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Career Change…Seeking Advice

Looking to do a career change after my teach abroad contract ends. I’ve taught for 23 years, but even in undergrad, I desired to work in the health field in some capacity. I have a degree in Public Health, but fell involve with teaching. I’ve always been drawn to oral health and I’m seriously thinking of moving in that direction. I’m looking to do something else I would love that also affords a decent salary and quality of life. Does this career path welcome those reinventing themselves? I’m 47 years of age. I’d love any tips or words of wisdom you can offer.

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1 Answer

If being a dental hygienist is what you want to do, I say go for it. You don’t want to look back and wonder, “What if?” Regardless of your age, you need to ask yourself how healthy your body is. Dental hygiene is not easy on a person’s body. Many hygienists seek regular chiropractic, massage therapy, and even physical therapy to function. You also want to consider the amount of debt you will leave school with and your ability to pay it back (assuming you take out student loans, as working during the hygiene program isn’t recommended).
I would recommend shadowing several different hygienists at different offices to get a true feel for the field, as the education involved is quite the commitment. Dental hygiene is a very rewarding career if you love the science of dentistry and caring for patients. On the other hand, if you want to become a dental hygienist because you’ve read articles online that say it’s an easy, low-stress, high-paying job (which isn’t exactly accurate), dental hygiene probably isn’t the best option. It’s not just a job, it’s a career, and it takes a certain kind of person to work in the mouth all day.
Make sure you are also aware of some of the downfalls of the profession too. Many areas across the U.S. have an over-saturation of dental hygienists, so it can be hard to find a job. Some hygienists work at multiple offices to get enough hours. Many hygienists also don’t work full-time because hygiene is hard on your body (like I mentioned before). The biggest downfall of the over-saturation issue is that some dentists/employers take advantage of the fact the so many hygienists need work, so they don’t offer benefits of any kind and offer too low of wages. In fact, I’ve never been offered any sort of health insurance, paid days off, sick pay, vacation pay, etc. Not all offices are like this, but many are. The biggest thing is that you find an office that right for you and not stick around at one that isn’t. Working at the right office makes all the difference. Don’t let this sway your decision if it’s what you really want to do because when there’s a will, there’s a way!
Best of luck in your decision!

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