I am a Dental Hygienist


Peggy Crooper, RDH

I am a dental hygienist… and I love what I do.

I am a dental hygienist. I am not a dental assistant and I am not a dentist.

“Yes, I am qualified to do this. Yes, I am licensed to do this. Yes, I went to school for this. Yes, what I told you is true”.


I am a dental hygienist.

No, I do not “just clean teeth.”

Yes I do scale above and below your gum tissues to remove calculus, bacteria, and plaque from your teeth.

Yes I do polish your teeth.

Is that all I do? I will let you decide.


I am a dental hygienist.

I give multiple injections to make sure you are comfortable.

I administer nitrous oxide to make sure you are not nervous.

I take x-rays of your teeth to detect bone loss, decay and restorations.

I take complete comprehensive health histories; I take your vital signs, perform oral cancer screenings and periodontal exams to ensure not only your oral health, but your overall health.

I counsel and motivate you with tobacco cessation, nutritional counseling and oral health care. I recommend you seek medical attention if it is in your best interest.

I treat your children and I apply fluoride and sealants to save you the time, pain and expense that comes with tooth decay.

I help you achieve that whiter smile and fresh breath to give you more confidence. We know that gum disease has a contribution to other diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.  We are learning more everyday about this systemic link and I educate you about this link.

But I “just clean teeth.”


I am a dental hygienist.

They tell me it is not a real job. They don’t know that I went to school and have a degree.

Some have devalued my profession. Many do not even know that we are a profession.

They do not even know what to call me.


I am a dental hygienist.

I have been trained to respond to medical emergencies and give CPR.

I have learned and understand how to treat a variety of patients.

I research their medical conditions, accommodate their special needs and put their concerns as a priority.

I have extensive knowledge of the general sciences, Anatomy, Microbiology, Human Development, Pharmacology, and Psychology.

I have to be well versed in oral pathology and I look for signs of oral disease, pathology, and cancer.


I have learned to take multiple forms of x-rays and I am able to understand and explain pathology if present.

I have developed the extremely difficult skill and techniques of scaling that strains my hands, my neck, and my back while making sure you are not in pain.

I am a dental hygienist.

They say anyone can do what I do.

They say its “just a cleaning.”


I am a dental hygienist.

To be considered for Dental Hygiene school, I made A’s in Biology, Microbiology, Chemistry, Anatomy, and Physiology. I took 2 years of higher-level courses in Psychology, Mathematics, English, and other required course work.

Once accepted, I had 2 years of intensive clinical training, alongside detailed courses in Head and Neck Anatomy and Physiology, Oral Pathology, Pharmacology, Dental Anatomy, Human Development, and Public Health.

I had countless clinical examinations.

I had someone watching over my shoulder while I tried not to shake.

I had 50 patient cancellations and no-shows.

I often had to pay my patients to allow me to treat them.


I had anxiety and cried weekly.

I still have nightmares about school a year after graduation.

I took 5 licensing exams, while my nursing friends took one.

I paid thousands of extra dollars for my dental instruments, licenses, and loupes on top of my tuition. I will be paying student loans for years. And now that I am working and out of school, I must continue to take multiple courses every year to remain current and to maintain my licenses.


I am a dental hygienist.

They thanked me.

They brought me homemade gifts.

They cried out of gratitude.

They recommended their friends and family.

They requested me.

They told me all about their life, their joys and their sorrows.

They grew to love me and I them. They know that I care about them.


I am a dental hygienist.

I work in a private practice.

I work in schools.

I work in hospitals.

I work in retirement homes.

I work in jails.

I travel to other countries delivering care.

I travel to group homes for those with special needs.

I travel to multiple events to volunteer my time to helping my community.

I am a dental hygienist, and I may be underappreciated.

But I love what I do.


When I do get those patients who are thankful for my help,

I am reminded of why I chose this profession.

When I find oral cancer,

or help someone control their periodontal disease,

or help someone quit smoking,

I know I make a difference.

So whether or not you know and appreciate what I do,

I know my role in prevention of disease.

I know my role in promotion of health. I know that I am a clinician, an educator, and a health care professional. And I know that I love what I do.

Amanda Andra AZ MOM

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