The Healing Arts: Perspectives from a Dental Hygienist in Independent Practice

Mara Sand loves her work and is a respected member of the community in which she lives.

As a dental hygienist with an independent, mobile practice she caters specifically to people with dental phobias and those with mental and/or physical handicaps. Those with dental phobias need a patient and understanding hygienist who can build the trust and rapport needed in order to make them comfortable.  Those with mental and physical handicaps are in many cases non-verbal and often do not have the skills to access dental hygiene care in a dental office. So, Mara goes to them in order to provide care. “Prior to starting my own practice I worked in public health and saw a variety of patients who were either terrified of the dentist or had mental and/or physical challenges. I had great empathy for these people. I felt they trusted me, and that I could help them because of the skills I have as a dental hygienist. I believed that I had an ability to understand where these people were coming from, and in turn I was able to give them the care they needed. I realized that there was void for this service in my community, so I opened my own mobile practice.”

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Q&A with Dental Hygiene student Eric Mok

Mok_EricEric graduated from the UBC Faculty of Dentistry’s Dental Hygiene Program in May 2013. We wish all the success in the world to you and look forward to hearing from you again soon!

 Why did you decide to pursue a degree in dental hygiene?

A few people have asked me this question and I’ve put quite a bit of thought into it. I think it comes from my family background. My father and grandfather are both chefs who had a passion for eating and enjoying great food. They have always expected that they would lose their teeth at some point. For them, oral care wasn’t a high priority. I think my desire to become a dental hygienist comes from wanting to show them how to take care of their teeth so that they can enjoy eating well into their old age.

I have also always known that I wanted to help people and health care was something I’ve always wanted to do.  This desire to help and work in health care, combined with my background, led me to dental hygiene.

Where do you hope to work once you enter practice?

My five-year plan is to work in private practice for a couple of years and then return to school for a Master’s degree in either education or science. I’d really love to return to UBC and teach in the dental hygiene program to share my knowledge and experiences with new students. This program has been wonderful and provided me with great networking opportunities.  I’m currently looking into the requirements to be a clinical instructor, but I haven’t quite decided yet. However, I do know that it would be important for me to keep developing my knowledge and clinical skills throughout my career.

I also wanted to address the issue of visibility and the role that dental hygienists play in improving our image and the public’s health. This is something that I’ve spent quite a bit of time researching, in which I found many opportunities for us to promote our profession to the public. Communication and collaboration with other health care providers about our scope of practice is vital to increase access of care for the public. However, we must first start by advocating for ourselves.