Kasey Spears is a Brand Ambassador for PepperPointe, and a 2nd Year Dental Hygiene Student at Bluegrass Community & Technical College. 

As a dental hygiene student, I had the opportunity to work at Beaumont Kids Dentistry in Lexington, Ky. as an assistant for the summer before returning to complete my final year of the Bluegrass Community & Technical College Dental Hygiene Program. My goal through this summer internship was to gain experience to further my abilities through a hands-on approach. 

At the end of my internship, the three biggest takeaways for me included: the importance of having a positive attitude, the role listening to patients plays in providing quality care, and the endless possibilities of working as a team. 

The Importance of Having a Positive Attitude

Seeing obstacles as learning opportunities, while maintaining enthusiasm, facilitates a “we” approach where we can tackle any obstacle together. Working as a team creates a sense of comradery and a positive work environment. Having a positive outlook in your work environment helps to create a sense of support, which personally helps me with productivity and learning. Some things that I saw throughout my internship that made a big difference for individuals and their attitudes (including mine): thanking colleagues for their help, establishing a routine, and reflecting on my day by adjusting my internal dialogue to what I learned and how I can improve, rather than focusing on what went wrong. 

The Role Listening to Patients Plays in Providing Quality Care

Patients are active participants in their care, so it is essential to listen to their wants and needs in order to create a relationship where the patient feels heard and valued. This creates trust. Through my internship, I learned the importance of starting a dialogue with parents and patients early in order to ensure healthy habits. Asking open-ended questions can lead to enlightening discovery and provide the groundwork necessary to identify potential obstacles to their oral health. I now understand the importance of asking the right questions and listening more than you speak. Providing tips and tricks is easy, but by listening to the patient, you’ll invite them to participate in the dialogue and they’ll be more invested in their care.

The Endless Possibilities of Working as a Team

One of the things that brings me the greatest sense of fulfillment is assisting my colleagues. With any dental environment, being prepared is what sets us up to succeed. Having a “what can I do to help?” mindset can really help increase productivity and relationships, as well as significantly impact a work environment. By having a positive workplace, communication can be improved and working can be more rewarding. 

We have all felt burnout in various aspects of our lives. I think working with a team prevents burnout by distributing tasks to various coworkers and being able to pick up another task if burnout begins to seep in. During my internship, I witnessed how the team anticipated the needs and assisted each other — picking up additional patients or helping with X-Rays — when a team member was feeling overwhelmed. I personally love being able to help others and I’m excited by the opportunity to continue helping both patients and coworkers in my future career!

My Unique Dental Hygiene Experience in Pediatric Dentistry

Trips to the dentist are a common fear among children. My favorite aspect of working with kids is helping to calm a nervous patient who has come to my chair. I cherish the opportunity to teach and bond with these children — moments like these can create a trusting relationship between patient and dentist that lasts a lifetime. It was beneficial to learn tips and tricks to help quiet nerves and provide distractions and ensure comfort, including utilizing squishy and squeezy toys or interactive fake mouths with “sugar bugs” to keep little hands busy. When these tricks aren’t working, engaging the parents/caregivers in the process was very helpful in demonstrating that the tools won’t hurt us. 

Another unique aspect of working in a pediatric dental office was the opportunity to educate and explain the tools we use to create a healthy smile. Allowing children to hold our instruments and explore their teeth made them far less likely to feel nervous about what was happening. Some children may not visit the dentist as regularly as their primary care physician. During my time in this pediatric dental office, I learned that this can cause some apprehension in children due to not having as much exposure to dental care. I now understand how to identify a nervous child and incorporate interactive activities into their care to help put them at ease and create a positive experience. Promoting positive dental experiences and habits from an early age can pave the way for a lifetime of good oral health. 

After sharing my experience with other students in the hygiene program and hearing about their involvement in other practices, we all came to the consensus that it takes a special type of person to be able to work in a pediatric office. Thanks to my internship at Beaumont Kids Dentistry, I not only gained real-world practice experience but discovered my passion for helping others and I’m eager to pursue a career in dentistry.