your first dental hygiene position -

your first dental hygiene position -

Step 1

your first dental hygiene position

© Miguel Salmeron / Getty Images

by Christine Hovliaras-Delozier, RDH, MBA

It’s 2005 ... a time to start fresh and begin planning your career goals by completing your

Career Development Plan! I hope you found the Professional Savvy Career Development Plan, published

in the November 2004 issue of the RDH Student Focus, to be helpful. After you graduate, please take

time to complete this plan to help you choose your career path in dental hygiene.

In this article, we will review several key career planning strategies in preparation for your first position

in dental hygiene:

• Sources to help you find a dental hygiene position

• How to develop a successful cover letter and resume

• When to use a curriculum vitae

• How to develop professional contacts

Where do I look for a dental hygiene position?

There are several resources from which to find dental hygiene positions. The first category includes

14 • RDH Student Focus/March 2005

Your First Dental Hygiene Position

employment sites and the second

includes Internet sites. Employment

sites include the following:

public employment agencies, private

employment agencies, newspapers,

professional journals and

magazines, college placement

centers and alumni associations,

professional associations, job fairs,

and networking.

Public employment agencies

include those within your state

(i.e.; State Division of Employment

Security, State Job Service or Manpower Services).

Not every employer will list positions with state agencies;

however, in recent years, more employers have begun to

use this service.

Private employment agencies include headhunters.

Headhunters are separately owned businesses that work

with companies to assist them in recruiting employees.

Companies that use a headhunter will pay a fee for them

to find prospective employees.

Newspapers are widely used for finding local jobs within

your state. As you know, virtually every newspaper has

a weekly employment section that lists help-wanted ads.

In addition to local papers, there are regional, national,

and international papers that employers use to meet their

staffing needs.

Professional journals and magazines also can be helpful

for finding listings related to dental hygiene. These

journals can help you identify a position that may interest

you: RDH, Journal of Practical Hygiene, Dimensions in

Dental Hygiene, and Access (from the American Dental

Hygienists’ Association).

College placement centers and alumni associations are

also important resources for finding jobs. Feel free to contact

your college placement center, as well as your dental

hygiene alumni association, to review listings related to

dental hygiene.

Our professional association, the American Dental Hygienists’

Association (ADHA), lists dental hygiene positions

in Access magazine, the Journal of Dental Hygiene

Research, as well as on the Web site,

It is very important to become a member of the ADHA

to stay abreast of the latest developments affecting our

profession. I have used their Web site and have obtained

consultation positions for my own business, Professional


Job fairs occur throughout the year, but they are usually

directed toward marketing, engineering, accounting, computer

technologies, and business as opposed to health-care

professions. You may want to inquire about job fairs in

your area to determine if they address health-care positions

in dental hygiene.

Networking is an important way to discover available

Keep a list of your

professional contacts,

because someday one of

these people may be able to

help you in your career.

dental hygiene positions. When

you become a dental hygiene

professional and attend local, regional,

or national meetings, you

will have the opportunity to mingle

with dental hygienists from

all over the country. The dental

hygienists you meet at professional

meetings or continuingeducation

courses may work in

clinical dental hygiene positions,

but they may also work in career

areas such as education, public

health, corporations, or even their own businesses. Take

the opportunity to exchange business cards so that you

may contact them in the future. Keep a list of your professional

contacts, because someday one of these people may

be able to help you in your career.

Internet sites

There are several online job sites that list dental hygiene

positions within your state:

• American Dental Hygienists’ Association — www.

• Dental Hygienist Jobs — www.dentalhygienistjobs.


• RDH Jobs —

• Hygienist Online —

• Dental Power —

• Dental Reach —

• Dental Workers —

If you are interested in learning about dental hygiene

positions on cruise ships, please visit the Seadent Web site

at If you are interested in practicing

dental hygiene in another country, visit the International

Federation of Dental Hygienists’ (IFDH) at

and the Global Hygienists Community at

There are several other Internet sites that list positions

within as well as outside the dental hygiene profession:

• Career Brain —

• Career Builder —

• Career City —

• Career Web —

• Connect Careers —

• Head Hunter —

• Hot Jobs —

• Monster —

• Job Hunt —

Please take time to review these Web sites to familiarize

yourself with the resources available to you.

Developing a successful cover letter and resume

One of the most important elements in a job search is a

successful cover letter and resume. Your cover letter is your

16 • RDH Student Focus/March 2005

Your First Dental Hygiene Position

Chart 1 —

This is an example of a cover letter written to a prospective employer ...


Dr. Joe Miller

323 Broad Street

Randolph, NJ 07869

Dear Dr. Smith:

11 Murphy Drive

Randolph, NJ 07869

February 7, 2005

This letter is in response to the advertisement you placed in the Daily Record for

a dental hygienist. My name is Christine Smithfield. I am a dental hygienist, and I

feel my qualifications and experience will meet the needs you listed in the advertisement.

I have recently completed my dental hygiene education at the University of Medicine

and Dentistry of New Jersey. The education I received at the School of Dental

Medicine focused on a team-based approach to patient care and treatment of oral

diseases. I have worked with many types of patients with various diseases as well as

physically and mentally challenged adult patients. These patients gave me the opportunity

to develop effective treatment plans and provide preventive oral hygiene

services to a unique patient population. I have also volunteered my time in one

nursing home community in Northern New Jersey educating senior citizens on

proper oral hygiene care and preventive treatment. You will find that my enthusiasm,

motivation, and willingness to learn will make me a valuable team member for

your dental practice.

I have enclosed a copy of my resume for your review and look forward to meeting

you to discuss this opportunity. I can be reached during the day on my cell number,

(973) 598-0823, or in the evening at my home number, (973)328-5591. I look

forward to your call. I will contact you next Tuesday, February 15, to answer any

questions you may have about my qualifications.




Christine Smithfield, RDH

Professional Savvy has a registered trademark. Pleaase do not copy or reproduce Professional Savvy

Sample Cover Letter without the permission of Professional Savvy, LLC.

first contact with a prospective employer. It provides the

proper introduction for your resume without you meeting

with the prospective employer. The cover letter also

explains why you are submitting your resume and markets

your skills and qualifications to the prospective employer.

Let’s review the format of a cover letter and how it

should be developed (see Chart 1 for an example). The

first paragraph introduces you to the prospective employer.

You identify where you found the job advertisement

and the position for which you are applying. In the second

paragraph, you discuss your accomplishments related to

that position. In the third paragraph, you request an interview

and provide the appropriate

telephone numbers. Be sure

to mention the time you can

be reached at specific numbers

(i.e.; home or cell phone).

Your cover letter should include

these elements to make a

positive impression on your potential


• Individualize your correspondence.

• Clarify the purpose of your


• Establish a positive tone.

• Highlight your qualifications

relevant to the job description.

• Do not discuss salary information.

• Keep it short and specific.

• Do a spell-check and proofread


• Place the cover letter on

white or ivory bonded paper.

Your resume is the single

most important document you

will need to get a job in the 21st

century. Cover letters and resumes

don’t get the job — they

advertise you for the interview.

Your resume will inform your

prospective employer who you

are, your level of competence,

and your accomplishments and

experience. It is your “calling

card” to open the doors of prospective


There are three types of resumes:

• Reverse chronological

• Functional

• Combination (reverse

chronological/functional combined)

Most employers prefer the reverse chronological resume

because it identifies the most current job listed first

and is followed by the next most recent. See Chart 2 for an

example of a reverse chronological resume.

The functional resume focuses on the skills you have,

rather than where and when you used them. These formats

are most suited for new graduates who have little “real

world” experience, for those returning to the workforce

after long absences, and for others who have transitioned

from one career or industry to another.

See Chart 3 for a sample of a functional resume.

18 • RDH Student Focus/March 2005

Your First Dental Hygiene Position

Chart 2 —



Christine Smithfield, RDH

11 Murphy Drive

Randolph, New Jersey 07869


To obtain a dental hygiene position in a periodontal

practice that uses state-of-the-art technology to treat

periodontal disease and cares for patients with patience

and professionalism.

EDUCATION Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene 2004

Associate of Science in Dental Hygiene 2002

University of Medicine & Dentistry

of New Jersey, Newark, N.J.

PROFESSIONAL Dental Hygienist 2002-Present

EXPERIENCE Dr. Jeff Gordon, Periodontal Practice, River Edge, N.J.

Performed oral health assessments, oral cancer screenings,

reviewed patient health histories. Exposed and interpreted

dental X-rays. Provided preventive services, including

fluoride treatments and sealants. Taught proper oral

hygiene techniques to maintain optimal oral health, and

assisted in periodontal surgery.

VOLUNTEER Dental Hygiene Educator 2003-Present

Glenora Nursing Home, Chester, N.J.

Conducted oral health screening exams and provided

oral hygiene instruction.

LICENSURE National Board State Licensure, N.J. 2002

AWARDS & Sigma Phi Alpha 2002


PRESENTATIONS Dental Hygiene Aids for the Handicapped 2001

Greater New York Dental Meeting




American Dental Hygienists Association,

International Federation of Dental Hygienists

Available upon request

Professional Savvy has a registered trademark. Please do not copy or reproduce Professional Savvy Sample

Reverse Chronological Resume without the permission of Professional Savvy, LLC.

The combination resume is an integration of both the

reverse chronological and functional resumes. Choose the

format that you are most comfortable with, but once you

have gained work experience in a dental office, you may

want to consider the reverse chronological resume.

There are several key elements for developing a resume:

• The resume should be one to two pages long.

• Don’t use fancy script typefaces.

• Select a readable letter size.

• Highlight certain headers.

• Limit capitalizing and underlining

of resume sections.

• Keep margins one inch

from the paper’s border.

• Use asterisks or bullets.

• Keep it easy to read.

• Make sure it is neat in appearance.

• Place on white or ivory

bonded paper.

When do you use a CV?

A curriculum vitae, also

referred to as a CV, is more

comprehensive than a resume

and is usually used when the

job candidate has an academic

background (college or university

professor) and is seeking a

teaching position. The curriculum

vitae will document your

entire dental hygiene career

experience, accomplishments,

presentations, and publications.

Vitas tend to provide great

detail about academic and research

experiences, so are most

appropriate for those seeking a

position in these fields.

Include these key areas in a

curriculum vitae:

• Personal data

• Education

• Professional employment

• Teaching interests

• Teaching experience and


• Professional experience

and development

• Professional licensure

• Professional membership

• Professional courses attended

• Professional courses presented

• Community service

• University service (if applicable)

• Research and creative accomplishments

• Publications

• References (if applicable)

Networking strategies

Networking is establishing contacts and relationships

with people in business or other disciplines who can assist

you in your career or life. Your networking contacts may

include these categories of people: family, friends, col-

20 • RDH Student Focus/March 2005

Your First Dental Hygiene Position

Chart 3 —





Telephone Numbers

Email Address

State the position you are looking for and describe your

accomplishments, experience, and training.

ORAL HYGIENE Discuss the different patient types you treated,

EXPERIENCE treatment plans, and improvement in oral health

of patients.

TEAMWORK Discuss ways in which you enhanced teamwork.






Discuss techniques used with patients and colleagues to

enhance the work environment.

Discuss how you managed supplies and inventory.

Discuss ways in which you enhanced your dental hygiene


List accomplishments in working with patients and


PROFESSIONAL Title of Position Year(s) Worked

EXPERIENCE Dentist’s/Specialist’s Name, (Most recent first)

Town and State

List job responsibilities, accomplishments

EDUCATION List degree and major Year Received

List Name of School, Town & State


List licensure, Year

State where you are licensed to practice

AWARDS & List awards received Year




List professional organizations

REFERENCES Available upon request

Professional Savvy has a registered trademark. Please do not copy or reproduce Professional

Savvy Sample Functional Resume Format without the permission of Professional

Savvy, LLC.

leagues from work (past or present), people within your

profession, people you meet on a daily basis (your patients,

banker, daycare provider, dry cleaner), company representatives

(companies whose products are used in your office),

professionals (physicians, lawyers, accountants), people

you know through volunteer work, or people in professional

magazines or journals.

I definitely recommend that you obtain a business card

holder as well as develop a contact list sheet. You can place

your networking contacts’ business cards in the holder,

as well as incorporate their information

in a contact list. You

never know when you may need

to call one of your professional

contacts to help you gather

more information, identify

other contacts, or guide you in

your dental hy- giene career.

Never be afraid to talk to one of

your professional colleagues at a

meeting. That person may help

you in moving your career forward

or may even introduce you

to another person who could assist

you in moving in the same or

an entirely different direction.

In my 21 years of dental hygiene,

I have always maintained

positive relationships with those

on my networking list. You

never know how you will help

a contact or how a contact may

help you in pursuing the next

steps of your dental hygiene career.

Best of luck in developing

your career plan strategies to

obtain your first dental hygiene

position, which I hope will be a

rewarding one. Remember, you

are in control of your own destiny.

Be responsible — if something

isn’t working, then make

a change to fix it. You want to

create a level of satisfaction and

happiness in your chosen career

path. I hope that 2005 is the beginning

of a wonderful career in

the dental hygiene profession!

Christine Hovliaras-Delozier,

RDH, MBA, is president of

Professional Savvy, LLC, which

is based in Flanders, N.J. Chris

is an oral care consultant who

works with various companies

in clinical trials, product development, professional

marketing/relations programs and materials, professional

sales, and continuing education symposiums. Chris works

with professional organizations in presenting continuing

education courses and other projects. Chris works

with dental hygienists and student dental hygienists in

writing cover letters, resumes, curriculum vitaes, and

career plan counseling. Please visit Chris’ Web site

( beginning in April. She can

be reached at

22 • RDH Student Focus/March 2005

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