By Sara Walker, CRDH, BASDH, Hygiene Recruiter
Article Sponsored by Heartland Dental
June 30, 2023

Think about your daily routine as a hygienist. You demonstrate administrative capabilities, extreme attention to detail, prioritization, and have incredible time management skills. You recommend oral hygiene products and practices to patients that you believe will help them achieve optimal oral health. You work relatively independently, you are a self-starter, and you have exceptional people skills.

If you are questioning whether your current job still benefits you, then it may be time for a new chapter. Change can be hard but change and being uncomfortable is where further growth happens.

Let’s explore some of the factors you should consider when looking for a job change.

Navigating What Is Important to You as a Provider in Your Career Search

As with any job search, remember that you are interviewing the dentist and/or office as much as they are interviewing you! Have a set of questions ready for your prospective employer to ensure you are gathering the information that is important to you. The person interviewing you is seeing if you make a good fit, but you are also seeing if they and the office are where you want to work.

If you are looking for a new job, ask yourself: “What is my philosophy of care?” Make sure your philosophy of care is not compromised by your prospective employers’ philosophy. Rather, you want to make sure you and your doctor(s) have a strong and aligned partnership. It will be important during your interview process to find out how they value their hygienist(s). Be sure to ask questions like—

  • What does the partnership look like between the hygienist(s) and the doctor(s) in the office?
  • How often do your doctor(s) and hygienist(s) meet to review alignment of goals, patient care and communication expectations?
  • Do doctor(s) and hygienist(s) attend CE together?
  • What does your perio program look like?
  • What does a typical schedule look like?
  • How much time do you have for each type of appointment?
  • Who decides on the products and supplies the office buys? Are hygienists allowed input on the decisions?

Finally, be sure to ask about career growth opportunities. Ensuring you have a strong foundation for your future and development will help you determine if the office is a fit for you. A few questions you can ask are:

  • What opportunities exist to step outside of the clinical and chairside setting?
  • How are promotions structured in the office?
  • Are hygienists encouraged to develop their technical and leadership skills?
  • Will I receive “Paid Time Off” for taking CE or leadership classes?

With this information, you can start to determine if this office is a good fit for your next role.

Research Employers

As a dental professional, there are several types of offices you can work in:

  • Solo
  • Group
  • An office supported by a Dental Support Organization (DSO)

Whether you are starting your career or looking for a change, it can be overwhelming to determine which path is the right one for you.

A few decades ago, many in the industry had a skeptical point of view of DSOs. However, time, continued growth and success have demonstrated just how effective they are in providing support. In my personal experience, we as a hygienists tend to come out of school believing that dental practices run by corporations only have the profitability margin in mind.

However, there are many advantages to being supported by a DSO! For example, one of my first positions out of dental hygiene school was in a practice owned by a husband-and-wife team. Our paychecks were once delayed due to the owners simply not making it to the bank on time. You can imagine my frustration level as a new graduate, wishing in that moment there was more leadership or a department to help fix this issue right away!

Consider Access to Technology

When interviewing at an office, an important question you should ask is, “What technology is implemented to provide a complete access to care?” In hygiene school, we were trained on the VELscope® Enhanced Oral Cancer Assessment System. It was during my second year, that I used this device and detected a malignancy on my grandmother, who had graciously offered to be my patient. This malignancy was in fact squamous cell carcinoma. I am proud to say she has been in remission for 8 years, but as a provider, having the most up-to-date technology in your office can save a life.

In the past, when I interviewed at an office that did not have a form of this technology, I personally declined the position as I felt I was providing a disservice to my patients by limiting their soft tissue exam to only what the naked eye could see. At Heartland Dental, I was extremely pleased that each supported office not only uses the system I was trained on, but provides training, too.

We often laugh, as hygienists, when we say “run” if your office uses film radiology. We all know, that as time passes, technology supersedes us. Not only are we licensed providers, but we are also bear responsibility as our patients’ dental health advocate. I knew by working as a hygienist supported by Heartland Dental, I would never need to worry about not having the latest in technology to better serve my patients.

Find Your “WHY”

Everyone has different priorities for their own career, and I recommend defining those benefits are most important to you and identifying who can offer them to you.

Therefore, it is very pertinent to your own professional career to find your “WHY”:

  • Was it the career known for having e a flexible schedule with no holidays or weekends?
  • Or were you interested in the science component and enjoy fighting periodontal disease like a superhero?

As providers, we all have our “why” as to what brought us into this career path. And identifying your goals for your professional career can help bridge the gap on expectations in your job selection.

Remember to Never Settle

If you feel that there is a component to your career that you are missing, I recommend considering Heartland Dental. I felt I knew it all about the career, 32 teeth, 32 different solutions. But once I started working for Heartland Dental in a supported office, I was the provider I knew I always could be. The doctors partnered with me, not instructed me. They listened, not only to the patient, but to my professional input as well. My career reached new levels: removing ortho wires, taking iTero scans, learning how to take a CBCT scan, and more! I have flourished with my dentist by my side!

Health care benefits, paid time off, and retirement plans are just some of the perks with a DSO. As a Heartland Dental supported hygienist, I have benefitted most from the people in our support network. From my colleagues in the dental office, hygiene peers, or our hygiene mentors, there are always great people to easily connect with and learn from. I recently joined Heartland Dental’s hygiene recruiting team. This career growth has catapulted me to not only be a provider but to mentor and train newer hygienists.

If you are considering a job change, there’s a lot to consider. Just remember never to settle.


Learn more about how Heartland Dental supports providers and their careers at

Sara Walker, CRDH, BASDH, is a Heartland Dental supported hygienist and Hygiene Recruiter. This article is published on ADHA’s Hygienist Hub as part of a paid partnership with Heartland Dental.