The rise of the traveling dental hygienist

There’s a great deal of talk about the “economy of sharing” or the “gig economy.” Changes in technology have enabled a new breed of worker to emerge. These “gig workers” are taking charge of their own careers by working for themselves and taking jobs through online job-matching platforms. Dental hygienists are no exception.

Meet the traveling dental hygienist. (A traveling dental hygienist is sometimes called a “mobile dental hygienist,” but is not to be confused with a hygienist who travels with a mobile practice to places such as schools.) The traveling dental hygienist isn’t tied down to a single dental practice and isn’t beholden to an RDH temp agency. Traveling RDHs put together schedules that work for them, choosing the locations and times they want and setting their own hourly rates. Here’s where the “traveling” comes in: Traveling RDHs can work at several locations within a city, within a state or at any location in the country where their licenses are valid.

The idea of a traveling healthcare professional isn’t a new one. Nurses have been traveling for a long time. According to the Oregon Health & Science University’s article on frontier medicine, doctors on the American frontier traveled by necessity. Of course, the dental hygiene profession works a bit differently. Today’s traveling RDH and traveling dentist aren’t the same as the rural doctors of the nineteenth century.

But the basic idea is the same: Traveling dental hygienists go where they are needed and they make a decent salary too.

Why they do it

Some people become traveling RDHs because by traveling to various RDH temp jobs, they can piece together a schedule that suits them. Rather than working full time and having to request vacation time and count sick days, traveling RDHs are free to work during the times they choose. It’s a great situation for those whose lives simply don’t fit into the nine-to-five, five-days-a-week, twelve-months-a-year mold.

The second big draw is the ability to choose locations. RDH temps who work for a temp agency often don’t have that luxury. They may or may not  be given a choice about whether to take a job, and they usually don’t have time to research the opportunity before accepting. They may also feel pressured to accept, worrying that rejecting a job may stop the agency from asking them to work in the future.

Traveling RDHs also enjoy pre-job communication that temps don’t get when they work for placement agencies. For example, Cloud Dentistry allows dental hygienists and dental practice owners to communicate in real time, making it easy to learn more about each other and discuss the job in detail. This feature also allows RDHs to prepare for upcoming jobs by talking with a practice owner before arriving at the office. Kara Vavrosky, founder of, gives some examples of the kinds of questions dental hygienists ask when going into temporary jobs: “Over time, you will learn exactly what questions you need answered right off the bat; like how to perio chart (assistant? computer/paper?), sterile procedures, how long does the doctor need for an exam? When does he like to be told an exam is needed?”

Earnings may be the biggest reason that RDHs choose to work as temps. Some may take temp jobs here and there to supplement their full-time salaries. Others may want to work more and earn more. Still others want to set their own rates. For those working through RDH temp agencies, this isn’t always possible. In fact, they often get paid less than they’re worth because agencies charge their dental practices a high markup. Traveling is an attractive prospect because RDHs who work for themselves through Cloud Dentistry can use their online profiles to set their own rates. In addition, the dental practices that use Cloud Dentistry are willing to pay fair, professional rates. That’s because they don’t have to worry about the high markups that are typically added by temp agencies.

How they do it

Dental hygienists can quickly and easily make a free profile on Cloud Dentistry; they can be up and running within a matter of minutes. RDHs who are currently unemployed may choose to make themselves available at any time, and those who currently hold jobs may want to specify a few free hours a week to work. There’s not a lot of startup time involved, so RDHs who choose to travel can get right to doing what they love: helping patients. After all, the prevention and treatment of oral disease, periodontal charting, assisting in the diagnosis of oral problems and other dental hygiene tasks are their way of making a difference. Working through Cloud Dentistry saves them time and helps them earn more, leaving them free to do the work they love and live their lives.

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