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 www.rdhmag.com
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,
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
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
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
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, www.adha.org/career.
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
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.
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 — www.rdhjob.com
• Hygienist Online — www.hygieneonline.com
• Dental Power — www.dentalpower.com
• Dental Reach — www.dentalreach.com
• Dental Workers — www.dentalworkers.com
If you are interested in learning about dental hygiene
positions on cruise ships, please visit the Seadent Web site
at www.seadent.com. If you are interested in practicing
dental hygiene in another country, visit the International
Federation of Dental Hygienists’ (IFDH) at www.ifdh.org
and the Global Hygienists Community at www.globalhygienists.com.
There are several other Internet sites that list positions
within as well as outside the dental hygiene profession:
• Career Brain — www.careerbrain.com
• Career Builder — www.careerbuilder.com
• Career City — www.careercity.com
• Career Web — www.careerweb.com
• Connect Careers — www.connectcareers.com
• Head Hunter — www.headhunter.net
• Hot Jobs — www.hotjobs.com
• Monster — www.monster.com
• Job Hunt — www.job-hunt.com
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 www.rdhmag.com
Your First Dental Hygiene Position
Chart 1 —
This is an example of a cover letter written to a prospective employer ...
PROFESSIONAL SAVVY SAMPLE COVER LETTER
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
• Combination (reverse
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 www.rdhmag.com
Your First Dental Hygiene Position
Chart 2 —
PROFESSIONAL SAVVY SAMPLE REVERSE CHRONOLOGICAL RESUME
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
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
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
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
• Personal data
• Professional employment
• Teaching interests
• Teaching experience and
• Professional experience
• Professional licensure
• Professional membership
• Professional courses attended
• Professional courses presented
• Community service
• University service (if applicable)
• Research and creative accomplishments
• References (if applicable)
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 www.rdhmag.com
Your First Dental Hygiene Position
Chart 3 —
PROFESSIONAL SAVVY SAMPLE FUNCTIONAL RESUME FORMAT
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
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
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!
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
(professionalsavvychd.com) beginning in April. She can
be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
22 • RDH Student Focus/March 2005 www.rdhmag.com