Overcoming Imposter Syndrome as a Newly Licensed Dental Hygienist


You worked tirelessly, survived hard exams, and finally obtained your registered dental hygienist license. As you start your journey into the dental profession, there’s one thing that may be looming over you: imposter syndrome. But don’t worry; you’re not alone. Many new RDHs feel the same way. 

In this blog, we’ll talk about what imposter syndrome is, how it affects dental hygienists, and how to overcome it while starting your career as an RDH. 

What is Imposter Syndrome?

To address imposter syndrome, you first need to understand what it is. Imposter syndrome is that nagging feeling that, despite your qualifications or achievements, you don’t really belong in your given profession and that, someday, someone will find out. This can be particularly daunting for newly licensed dental hygienists as they begin their careers. 

Stepping into the dental hygiene industry surrounded by experienced professionals can be stressful and intimidating. You might think you’re not skilled enough, smart enough, or competent enough to excel in your RDH job. These thoughts can lead to self-doubt and anxiety and hinder your professional growth. 

Let’s discuss how you can overcome imposter syndrome as a newly licensed dental hygienist. 

Recognize and Acknowledge Your Achievements

One of the first steps to overcoming imposter syndrome is to recognize and acknowledge everything that you have achieved. You didn’t earn your RDH license by accident. Your hard work and dedication got you here. 

Keep track of your achievements, no matter how small they may seem. Acknowledge the dedication and progress you have made. This exercise can help you realize that you are capable of and deserve your RDH job. 

Set Realistic Expectations

As a novice dental hygienist, setting realistic expectations for yourself is crucial. Understand that becoming an expert won’t happen overnight; learning dental hygiene involves an extended learning curve, and mistakes should be seen as opportunities rather than as setbacks.

RDH jobs often provide mentorship opportunities. Take advantage of them to hone your craft. Seek advice from experienced colleagues, and don’t be shy about reaching out if there’s anything unclear—every expert was once just learning! 

Engage in Continuous Learning and Professional Development

Dental hygiene is ever-evolving; new technologies, research findings, and treatment methods appear frequently. See this as an opportunity for growth rather than as something you need to fear.

Maintain your knowledge and stay aware of new advancements and technologies in dentistry by attending continuing education events like seminars, webinars, or workshops. As your knowledge increases, so will your confidence as an RDH professional.

Seek Feedback and Constructive Criticism

Feedback can be invaluable for personal and professional growth. Instead of shying away from it, embrace it actively by asking mentors or coworkers for evaluations. Constructive criticism should be seen as an opportunity for improvement rather than as an attack on your competence.

Make no mistake about it—even experienced dental hygienists receive feedback and change their practices based on patient input. You should view it as part of an ongoing journey toward excelling in your career. 

Develop Effective Coping Strategies

Imposter syndrome can be challenging to deal with on your own, which makes effective coping mechanisms critical. Here are a few ideas:

  • Meditation and Mindfulness: Take some time each day to practice mindfulness or meditation and experience its calming benefits, helping your mind settle down while decreasing anxiety levels. These techniques will bring peace and ease to your daily routine.
  • Positive Affirmations: Create and repeat daily affirmations as a way of combating negative thoughts. Doing this can boost self-esteem.
  • Connect with Peers: Speaking to fellow dental hygienists can be extremely therapeutic, especially for those just starting their careers. Sharing experiences and fears is both therapeutic and comforting.
  • Professional Organizations: Join dental hygiene associations and organizations for support, resources, and networking opportunities and to feel part of the dental hygiene community.
  • Professional Coaching: Consider engaging the services of a coach specializing in helping individuals overcome imposter syndrome. They can tailor specific strategies to address your unique concerns.

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

One of the primary causes of imposter syndrome is comparing yourself to others. Remember that every journey is unique—what works for one dental hygienist may not work for you. Instead of measuring yourself against someone else, focus on your progress and growth rather than competing against anyone else’s accomplishments.

Rejoice in all of your achievements, no matter how small they may seem. Enjoy this journey as it unfolds, and acknowledge your accomplishments with pride!


Newly licensed dental hygienists may experience imposter syndrome as they make their first steps into RDH work. However, with the proper mindset and strategies, you can overcome this feeling and thrive in your career. Recognize your accomplishments, set realistic expectations, invest in continuous learning, seek feedback regularly from colleagues or managers, and develop coping mechanisms to avoid feeling like an imposter. Take pride in the hard work and dedication that led to your licensure, and remember that you possess the skills needed to excel in an RDH role.

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