Becoming a dental hygienist is a rewarding career that appeals to different people who are looking to serve their community, beautifying smiles one person at a time. Perhaps when you went into the field, you thought of how in hygiene school you were given two hours to assess your new patient thoroughly. But now, you’re given less than 45 minutes to do a full mouth debridement in the real world when you know this patient needs a little more TLC. Or, you may be a more seasoned hygienist who has watched policies change from being able to administer anesthesia, if you’re in Florida like me, to seeing the mass exodus of hygienists in our post Covid world. Now, you may find yourself working harder than before to supplement the hygiene decrease. In other words, that means the potential for burnout as the influx of demand versus supply rises in our dental offices. Well, how does one keep it all together while also maintaining integrity and sanity through it all?
Let’s look at some tips to understand how to decompress, tune in to our minds and still deliver the best care in spite of our odds.
Mindfulness is something that each hygienist must possess. His or her day is filled with patient assessments, x-rays, scaling while also recommending treatment, creating rapport, getting the patient prepped for the dentist and scheduling the next appointment. With so many open tabs in one’s mind, it may be no wonder why there is the feeling of being overwhelmed and drained. By practicing mindfulness, it’ll keep you in tune and aware of your surroundings to find peace in the day to day of your workday. One way you can practice mindfulness before your shift starts is just by going into your operatory and allowing yourself to visually absorb in your surroundings. It is as simple as having a seat in your clinician chair, making sure your feet are planted on the ground and observing your view. What are the things that you see? Or what are you smelling? How does sitting in your chair feel right now? Are you uncomfortable? An activity like this can be done in about 5-10 minutes, so you can do this right before your morning huddles or before clocking in for the day. Take the time to inhale and exhale a few times so that your body is not tense before you even touch your patient.
During appointments with your patients, we can all agree that our bodies are being flexed and contorted in different ways that aren’t always natural. Of course, those flexions and movements are for the benefit of the patient. At times, it can also be a hard to reach area that you’re just really trying to get to. Over time, this can leave tension in your body that may be long term. First thing in the morning before rushing to the shower, take 5 minutes to stretch. Start by standing up, raising both arms upwards as if you’re reaching towards the sky and then, you can bring your arms down and touch your toes. If there is any discomfort in those activities, those are great indicators of muscles that are tight. Some hygienists make it a priority to invest in a chiropractor or masseuse monthly to take care of their bodies. It is always worth it to invest into your well-being.
Other things such as fitness, journaling, aromatherapy, praying and other forms of focusing your thoughts can help to cultivate a healthier you for your practice. As a last tidbit, be sure to invest into yourself by utilizing hygiene equipment that will help to preserve your energy. Using magnification loupes or ergonomically handled handpieces can also help to reduce the strain and stress related to hygiene. In this modern, busy world there are many resources available to preserve you and increase your work longevity.