Case study

Dental hygienist and therapist — Jodie Mahoney

Working as a dental hygienist, Jodie loves making a difference to people and their oral health. Find out how her career has developed to encompass mentoring and teaching, as well as clinical practice

How did you get your job?

I graduated with a Diploma in dental hygiene and dental therapy, and went on to work in the private sector as a hygienist and therapist. I'd previously gained my experience through NHS general practices across the Midlands.

More recently, I've done a PGCert in medical education and now work as a dental hygiene and therapy tutor at the University of Birmingham. I'm also programme director of the university's Dental Therapy Foundation Training scheme, working across the Midlands and the East of England. This enables me to guide and educate newly qualified therapists as they transition from university life to general practice.

I got my job as a dental hygienist and therapist through a vacancy announced on the dental hygiene and therapy forums. I already knew a dentist who worked at the practice, so networking definitely helped me get the job. I was successful at interview, fitting the job description and requirements well.

What's a typical working day like?

Busy. In practice I treat both adults and children for periodontal and restorative care on a private basis. I work alongside a dental nurse, who is my immediate team within the surgery. At a practice level, I work alongside a dentist who refers his patients to me for the treatments I'm able to provide. Good communication between the two of us means that our patients get the most appropriate care and are looked after throughout their treatment.

Between appointments I write up patients' notes to a high standard, ensuring their records are accurate at the time of treatment. Clinical audits and peer reviews are also regularly undertaken. This keeps the practice running at an optimum level and also allows for reflective practice, ensuring my colleagues and I are up to date and practising to the best of our abilities. I undertake regular CPD each year too, ensuring my knowledge is up to date in relation to best practice and relevant guidelines.

I mentor, teach and lecture dental hygiene and therapy students, both in undergraduate and postgraduate study, within my other roles in education.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

It's very rewarding helping patients to achieve a better standard of oral health. Making them feel good about their smile is a great part of the job. I also like the challenges it brings as no two patients are the same.

What are the challenges?

The day-to-day organisation of my surgery and dental nurse can be a challenge, as can staying at the top of your game from the beginning to the end of the day. Meeting patients' expectations can also be challenging.

In what way are your qualifications relevant?

My qualifications provided me with the theoretical and practical skills and knowledge needed to practise as a dental hygienist and therapist, and undertake educational roles.

How has your role developed?

My clinical role has developed into a teaching and mentoring role. I followed this path as I love to help people better themselves and watch them grow.

What's your advice to others interested in this career?

  • Always remember that the patient comes first.
  • Soft skills such as empathy and a caring attitude are just as important as your academic achievements. Your 'chair-side manner' will make you the dental therapist patients want to see.
  • Be yourself throughout your career and enjoy it as it's a rewarding profession.

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