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Can Hygienists Be Their Own Boss?

Posted May 3, 2016

Tonya Lanthier, RDH

13010876_10154029570342778_308049536337308003_nIf you are thinking of starting your own business, you are not alone. Many hygienists are exploring unconventional business models that allow them the flexibility and freedom of being their own boss.

Before you hang out a shingle, be sure that it is permitted in the state that you live in; currently, there are only a few states that allow hygienists to provide services without a licensed dentist on premise. For instance, hygienists in Colorado may open their own practice, while Georgia requires the supervision of an on-site dentist.

Some ways that hygienists may be their own boss include these inventive business models:

Mobile dental practice.
There are many benefits to a mobile dental practice; first of all, you may be able to find a niche in any area where dental services are inaccessible or difficult for individuals to obtain. Second, the overhead costs of a mobile practice may fall far below what a brick-and-mortar office commands. The theory of going where you are needed could be the key to attaining and maintaining a loyal clientele amid a competitive market.

Independent clinical consultant.
If you want to make your own hours and be your own boss, consider offering your services as a consultant. This could be in terms of a market or product that you are offering insight on, or it may be to an agency or business that is in the dental industry. You are a clinician and your experience is valuable; allow this insight to forge the way toward an independent role as a consultant in some manner or niche in the dental industry.

Founder of non-profit agency.
Really want to make a difference? Give some thought to starting your own non-profit agency. This could be providing much-needed dental services to a particular demographic, such as shut-ins, the elderly, or the incarcerated. Research available grants and funding that may be available as you begin to design and plan your business model; seek out other professionals with similar missions that may want to contribute some of their time or expertise to your cause. Over time, this agency could grow into an enterprise that allows you the freedom to be your own boss and the income to support the lifestyle that you desire.

Professional speaker, writer, or educator.
If you dont mind leaving direct dental care, you may put your experience to use as a speaker, writer, or teacher. Share your knowledge, experience, and insights with others through journal articles, blogs, motivational speaking gigs, or academic lectures. Typically, speaking arrangements will pay a flat fee and per diem, while a writer may receive royalties and per-word compensation. Depending on the level of freedom that you are seeking, you could find freelancing in these fields to be the best way to utilize your dental expertise.

Start your own business. Be an Intrapreneur.
Businesses are born both out of frustration and a way to make something better. While working as a dental hygienist, I started DentalPost on the side. I placed ads everywhere, took calls and spread the word about DentalPost. Often I would be making dinner with my twin babies grabbing onto both my legs, and have the phone sandwiched between my ear and shoulder, taking calls! I then worked after the twins went to sleep around seven at night. The dentist I was working with at the time would take an hour and a half lunch break. During this time, I would eat my lunch in my car on the way to other dentists offices to drop off flyers, and let them know about DentalPost. I would stay up late at night sending letters to dental professionals telling them about our service. I wanted to help people connect, and I believed I had the service for them. Even though I have scaled back my hours to accommodate DentalPosts growth, I still practice dental hygiene a few times a month. Nothing can replace the gift your patients give you.

Keep in mind:

  • The state that you practice in will determine the flexibility and independence that you may have professionally as a hygienist. Be sure to check your states laws and guidelines carefully.
  • Hygienists that seek independence may want to consider expanding their educational background to match up to the expertise of owning their own dental practice. There may be loan forgiveness programs in place to accommodate hygienists returning to school to become practicing dentists in many regions.
  • Look at international opportunities that may afford hygienists the chance to work with high-risk groups or in impoverished areas. While this isnt the most lucrative option, the insight and experience can prove life-altering and provide so many experiential learning opportunities.

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