How Passion Boosted My Career in Dental Hygiene and Sales

In Finding a Job, She's an Entrepreneur, Success by Grethe Whitman

My passion for dentistry started in the seventh grade. I’ll never forget the hygienist who was cleaning my teeth. She was wearing a white dress, white stockings, white shoes, and a white nurse’s cap. I fell in love with the idea immediately. I would be a dental hygienist when I grow up!

Sure enough, that’s precisely what I did, and I never regretted it for one moment.

Has it been luck or determination that got me to where I am today in dentistry? I would have to say a little of both. I believe my passion for dentistry influenced all of my career moves. The word “career” is so important. I have always said, “Dentistry is my career; it’s not a job.” I’ve been lucky in the sense that every office was a step up and forward. Each office was completely different, but I learned so much from each one. So what does it take to cross the bridge from clinical dental hygiene to a career in dental sales, you ask?

The following is what I believe it takes:

1. Passion and Knowledge

Passion is contagious. When you are passionate about dentistry, it oozes out of you. Your employer and your patients feel it, see it, and know it comes from your heart. People comment on it. Yes, sometimes your family and friends get tired of you talking about it. But they respect you for it.

Knowledge is power, and the abundance of material available is endless. The more you learn, the more you can converse. You become recognized as an expert in your field.

2. Being Open to Change

Is that considered a personality trait? I’m not sure, but it is a requirement to advance over that bridge. As I mentioned earlier, every office throughout my career was different. I quickly learned that change is constant. I loved being exposed to new ways of doing things, new ideas, and especially new technology. Sure it’s scary at times, but that is part of changing.

I learned what a paradigm shift is back in the early 1990s. A paradigm is a way we believe about something. Does that mean it is correct? Is my way the only way to complete a task? A paradigm shift is a change from one way of thinking to another. I see so many hygienists stuck in their paradigms, unwilling to learn or change. To change careers, you must be flexible, keep your knees bent, and stay open to the possibilities.

3. Selling vs. Educating

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “My job is to clean teeth and not to sell dentistry.” I believe if you only clean a patient’s teeth, they’ll never truly improve. And if you are only cleaning their teeth, are you really monitoring their health and potential for disease? What if you could prevent some of their issues and improve their dental and overall health? Would that be selling or educating?

Sure, if the education you provide doesn’t come from the heart, then it can come across as selling. When you speak about what you believe with your heart, the patient knows the difference. It’s the same in a sales career. You have to believe in the product or products you represent, or you can’t convince your client of their validity. You have to educate the client to the maximum so they can make the best decision for themselves. Treat them the way you want to be treated!

4. Networking and Relationships

As big as dentistry has become, it’s still a small world. That’s one reason I never burned any bridges! As you move forward, you may need to fall back on a relationship from years ago. Always introduce yourself at dental meetings and study clubs. You may meet that one person who can help you make the change you are seeking. Take business cards from people you meet in the industry. My philosophy is, “If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.” If I had not stayed in contact with that one person, I wouldn’t have made the transition to sales. At least, not at that time.

5. Reputation

At the end of the day, it’s all you have. What are you known for? Think about that question for a minute. Team player or individualistic? What about your work habits? Do you go that extra mile? Would all of your past employers give you a glowing referral? If you have a passion for what you do, you will.  And then you can be successful.

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