Congrats Trish on 20 years as a Registered Dental Hygienist! Read about her journey here:

I've been a dental hygienist 20 years today!

I wanted to memoir it up- so to speak as I reflected on 20 years! That seems like a super long time to me and honestly I'm pretty proud of it.

As a child, I had a very best friend and neighbor, Sara.  She wanted to be a dentist and I wanted to be an English teacher. Ironically, we obviously influenced each other as she is a high school English teacher and I became a dental hygienist. Ha ha! I do often remember playing dentist with our Cabbage Patch Kids even as young as 7 or 8 years old. So I guess I always had an interest in the dental field.

That said, I had a mouth filled with cavities as a kid. I spent a lot of time being a "rink rat" as my brother was a great hockey player.  I spent my time chasing the other siblings around and getting treats from the vending machine. Needless to say I spent a lot of time at Dr. Goelz office in Green Bay, where I grew up. I loved his office not only because you got to choose the green, yellow, brown or orange room (literally EVERYTHING was one color) or because if you did well you got to pick from the treasure drawer.  (I always loved the gum with the gel in the middle!) I loved it because I always saw Sally the hygienist and it was always the SAME dentist. You really grew to get to know them and think of them as friends. I'm sure with all fillings and all the laughing gas (so I'd sit still) is what helped me like going to the dentist office. He truly was a kind dentist to me.

As I got older and started to be more serious about a career choice, I reached out to family friend, Dr. Byce in Madison.  I said that I wanted to go to school to be a dentist and he said, "Go to hygiene school and come work for me!"  At that time, I thought 2 years of school vs 4 and then dental school seemed awesome.  I applied at NWTC in Green Bay for their program my Junior year of high school. In the meantime, I grabbed a job at Dr. Tielens and Basten in DePere. It was great! I left the last hour of high school for a work/learn program.

As I reflect on 20 years - it's funny to think back on all the changes that have occurred in the dental field. My job was to photocopy the paper scheduling books for the next day. It was sometimes hard to see the names because Ruth and Frieda (the hard working front office women) had to erase and rewrite in names if there were changes. I then pulled the charts for the providers and typed up the schedule. I did this on a typewriter! I also had the privilege of choosing the quote for the next day. There was only one computer so I found quotes by searching through old daily planners and selecting a fun one. It was a nice entry level into the dental field. Ironically, because I was 17, the front office ladies were so sweet but seemed so old to me.  Now I'm that old lady to our team.  LOL!

Since I applied for dental hygiene school in high school, I was hoping I'd get in right away after graduating. Much like to today, there was quite a long wait list. Turned out to be a 4 year wait list.  My parents, suggested, "I learn the value of a dollar" and go to a state college. I went to UW-Stevens Point and took transfer classes for the hygiene program.  I made a ton of great friends and worked at a bank and as a bartender. I then finished my sophomore year at Mid-State Tech in Wisconsin Rapids, WI for more transfer classes. As I was approaching my Junior year of college - I distinctly remember laying in bed after a fun night of college life. I got a call and it was admissions for NWTC saying I would start the program in Fall of 2018! I was so excited! Finally!

School was tough. The hardest part was finding the right patients. Green Bay at that time didn't have a huge patient base to pull from. You had to find and bribe people to come in for their appointments. Every step was checked and confirmed by the teachers/dentist. In the beginning, a typical one hour cleaning and check up could take as long as three or four 3 hour appointments! This meant you spent a lot time waiting for the teacher before you could move on to the next step! Needless to say, you develop great conversation skills and I now think I could teach a class on the art of small talk. I had some of the sweetest and the worst patients in those two years of school. Many tears but more laughs were shared between classmates. I keep in touch with a handful of them still and some even came to our wedding in the Dominican Republic! Thank you to Jenny and JoBeth for always being there for me!

After graduation, I did indeed head to Madison and work at First Choice Dental for 9 years! I learned a ton! You gain so much knowledge from working in field vs school. I have worked through so much change in the dental industry!  Man, do dental hygienists have a hard time embracing change!  I remember the big movement from developing x-rays in a dark room to digital. We also would have to write everything in a paper chart and then also again type it in the computer. Finally we switched to all computerized notes later in my career. The changes with Covid-19 alone have been quite possibly the biggest adjustment we've gone through since the AIDS epidemic. We now also have same day crown technology and laser technology. All of this was learned on the job or by attending continuing education classes. I think my favorite part of working was there was being trained by the great and all powerful, Sheryl Nieds. She was the hygienist and consultant that I watched for 3 weeks while I waited for my paper dental hygiene license to arrive in the mail. While I thought I knew it all coming out of school, her knowledge and ability to teach with passion is something I'm forever grateful for. She now works at Smile Solutions with us and it's so great to have a hard working, caring compadre to still consult with years later. There's been many a martini and cocktail enjoyed while trying to always improve our practices for the team and patients. Thanks for being you Sheryl!

While it was great to learn from a big company who at the time had 5 clinics, I decided to go back to school. The hope was to finish my bachelors degree and maybe get into dental school after all. I bounced between all the clinics and floated to fill in while going to school.  It was so amazing to have so many of the patients that I met in the 9 years bounce with me. Many people like their dentist but they LOVE their hygienist. I can't say enough about the great people I've met and still see today. One in particular comes to mind, that now goes on golf trips with my Dad!  Others I still see for appointments now and I feel like we've grown older together.

Being a dental hygienist is so much more than cleaning someone's teeth! It's hearing about their vacations, engagements, learning about their expectant newborn before anyone else. It's holding their hands and crying with them about health news or deaths in the family. It's helping them get from disease to health and helping to make a plan about their teeth and smile. It's educating them so they can make informed choices for themselves. We are the most common healthcare provider most people see. You typically only see your medical doc once per year if needed but hopefully you see your hygienist 2-4 times per year. Needless to say, I met fabulous people there and also met my husband!

Dr. Kaveh was this exotic, Spanish speaking dentist we all heard about who started about 1 year after I did. We didn't work at the same clinic but you were familiar with all the dentists in the company. We ended up dating after an exciting pharmaceutical meeting about periodontal disease antibiotics. Is there anything more romantic than that?!? After many years, we decided to start our own practice!  We both resigned from our positions and started Madison Smile Solutions after taking over Dr. Lampman's practice of 50 years! I remember celebrating our one year wedding anniversary tearing wallpaper off the walls and cleaning to make his clinic look more like ours.

I'm so lucky to have met Kaveh. He is truly a calm, funny and genuine guy and after working with a lot of different dentists - I know that he does amazing work! I didn't realize all the changes I'd watch the industry or how much the choice to be a dental hygienist would impact my life. I don't see patients everyday anymore unless I am needed as I'm busy managing our office. I see the the patients that have bounced with me through the years and still request me. I work our for our hygienists if they go on vacation or get sick. I truly love being a dental hygienist and didn't really "sign up" to be a manager. That part of the job is still a work in progress for me. I continue to try to learn and improve on that daily. I feel lucky that I've gotten to now help teach and train a handful of hygienists and assistants that have worked at Smile Solutions over our 11 years. Many of them have grown into such amazing, talented providers. One even has gone on to dental school! Thank you to anyone that got to the bottom of this blog. I wanted to document my experience because not all of us can say "I love my job" (most days) for 20 years.

Keep Smiling,

Trish Ghaboussi, RDH