My Career as a Dental Hygienist with Vanessa Gomez

An Interview with a Dental Hygienist

Vanessa Gomez,
Registered Dental Hygienist,
Holistic Hygiene Dental Services,
Ottawa, Ontario

Growing up, Vanessa Gomez was drawn to medical careers where she could help others. At the age of 15, she realized that she would need 8 or more years of post-secondary school to be a doctor or similar profession which was not appealing to her. While working and studying in high school part-time, someone introduced her to alternative nutrition and medicine. This sparked her interest in a more preventative type of care and reassured her that a medical career was for her.

After a two year program for dental hygiene, Vanessa began her career as a hygienist specializing in holistic services. In this interview, we’ve worked with Vanessa to capture what her job is like and how she got to where she is today. If you are considering a career in dentistry or like the idea of a holistic medical practice, this is a great resource to get an inside look at how one person is living that life.

The Essentials

What is your job description?

My job as a holistic dental hygienist is to implement care and preventative measures in order to achieve better dental wellness for clients.

What are your main tasks?

There are two big pieces of my work: teeth cleaning and patient education. Teeth cleaning includes debridement and scaling although the exact care depends on the patient’s needs. As for patient education, I send extra time providing the patient insights into how their oral health and overall wellness are linked then give them tips for maintaining that wellness.

What is your salary?

Full-time hygienists make approximately $60,000 CAD per year.

What education is required to be a dental hygienist?

A diploma in dental hygiene is required. The program will include practical experience to ready you for the workforce. I got my two-year diploma in 1999.

What skills are useful for the job?

  • People skills
  • Administrative skills
  • Writing/communication skills

What tools do dental hygienists use?

There are a lot of dental instruments and equipment used by dental hygienists. There are the various tools used on the teeth, a water source, a suction device, an air compressor, sterilization equipment, a dental chair, and a light.

My job is different because…I am an independent contractor which means I set my own pace and parameters. This means I can employ a more natural and holistic approach to dental hygiene which is influenced by my own beliefs centred on wellness. This holistic approach and dentistry cannot be separate in my opinion.

What is it like to be a dental hygienist?

What is your workplace like?

I work in a dental office that is safe, friendly, and quiet. Though less quiet when we have equipment running!

What are your work hours like?

I run my holistic dental hygiene business part-time while also working as an orthodontic dental hygienist (both in the same office). I see orthodontic patients during regular business hours and see my clients on weekends or off-hours.

What is the workload like?

This is a very giving role. There is plenty to take into account when caring for a person who may feel vulnerable in a dental chair. Overall, the workload varies from patient to patient.

Describe a typical work day.

A typical work day consists of several 1-hour patient appointments where I provide the care they need from a dental hygienist perspective. I also need to prepare before and clean up after each client. There is also some paperwork to handle.

What is your passion? Wellness.

Career Story?

What is your story? How did you get here?

I was raised by immigrant, Asian parents and was drawn to medical careers. I wanted to be a doctor, a pediatrician, a veterinarian, a dentist, and an orthodontist (after my own braces treatment), all before the age of 15! When I hit 15, I discovered that I did not like school anymore so the thought of a minimum of 8 years of post-secondary schooling to reach a medical career was no longer appealing.

Mulling over that realization, I worked and finished high school part-time. This is when someone introduced me to the world of alternative medicine and nutrition. I did a bunch of studying in this area on my own and ultimately decided to re-listen to my initial dental passions. I signed up for a two-year dental hygienist program and pursued a more preventative type of care which was in line with my preventative lifestyle.

What has been the biggest obstacle in your career?

I would say my age and naïveté in the early years. The dental world can be quite intense, full of perfectionism, and OCD so the profession can attract people who forget we are working with live, human beings.

What is next for you?

A transition to a second career of work in wellness while still incorporating dental wellness. As I said before, there is no separation.

Best part of the job? Being close to people and in a role that I am trusted in.
Worst part of the job? Paperwork!

For Future Dental Hygienists

What are useful abilities for dental hygienists?

For dental hygienists or any care providing profession you must have the ability to prioritize and take care of yourself. This career is quite taxing both physically and emotionally for the care provider. If you want any kind of longevity for your job, you need to care for yourself.

How will the dental hygiene field change in 5 years?

I believe this career will always be in need as it is a basic part of first-world standards of care and maintenance.

Any advice?

  • Have fun!
  • Be open.
  • Take care of your body.


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