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Hygiene School: The Good, The Bad, The Tears

Written By Melissa Sottosanti 11 Sep 2018
Hygiene School: The Good, The Bad, The Tears


Seriously, good things take time. Especially a GOOD hygienist. So for all of you hygiene students that are just starting or are a few semesters in I’m going to share some life-changing tips for you to make it through school.

How It Feels

When I think of hygiene school I think of how exhausted, overwhelmed, and stressed I was. You could have followed the river of tears that were shed from hygiene students down the hallways. Was it worth it? 100%! I honestly had no idea just how vigorous the hygiene program would be. I was like “heck yeah, I’m going to make some good money and all I have to do is scrape some teeth”…. Psshhhhh Hygienist do wayyyyy more than just scrape teeth (but you already know that!)


I remember it like it was yesterday when I received the phone call that I had been accepted and I would be starting with the next cohort. I was literally freaking out I was so excited! I knew that my life would change and that I was finally going to be someone and have a real career.

 Then reality hit….I came into orientation very nervous. The instructor franticly lined us up and took our photo’s for what would be our badges for the next couple years, honestly it felt as if I was an inmate, no time to smile, just a flash from the camera and moved into the next room. I had a pile of books, ugly starched gray scrubs that chafed my thighs when I walked, and 32 new classmates. I didn’t know anyone and I felt like I didn’t belong there. It seemed like everyone had some sort of previous dental experience besides me.

 I could have sworn that the teachers were speaking some foreign language, I couldn’t understand them if my life depended on it, I even recorded the discussions on my phone because I thought I was hearing things. During my first couple weeks of school I would sit and stare at the chapters highlighting pretty much every word because it felt like I was “studying.” I thought in my head “How in the hell can a tooth be so complicated, they all look the same and truthfully why does it matter if its mesial, distal and what the heck is buccal”?

True Statement

I definitely had no life outside of school; I had two children who I’m pretty sure they thought that I left them for 2 years, and according to my husband I was a gray scrub wearing zombie. If I wasn’t at school, then I was studying. I was basically having a love affair with Quizlet , I was making notecards ALL. THE. TIME.

My kitchen table quickly became my desk and the chairs that I sat in were brand new leather chairs at the beginning of the year and by the end I had to keep rotating the chairs because I was cracking the leather from sitting on my ass for so long.

I cried, boy did I cry. Half the time my family wasn’t sure why I was crying but they assumed it was because of teeth. I remember calling my friends (a.ka. my fellow tooth nerds) and we would cry together and then laugh because of how ridiculous we were acting. We were running on like three hours of sleep, hot Cheetos, red bull and coffee.


All things get better with time

I promise everything gets better, not easier, but better! It really does. In fact: the scrubs become less starchy, the books become easier to read and you start to understand the foreign “dental” language that everyone is speaking. You get to have fun new instruments and you get to see ACTUAL patients (however, the breakup with Dexter is hard). Everything will slowly come together and you will start to remember all of the reasons that you started this adventure. Yes, you have patients that get frustrated with you because it took you two hours to probe and chart half of their mouths, but hey its free so they get over it! Before you know it you will be stressed out trying to find a patient for boards and then BAM just like that you are done and you are a freaking Registered Dental Hygienist AND officially a Hygiene Gangster!!! Whoo Hooo!!!!!! So listen up my friend, take a deep breath and use my helpful tips to make it through hygiene school.


1. Find some friends that you can lean on (I know its hard because you feel like you are competing with the other cohort girls/guys for this position, but don’t worry becauseyour not, you are all in this together)

2. Don’t procrastinate, just don’t.

3. Please don’t question your abilities or your choice to be there (Believe me, I’ve been there, in fact during my third semester I tried to apply to pharmacy school and I know very well that I COULD NOT do high enough math to get into pharmacy school haha)

4. Everything gets easier and you will start to fall into a routine.

5. Ask questions and get as many tips and tricks that you can from the instructors. (If you take the time, they really aren’t monsters and they actually have a lot of good tips and tricks) They will end up being your biggest fans at graduation and pinning.

6. When you have to fill out 6 or more pages in clinic for each patient and you start to question whether or not the instructors are just trying to ruin your life, they aren’t, I promise. It will all make sense my young grasshopper.

7. DON’T compare yourself to others, I repeat DON’T compare yourself! Even though it might seem like “so and so” has there sh*t together and you can’t even seem to get your tray set up correctly, just remember that they don’t have their sh*t together. NO one has it together in hygiene school. So don’t get discouraged.

8. Take constructive criticism. Yep it hurts, it hurts real bad. You will get frustrated. You will want to cry (you probably will if you have any tears left). You will want to say some nasty things to your instructor. But DON'T. Take it all in now, because this will prepare you for a private practice and not every Dentist you meet is nice.

9. Take care of your body, eat as nutritious as you can and make some time to exercise. Meal prep and go on walks even if it’s during lunch. (It sucks when you have no life and you feel unhealthy on top of it)

10. Lastly, ENJOY your time and be thankful for the friendships that you make. The friends you make end up being lifelong friends. They are the only ones who truly understand what you have been through; they have seen you at your best and your worst. Oh yeah…and don’t be caddy with other classmates; remember you may have to work with them one day! You will look back at this part of your life and remember all of the good times you truly had and how much you were able to grow in such a short amount of time. You will make yourself proud!!! 



-Melissa Sottosanti, RDH 




Celeste - February 02 2018

Melissa, this could not have been more accurate!! The stress is worth it. All my close friends are girls I graduated dental hygiene school with :)

Nousy - January 11 2018

Great website!!!! Love the shirts and love hearing about your experiences.

Donna - December 09 2017

I ABSOLUTELY love this! Especially the quizlet part! It has become my second love in life!! I have three kids and just finished my first quarter of DH school and it was ROUGH. I didn’t think I would make it through, but I did! Thanks for all the tips. I will be reading this periodically to give me some hope!

Nancy - November 29 2017

Omg thank you I’m applying in a year and so scared not having s life but I know it will go by fast

Corey - November 24 2017

Loved reading your experience! It sounds VERY familiar :) kudos to you doing it with 2 kids! I had one and that was tough. I tried to work full time and go to hygiene school. HA! Failed my first 2 classes and had to pay to take the classes/exams over again! I’m not sure when you went to school – it was 10 years ago for me! But when I look back at it now, I remember the people and the experiences around school. I still am great friends with my school bestie – even though she works/lives out East. Thanks for the read!

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