At Work / Workers Around The Region


September 07, 2005|By Emily Bregel | Emily Bregel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Stephanie Gold

Dental hygienist

Age: 46

Years in business: 23

Salary: Gold is paid $35 an hour. Working part time, she makes about $30,000 a year.

How she started: Gold received her bachelor of science degree in dental hygiene after two years as a pre-dental hygiene major at the University of Maryland, College Park and two years at the affiliated dental school in Baltimore. After passing the state dental hygienists' exam to get her license in 1982, she worked full time in a Rosedale office for six years, then switched to part time after the birth of her children, Allie, now 17, and Michael, 13. She has been at Cross Keys Dental Associates for 17 years.

Why she chose the field: The emphasis on preventive education and the freedom in scheduling that would allow her to work part time. "I wanted to work in a health profession that allowed me flexibility."

Typical day: Gold works about 3 1/2 days a week, including every other Saturday. On a full day, Gold works 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with an hour lunch break. She sees about 10 to 12 patients, most under the age of 14, for 30 to 40 minutes each before they see the dentist. (The Cross Keys office is primarily pediatric but also serves other patients.) Gold gives each patient a hard- and soft-tissue (teeth and gums) exam, X-rays if needed, oral cancer screening, teeth polishing and fluoride application to strengthen enamel. Gold also offers advice on brushing, flossing and nutrition.

Licensing: Dental hygienists can practice only in the states where they are licensed. They also must complete 30 credit hours of continuing education every two years to renew their licenses.

Total body health: "When you have good oral health, your whole body is healthier," Gold says, noting that bacteria resulting from gum disease can exacerbate conditions such as heart disease and diabetes and contribute to low birth weight in premature babies.

The good: Working with people, especially children. Gold says an added perk is free dental care for her and her family.

The bad: Some of her fellow dental hygienists suffer from carpal tunnel, back pain or other repetitive-use injuries. "When you try to get all those areas in the mouth, you have to kind of angle your body, so a lot of people in my profession end up with pain." Proper posture and body positioning help alleviate these problems, Gold says.

Early action: The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that a child's first dental visit take place between 6 and 12 months or when the first tooth appears, Gold says. Children usually have their first visit at age 3, by which time "we can see a lot of decay."

Words of wisdom: "Gum disease is almost entirely preventable; you just need to brush and floss."

Philosophy on the job: Give each patient a positive dental experience. "That's a rewarding challenge. There's such a stigma about going to the dentist. People make jokes about it all the time." Gold says patience and a relaxed attitude help to put her patients at ease. The arcade games in the waiting room and the office's large DVD collection for the overhead televisions don't hurt either. "We have kids who just can't wait to come to the dentist."- Emily Bregel Special to The Sun

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