Happy 4th of July! While I wish I had a long weekend to spend after today, I am going back to work tomorrow. This morning I woke up finding myself unable to sleep in, it’s obviously my day off. I had thought about doing my usual day off routine: make coffee, maybe go to Soulcycle, and try and stay productive to maximize my day off. I work in the dental office 5 days a week, sometimes 1 extra Saturday a month, and if I’m lucky, get called out of town to do a speaking engagement.
I decided to pick up my tennis gear this morning and be outside despite the heat and humidity. I wanted to challenge myself and start changing because I got sick of the feeling of being burnt out. I wanted the release of it. So why not just take it out on a stationary wall and a poor tennis ball. It was therapeutic. I have tried many things to relieve myself of work stress: cooking, long distance running, going to the shooting range, Soulcycle. They helped, but I forgot that tennis was my first form of therapy when I started playing in high school. It also kept me in good shape. I regret not keeping it up.
To everyone outside of dentistry, dental hygiene seems like an easy job. It’s not. Prior to our eligibility for licensure, dental hygienists endure an intensive 2-3 (sometimes 4) years of lectures and clinical, which neither are easy. The biggest relief we get after that point is when we passed both our clinical and national boards, but it doesn’t stop there. Finding a job is also not easy and when we finally get a job, we go through the 9-5 motions not just cleaning teeth, but educating and instructing our patients on how to better take care of their oral health especially when there are things like cavities, periodontal disease, and oral cancer to prevent. Oh, and did I mention not all of us are lucky to have an assistant to help us with turning over rooms, taking x-rays, and writing notes? There are unassisted dental hygienists out there who also have to take care of that after the teeth cleaning and the educating. It can be tough, especially when we aren’t given adequate time to take care of what our dentists expect us to do.
It varies from hygienist to hygienist on how long it’ll take for the burnout to set in. Burnout can be so bad that some dental hygienists question if it’s worth staying in the profession. But why give up when it starts to burn when you’ve made it this far? There is so much more to the dental hygiene profession than being in private practice. We can teach dental hygiene students, become speakers/lecturers, entrepreneurs, and even become involved with our state or local dental hygiene association — the sky’s the limit. It can all be a balance if we let it so burnout doesn’t have to be a thing. One of the many pieces of advice my mother has given me was to always take care of myself before I take care of someone else. For any dental professional who’s feeling the burnout, take time off to yourself whether that’s a vacation or just catching up at home because our patients need us at our best so we can keep the dental game in play.