Clinical dental hygiene: Is it the only way?

If you are enjoying clinical dental hygiene, great! If not, don’t despair. There are many career trajectories where you can use your education and experience, including starting your own business.Sarabeth Ballard, RDH 

When graduating from dental hygiene school, it’s hard to think about anything other than being a clinical dental hygienist. Many graduates are not aware of the various applications of their dental hygiene degree. While working in the career field of clinician, you learn to expand your clinical skills and grow into your occupation. In time, some hygienists suffer from burnout while working with patients; others want to push themselves to increase their knowledge. Both types of hygienists, however, may start looking for alternative options to clinical dental hygiene.

According to the ADHA, “The dental hygienist plays an integral role in assisting individuals and groups in achieving and maintaining optimal oral health. Dental hygienists provide educational, clinical, and consultative services to individuals and populations of all ages in a variety of settings and capacities.”1 There are many different fields where dental hygienists are needed, a few of which include clinical, corporate, public health, education, and entrepreneurial.

Also by the author … The truth about dental instrument sharpening 

Dental hygienists who choose to become entrepreneurs don’t always know where to start. They have a passion and an idea, but they don’t know how to become an advocate for themselves. There are multiple types of entrepreneurships: you could become a writer or a speaker; work in product development, sales, or business consulting; or create your own business.Many people in the hygiene profession are willing and excited to help other hygienists expand their scope of hygiene occupations. Even Google has a shortcut in how they think you should become a speaker: “Participate in your local Toastmasters Club, which offers a nurturing environment where you can gain confidence and skills while developing course content. Hone your training and speaking skills through hands-on workshops designed specifically for dental consultants and speakers.”2 Learning from a professional who is willing to give you a few tips may be the way to go.

Different options for dental hygiene careers may be discussed and promoted, but very few people discuss how to start a new business from scratch. They don’t talk about why investing in yourself can be so terrifying. Many people lack the self-confidence to believe they can be successful. The truth is, anyone can be successful, and there is no one you should want to invest in more than yourself.Starting a new business isn’t easy, but if you’re willing to put in the work, you can be successful.

Start with networking

Find your dental family and let them help you. It will surprise you how many people are willing and excited to help you succeed. Nothing will help you grow like the dental networking community. 

Promote yourself

Many dental hygienists struggle with this because of how they think it will look to other people. They’re afraid of being pushy or annoying. But if you don’t promote yourself, no one will. 

Run with it!

When you have a good idea, run with it. Don’t slow down; push it and grow it. Nurture the idea with other people and take suggestions. Focus on the idea and give it a chance to produce results. You must give 100% if you expect your idea to develop. 

Make it legal

While your business is beginning to mature, don’t forget to make it legal. Every state has online resources for individuals wanting to start their own business. Visit your state’s government website, and create a business name. Then, file for an LLC through the state to become a limited liability company. 

Speak to an accountant

From there, depending on your business, you’ll want to speak to an accountant to discuss tax laws and requirements. After you receive an Employer Identification Number (EIN), you’ll be able to open a business bank account. 

Make your name recognizable

Social media can be a curse or a helpful friend. People are always more comfortable with what they know. The more you get your name out there where people recognize it, the more comfortable they will be dealing with you in your business. Help them understand the importance of what you have to offer. They will see the value if you do. 

Establish goals

Make goals for yourself and stay organized! If you don’t set goals, there won’t be anything to strive toward or work for. Goals can help you recognize your milestones as you reach them. Sometimes success is hard to measure, especially when you are on the inside looking out.While you’re working, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the busyness you’ve created. Organization will be one of the major keys to achieving your goals. Keep your business paperwork stored neatly and systematized so you can go back and find things easily. Every business runs smoother if there is an orderly manner to the system. 

Believe in yourself

The most important piece of starting your own business is believing in yourself. Life will continue whether we pursue our dreams or not. As time passes, don’t stand still wondering “what if.” Invest in yourself, promote yourself, and push yourself to be the best you can be! You deserve to have your dreams and your goals.Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Through the Loupes newsletter, a publication of the Endeavor Business Media Dental Group. Read more articles and subscribe to Through the Loupes


  1. Professional roles of an RDH. American Dental Hygienists’ Association.
  2. How to become a dental hygienist speaker. Google search result.