Career Spotlight is our new monthly feature where we interview someone in the Calgary community about their line of work. This month’s spotlight is on Dental Hygiene, and we talk to Mona T. about her work as a hygienist.

Dental HygienistQ: How did you get into this career?

I’ve been doing this since 1970. I wouldn’t have known it existed except my Uncle was a dentist and he talked me into it. I had nice teeth and took pride in them, so I thought I’d fit right in! I was also skilled with my hands and liked the idea of using them as part of my career. I might have gone into dentistry with a little encouragement but a lot of women didn’t do that then.

Q. What do you like/dislike about this career?

I like that this work allows my perfectionistic nature to shine. I take pride in my work and in doing a good job. I’m also a “people person” and I get to build strong connections with my clients. I’m a good listener and I’m empathetic.

The one thing I don’t like about this career is that there are no benefits in most dental offices, and raises don’t happen very often in my experience. As well, I’ve had to deal with some toxic workplaces over the years and nothing is done by management to address it.

Q. Can you describe a typical day in this career?

My day typically starts at 7:30am and I see patients on the hour. It’s steady and can be difficult to stay on time. Because clients are back to back, there’s often no time for bathroom breaks. Sometimes if I’m running late I have to work into my lunch break. When it’s busy, it’s hard work but I enjoy educating patients on proper oral hygiene and helping patients be preventative with cleaning and fluoride application.

Q. Would you recommend this career to someone starting out or switching careers?

This can be a tough career to get ahead financially if you are a single income earner. It costs me $800 in fees a year to maintain my license, and I often have to take holidays (sometimes unpaid) when my boss does. Unless you find a practice that has benefits in place with a pension plan, it can be challenging to financially plan for retirement.

Q. What training/education would you recommend?

If you do choose to pursue this career, be sure to choose your dental hygiene program carefully. Make sure it’s a university degree.

Q. What’s your favourite part about your job?

The people. You get to see patients over long periods of time and through changes in their life. I’ve seen many of my patients and their kids, who are now grown up adults with lives of their own. I’ve made some good friends and love being a part of my patients’ lives.

Bryanne Manveiler
Registered Provisional Psychologist
Calgary Career Counselling