ended within a couple of months time. The doctor sold the practice to a corporate business and since I and another girl were training to replace the main assistant, we were let go. The corporate company gave her the raise she wanted in order to have her stay on. Blessing in disguise. While I was heartbroken I was also given a gift. With my 2 months of barely any dental assisting experience I began a new search for another job. Enter Dr. H! Even with my braces, braided hair, and jumper dress (how embarrassing) he still hired me. Why? Because I brought scrubs with me and stayed to do an unplanned working interview shortly after my sit down meet with him. It impressed him I guess. I was 18 years old.
19 years later I am writing this spotlight for you. Why do I tell you this story? Because we have all been there. Defeated, rejected, and down. We always have what it takes to get back up! I worked for Dr. H for 9 years and don’t get to temp very often for him but when I do I love every minute. He is like my second dad and he taught me SO MUCH about dentistry. He is the reason why I went to hygiene school and why I am the person I get to be today. I graduated from UCDH in 2008 thanks to his influence. It only happened because I was determined to pick myself up and move on after being let go. I still work clinically 2 days a week in Draper and temp occasionally. I have dabbled in product ambassadorship, hygiene training, and now I am managing editor for a dental hygiene newsletter.
In my dental assisting years we had a patient come in for some restorative work. He had an obvious toupe’, always asked for nitrous, and was very eccentric. While the dr administered anesthetic I went in the lab to do some sterilization. When I returned his toupe’ was literally hanging by a hair coming off of his head (as he was laid back in the chair!). The dr brought it to the patients attention and the patient said “Oh my gosh! Don’t let Heather see!” I ran back to the lab to close the door and laughed so hard! Then I had to go assist for 90 minutes on the guy and couldn’t stop giggling under my mask! It was an obvious toupe’!!!! “Don’t let Heather see”… Oh my word.
Hygiene school was a crazy frenzy of ups and downs and all the emotions. In pharm class the Dr called me “smarty farty” one day and the nickname stuck. Pros and cons to a nickname like smarty farty… I failed my mock boards exam for WREB and was devastated. When I took the real thing I was shocked to learn I aced it. Failures lead to special doors being opened. I always picked myself up and moved on to make something bigger and greater happen.
I joined SADHA in hygiene school, ran for office but never made the cut! I still happily participated in all the activities and loved the volunteering aspect. Every year my husband would ask if I was going to renew my ADHA membership. He has finally stopped asking 11 years in! My favorite part about being a member is attending the component meetings (for no extra charge) and networking with fellow local hygienists. Ever since I graduated I have also taken part in the malpractice insurance offered through the ADHA’s affiliates, and because of that I have had peace of mind every time I see a difficult patient, give an injection, or temp in a new office. I highly encourage you to invite your colleagues to become members if they aren’t. With it comes a sense of pride. The emails, education, updates, and friends have all made it worth my time and money.
To all the recent grads out there, you made it through school! Dental hygiene school is by far the hardest thing I have accomplished in my life (and I have had 3 c-sections). Be proud but not a prima donna, be humble but not timid, be a hard working employee but not bossy, be assertive but not mean, and be willing to make some sacrifices so your patients will benefit. Hygiene is a long hard road but oh so worth it. If you get burnt out it’s ok, many of us have been there or are still working through it. Reach out! Network, go to local CE’s, join facebook groups with people who have things in common, listen to podcasts, sign up for email newsletters and check dental blogs. Remember, you made it through hygiene school, you can do anything!
My favorite part about being a dental hygienist? The relationships I make and the lives I touch. Not scraping calculus, not the OHI, not the paycheck, no. The people. Every time I move from one office to another my heart breaks a little for the patients I will probably never see again. My favorite part is being able to help someone, enrich their life somehow, listen. Now I have an amazing opportunity to share my experience with other dental hygienists through a newsletter. Hygiene isn’t just clinical (although that part is fun) we can help each other in other roles too!