5 Tips to Help Overcome Imposter Syndrome as a Newly Licensed Dental Hygienist

Overcome Imposter Syndrome as a Newly RDH

We’ve all been there, fresh out of your hygiene program and eager to put ourselves out there and make a name for ourselves. But when we read a lengthy job description, and its responsibilities are put in front of us…we tend to feel a lot less sure about our skills. Feeling this way is perfectly normal, and you are not alone. Imposter Syndrome is real; if everyone succumbed to it, no one would be the experts in the field they are today. Keep reading for quick tips to remember whenever you feel like an unqualified imposter!

1. Everything takes time; with time comes experience

No one is perfect when they start a job and will make mistakes. Lend yourself the same patience you give to strangers. Take a deep breath and remind yourself you can do this; if you commit enough of yourself over enough time, you will get the hang of things.

2. Don’t compare yourself to others

We all do this and know it’s terrible for us… yet we still do it.   Comparing your job performance to a hygienist with 15+ years of experience will almost always lead to feelings of inadequacy. You wouldn’t compare the knowledge of a master chef, making 5-course meals, to the skillset of someone fresh out of culinary school. It’s so easy to look at someone and compare ourselves to them, especially when they have the same job as us, but everyone’s journey in life is very different. 

Whatever the path that leads you to become an RDH, remember that you worked hard to be there and deserve a shot to prove yourself. After all, the person you are comparing yourself to had to start somewhere too!

3. You will get better and more efficient at things

In a hygiene program, you get to take your time on things and ensure you are learning things correctly. But, once you are “thrown in the deep end” and have to pump out a patient and hour at the minimum… yeah, it can seem daunting. But, it’s essential to not put limits on ourselves based on preconceptions that simply haven’t happened yet. 

It may seem like you may “never” get down to servicing one patient an hour, but that’s current you talking, the version of you that still has a lot to learn. So, give future you some credit; you can figure this out and improve. Plus, it’s a lot easier to do this when you believe it yourself too.

4. Read: “The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

If there is one book that has helped me navigate situations both personally and professionally, it’s “The Four Agreements”. I wrote a  separate article that breaks down how the four agreements help conserve your emotional energy and give you the freedom to believe in yourself. Read it here

5. Learn from the experienced

In almost any workplace, you will be working with people who are more experienced than you. They also have the “lay of the land” and understand the subtle intricacies of how the office runs. 

You want to get these people on your side and have them as a resource of knowledge for you to learn from. People like to share what they know and are eager to share their knowledge. All you have to do is ask most of the time! Don’t be shy; maybe bring in coffee or a treat they like and get to know them; food goes a long way in building relationships!


Thank you for reading these five tips, and I hope you found them realistic and applicable to yourself. Please feel free to share in the comment section which of these points resonated the most with you and your experiences in the dental office. Please share with us as well any tips you have found that have helped you overcome imposter syndrome.

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