Dental Hygiene Degree Completion: Is It Worth Your Time?

Dental Hygiene DEGREE COMPLETION, Yes or NO?

I will have to say: YES, YES, YES!! I cannot emphasize enough the importance of advancing your degree. Often I hear people say "you don't need a degree in dental hygiene, it's a waste" and " you can't do anything with it any way." Even after enjoying my degree completion program I fell into the trap of repeating these same sentiments. Fast forward to 2016 after approximately 4 years of teaching a light bulb just went off. I knew I had always enjoyed the program but I didn't realize how much my degree completion was a huge professional boost.

I went to an exceptional 2-year program in the "sticks" of Cumberland, Maryland. Ok, Ok, the beautiful mountains! :) I'm originally from New York City, where trees are hard to find in some parts :). I gained excellent clinical and didactic instruction. However, I knew right away that I wanted to continue on with my education. I immediately began the program in Fall 2007 after completing my Associates in Applied Science in May 2007. I decided my concentration would be working with the HIV/AIDS population.

I was the FIRST in the degree completion program to dedicate my practicum to working with the HIV/AIDS population. What in the world was I going to do? They put me in contact with an HIV/AIDS expert Dr. Valli Meeks, DDS, MS, RDH and the rest was history! They offered me a job providing clinical care and I was able to develop an instructional program on HIV/AIDS treatment for dental hygiene students that is still currently used by the Director of the Plus Clinic at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry. This mentorship created in part by the degree completion program has led to me sharing my knowledge and experience through my new venture Beyond The Prophy LLC.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would have that bit of impact in my 1 year of education. It was a boost of confidence, it brought my level of thinking beyond clinical practice, it brought pride to my work, and I have used every bit of that information I have learned.

Some say, "why waste your time with a degree in dental hygiene?" My response: you are ELEVATING our profession. Nursing professionals wear their BSN with pride! I think we should too! Some hygienists say, "it's only good for teaching or research?" My response: Look at my experience. My unique circumstance encouraged me to think outside of the box or beyond the prophy. You can tailor your degree completion to ANYTHING you like!! Want to own a business, use your BSDH to acquire those skills. Challenge the professors of the program to help you maximize your education and the opportunities outside of the op!!

Many of you may still be adamant on receiving a degree outside of dental hygiene. I completely understand! I encourage any higher education beyond our clinical practice. It is always a good thing for our profession. However, don't lose hope in our BSDH-MSDH programs. They are exciting initiatives taking place every day. Consider your 5-year plan/goals and don't be afraid to challenge the norm so that you can forge a path beyond what you can imagine!!!

Interested in hearing my unique story on why I have passion with the HIV/AIDS community, attend the ADHA CLL, Networking & Hot Topics: Diversity in Dental Hygiene, Saturday, June 11th, 2-3 pm (don't forget to register!!)  or hear me speak on Cultural Competency. Contact me at [email protected].

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