Jul 30, 2017
7
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I'm a 26 yr old and recently just graduated from Cal Poly Pomona with my bachelors of science in business. I originally transferred from a CC with my associates and I planned to do pre reqs for dental hygiene once I was at Cal Poly, but over the past couple of years there I kind of lost sight of that goal. So now I'm graduated and actually working at a marketing agency but omg I absolutely hate it, it's beyond boring and for the past 2 months all I can think about is my dream to get into the dental field.

Ever since I was 10 I decided I wanted to be a dentist, I even wrote little story books about myself and I named them "Dr. Sharp" lol. As I went through school, I just had a hard time with sciences so I gave up and through CC I changed my major from biotechnology to marketing. When I did that is when I thought, well maybe I could do dental hygiene instead.

Now that I'm older and also wouldn't have to focus on my business degree and those classes, I feel like I could actually focus on the pre reqs I need and go back to a CC to take them.

I'm just seeking advice because I literally have no one to talk to about this who can understand or knows anything about dental school.

I guess the main reason I'm scared of trying for dental school is finances, my age, and how much longer it will take. Pre reqs would take me about 2 years then another 4 for dental. Then however much longer it takes to get established. Hygiene would be only about 3 more years and not as expensive.

I'm worried over what I should do because, as a girl, I have dreams of marriage and having kids. Choosing dental school I know I'd have to put that on hold, well at least having kids. And that somewhat makes me sad because my mom is getting old, she's 62, but I'd like to have kids in a decent time where she can watch them grow up and still be able to watch them, etc. her health is good, but physically and movement wise I see her aging. Not being able to work and afford a new car or be able to travel, my boyfriend not really looking forward to having to support me basically, etc are other reasons that are holding me back from dental school. I guess fear is what has always held me back from it and I'm still struggling anyways lol.

Hygiene just seems like a brighter path to getting there and since it's shorter makes me less fearful of the opportunity costs.

I'd really appreciate any advice. Thank you.
 
May 17, 2008
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Dental Student
I feel like I could actually focus on the pre reqs I need and go back to a CC to take them.
Not sure if this will affect your decision at all, but you would want to avoid taking pre-reqs at a CC if possible. Some dental schools don't accept pre-reqs from CC's and others don't look at coursework done at CC's favorably.
 

careerchanger09

2+ Year Member
Feb 24, 2017
112
184
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Pre-Dental
I can definitely relate to your dilemma as a fellow career changer. My fiance is also a doctor who struggles with a lot of the same dilemmas of balancing career with wanting to have kids.

I don't know a lot about the Bridge Program at Loma Linda but it might be something worth looking into. You could apply to their dental hygiene program and then potentially continue into a DMD. Maybe give them a call and see if this fits what you are looking for. There may be other schools too that have a similar program.

Bridge Program, DH to DDS | School of Dentistry | Loma Linda University
 
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OP
K
Jul 30, 2017
7
3
Not sure if this will affect your decision at all, but you would want to avoid taking pre-reqs at a CC if possible. Some dental schools don't accept pre-reqs from CC's and others don't look at coursework done at CC's favorably.
I've read that, but considering I'm a transfer student anyway wouldn't I have already shot myskef in the foot with that? Where do I take pre reqs then? I can't take them at Cal Poly anymore.
 
OP
K
Jul 30, 2017
7
3
@careerchanger09 Never heard of this program, but honestly looks promising! I'm actually going to look into and contact them. I was looking at Loma Linda, but the cost is what steers me away. Can one really live off loans and not working at all while going to such an expensive school?
 
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Illumident

2+ Year Member
Jan 26, 2016
514
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Dental Student
I guess the main reason I'm scared of trying for dental school is finances, my age, and how much longer it will take. Pre reqs would take me about 2 years then another 4 for dental. Then however much longer it takes to get established. Hygiene would be only about 3 more years and not as expensive.

I'm worried over what I should do because, as a girl, I have dreams of marriage and having kids. Choosing dental school I know I'd have to put that on hold, well at least having kids. And that somewhat makes me sad because my mom is getting old, she's 62, but I'd like to have kids in a decent time where she can watch them grow up and still be able to watch them, etc. her health is good, but physically and movement wise I see her aging. Not being able to work and afford a new car or be able to travel, my boyfriend not really looking forward to having to support me basically, etc are other reasons that are holding me back from dental school. I guess fear is what has always held me back from it and I'm still struggling anyways lol.

Hygiene just seems like a brighter path to getting there and since it's shorter makes me less fearful of the opportunity costs.

I'd really appreciate any advice. Thank you.
It seems like there are more pros for you in dental hygiene. It's a great career choice, so why not pursue that?
 
OP
K
Jul 30, 2017
7
3
@Illumident i definitely have the passion to pursue hygiene, I guess I'm just afraid of the whole giving up on myself and my dreams situation or that I'll regret not just going for dental in the long run.
 

Illumident

2+ Year Member
Jan 26, 2016
514
446
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Dental Student
@Illumident i definitely have the passion to pursue hygiene, I guess I'm just afraid of the whole giving up on myself and my dreams situation or that I'll regret not just going for dental in the long run.
Dreams are definitely nice to have, and they push us to pursue our goals. But the reality is important. The concerns you have are actually very valid, and if you enjoy dental hygiene, then I don't see any reason why you should disregard your big concerns to pursue something in which you see very little benefit, other than just going for it. You can only give up on yourself when you're stuck with an unhappy career and do nothing about it.
 

Auntymarkovnikov

2+ Year Member
Jul 7, 2017
433
677
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Pre-Dental
Why not PA? It's only 2 years, cheaper, and reputable.
 

GoHawks18

2+ Year Member
Mar 31, 2017
97
62
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Pre-Dental
Have you considered working in sales for dental products? You would be out of the office meeting different people all day and wouldn't need any additional education.
 
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321931

Go Hygiene or PA. My hygienists make 75k on 3 days week and 90k on 4 days week. They work hard though, and they are worth every penny. They can always pick up another Friday/Saturday and make even more money. It's hard as hell to find a decent hygienist to work those extra days.

Don't have to put up with the stress of being a dentist, running a business, and if you are good, you will have a patient base that loves you. Work part-time and making that kind of money is great without the liability and the ridiculous debt load of a "real" dentist 500k.

Considering you would have to take pre-reqs....and then DAT...and then apply...and then 4 more years...you will be into your mid 30's. Hygiene is a much easier and reasonable route with better lifestyle, "better" pay when you compare debt load, and way less stress. There's a reason why alot of hygienists become Divas. Because docs spoil them, and they hold alot of negotiating power (higher pay) due to patient base going to the Dentist just for them.

Regarding regret? That's really personal and only you can determine that. I do find that alot of international dentists that immigrated here end up becoming hygienists and do very well for themselves. When I asked why didn't you go to Dental they said that the difficulty to get in plus the enormous debt wasn't worth it. Hygiene school was a walk in the park for them and they make a great living now working part time.
 
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OP
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Jul 30, 2017
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@Rainee thank you for the advice! I think I've finally decided to go the hygiene route. I'm looking into cypress community college or possibly loma linda as they have a DH associates program too... although that would be more expensive I'm sure.
I honestly know I'd be super happy being a hygienist. That life style is so ideal to me. I want to be able to see my (future) kids grow up and be there for them too so working 3-4 days a week will be really awesome.
Thanks again!
 
OP
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Jul 30, 2017
7
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@maga1994 id hope I would be a good fit! I love cleaning and I'm a bit OCD so cleaning teeth and gums will actually be fun for me lol.
 
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321931

@Rainee thank you for the advice! I think I've finally decided to go the hygiene route. I'm looking into cypress community college or possibly loma linda as they have a DH associates program too... although that would be more expensive I'm sure.
I honestly know I'd be super happy being a hygienist. That life style is so ideal to me. I want to be able to see my (future) kids grow up and be there for them too so working 3-4 days a week will be really awesome.
Thanks again!
I hope you come back one day and write back a positive story about your transition. To many people think hygiene is beneath them but it's an amazing gig. Patient's will love you, doctor's will to, and you will make a good income to debt ratio aka you will be way better off financially this route.

There's lots of ways to go down the hygiene route- my hygienist went to school at the same time while working. The other had kids and took off days when needed. The $, the less stress, and the job security is good. Don't underestimate hygiene. I think when you will work you will be glad you went the other route.

If you really wanted to play dentist, look at other states that offer extended function dental hygienists. Maybe an extra year of schooling to do some restorative fills. So you end up with 10x less debt, end up as a mid-level provider, and if anything, there will be more power extended to you in the future because apparently dentistry is "lacking" healthcare practitioners. I wouldn't be surprised if extended function hygienists can take do simple extractions, and crowns in the future.
 
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Aug 8, 2017
14
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I'm sure that was a hard decision. Glad you did some research though and found a solution that will make you happy!
 

PBPL

2+ Year Member
Mar 17, 2017
182
51
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Pre-Dental
I'm actually a hygienist and I love it!! I applied to dental school because I want to do more!! Hygiene is a great way to get your feet wet and see if you really love it. Try hygiene first and then see if dentistry is definitely the path you want to pursue. For me, it reassured me that dental school is the right thing for me to do.
 
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Michael_Scott

Best Boss
2+ Year Member
Sep 3, 2016
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@Rainee thank you for the advice! I think I've finally decided to go the hygiene route. I'm looking into cypress community college or possibly loma linda as they have a DH associates program too... although that would be more expensive I'm sure.
I honestly know I'd be super happy being a hygienist. That life style is so ideal to me. I want to be able to see my (future) kids grow up and be there for them too so working 3-4 days a week will be really awesome.
Thanks again!
This is awesome! Love it when people help each other and don't pull them down!
Yes given your passion and personal goals, I think hygiene is not a compromise but instead a great goal. It will help you get into dentistry and if you want to pursue dentistry down the road, you could do that. I know lot of hygienists who have come back and become dentists. You would also have the money to pay for dental school instead of taking out loans if you do decide to pursue dentistry.

Good luck and hope you become great at your future profession!
 
Aug 19, 2017
9
6
Status
Pre-Dental
I'm actually a hygienist and I love it!! I applied to dental school because I want to do more!! Hygiene is a great way to get your feet wet and see if you really love it. Try hygiene first and then see if dentistry is definitely the path you want to pursue. For me, it reassured me that dental school is the right thing for me to do.
May I ask what route you took to apply to dental school? Did you just take the additional sciences required besides your RDH degree? I'm an RDH considering dental school myself.
 

PBPL

2+ Year Member
Mar 17, 2017
182
51
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Pre-Dental
May I ask what route you took to apply to dental school? Did you just take the additional sciences required besides your RDH degree? I'm an RDH considering dental school myself.
After hygiene I went to get my bachelor's & then decided to definitely apply
 
Dec 21, 2017
241
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Pre-Dental
Considering you would have to take pre-reqs....and then DAT...and then apply...and then 4 more years...you will be into your mid 30's.

well, After quitting my Masters in the middle, I RE started as undergrad in Bio JUST to take the pre-req when I was 25. I got my 2nd Bachelor's in 3 years, bc I had my first baby in the middle, which delayed me 1 semester, and had to take ALL science classes plus extra to get the BS. from age 28-32 (current) I have been working in a science lab (over4.5 years now) and I am an active applicant this cycle. I had to wait 4.5 years JUST bc my visa status. seems crazy huh. Be thankful that you guys are born here... :) but I must say the wait is worth it. I just wish it could have resolved a bit sooner.

If I get in this cycle, I will be starting 33-graduating 37. haha. What about mid 30's. It's all fine. people even start at their 40's too.


I'm worried over what I should do because, as a girl, I have dreams of marriage and having kids. Choosing dental school I know I'd have to put that on hold, well at least having kids. And that somewhat makes me sad because my mom is getting old, she's 62, but I'd like to have kids in a decent time where she can watch them grow up and still be able to watch them, etc. her health is good, but physically and movement wise I see her aging. Not being able to work and afford a new car or be able to travel, my boyfriend not really looking forward to having to support me basically, etc are other reasons that are holding me back from dental school. I guess fear is what has always held me back from it and I'm still struggling anyways lol.
If you don't die for early retirement, you will be fine OP.
you can still enjoy your life, work flexibly.

Also, I am not sure what you decided since last year, hum if your "boyfriend' is not favorable to support your dream over new car etc. think twice. I don't know 100% from just your wording, not optimistic or not favorable seems very different attitude.

Well, good luck OP.
 

jLaws

2+ Year Member
Aug 11, 2017
167
154
The prereqs and DAT aren’t that bad if you are willing to fully commit to the process and surrender your free time. I started with none of the prereqs at 26 yo and applied this cycle at 28, soon to be 29. You will be much more disciplined than your classmates, you will have fewer distractions, and you won’t physically feel any older. The DAT will be much easier than for traditional students because you will focus all of your effort on only the classes you will be tested on (besides physics). If you have a high paying job or decent paying job like me you can keep it throughout the prereqs and start dental school with 50-100k already saved. This honestly is not that hard of a process. Two and a half years of discipline and you will be ready to dental school.

If you’re investing in a 403b, you can use that to pay for dental school penalty free, and pay minimal taxes on it when taking it out since you will have no job in school. In fact, the lifelong learner tax credit will cover 2000 per year so if you spread it out over the 4 years you will save 8000 in taxes while paying into the lowest possible bracket.
 

ashleyz2022

7+ Year Member
Sep 10, 2011
11
9
Status
Pre-Pharmacy
I'm a hygienist as well. Completed my Bachelor's in 2011 and have been working since. I definitely had the same mindset as @SouthernRDH. That I would become a hygienist and test the waters to see if dentistry was a good fit for me or not. I could have tested the waters by volunteering and shadowing. Looking back I wish I would have applied to dental school from the beginning. I'm 31 now, have a daughter and am applying to dental school. The thought of missing time with my family while I'm in school has been really weighting down on me but I know that in the long run it's the best decision for me.

If your dream is dentistry really look within yourself and see what about dentistry excites you?! If hygiene is your passion than definitely do it but if deep down, even a little bit, you know you would like to do more don't hesitate and apply for dental school.

Good luck on your journey!! Let me know if I can help in anyway. I live in SoCal as well. The other hygienist at our office graduated from cypress. If you want me to put you in contact with her, let me know.
 

ysrebob

10+ Year Member
Apr 1, 2006
179
300
Status
Dentist
Speaking as a fellow former nontraditional student... the more "nontraditional" (older) you are, the less financial difference there is between the two career paths of dentist vs hygienist (cost of the extra schooling for the DDS/DMD stays the same, whicle the lifetime earnings difference decreases over a shorter working career). So, especially for the nontraditonal student, I would think the choice should be more about which role would SUIT you best as a person. Even through DDS/DMDs and RDHs work side by side every day and see the same patients, the two jobs are quite different in their feel.

RDH is going to be an employee. Helps to be outgoing and enjoy people. Need to be detail-oriented. The job is very very routine and repetitive in nature, so must be OK with that or better yet thrive on it. Low risk; good return; pretty hard "ceiling" in terms of how far you can take the career income- and growth-wise. In my ignorant opinion, RDH works out best if your job is not the core and focus of your entire existence, but just a solid and respectable way to support your family and live a good life.

DDS/DMD will ideally need to be a small business owner to be best-compensated, with all that comes with that. Huge variation in earnings. Need to be comfortable with taking financial risks and carrying large debt; need to be willing and able to manage people; need to be OK with constructive conflict to run the office effectively. No ceiling at all on success; the people who do best with it are often engrossed in their career/practice almost at the expense of family and other pursuits, though you certainly don't have to do that. Even if you remain as an employee dentist, still will likely need to do a certain amount of management/supervision in the office. Day to day, a dentist's job is also pretty routine and repetitive, but less so than hygiene. Need to be able to work well with patients who are under a lot of stress and fear, and not let that drag you down.

I am generalizing wildly here, but you get the idea. If you shadow both you can form probably a more accurate perspective yourself - the point is that the two roles are fairly different and will best suit two different kinds of people.
 
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