Forget the pink shirt and sparkles. Being a hygienist in 2020 is so much more than that.

Check out our chat with Iman Zayed, a registered dental hygienist and the face behind @millennial_rdh on Instagram and TikTok.

This week we had the pleasure of sitting down with Iman Zayed, a Registered Dental Hygienist in Chicago as well as the face behind @millennial_rdh on Instagram and TikTok. We cover a range of topics from her journey through the dental care system, deciding how she wanted to really utilize her knowledge to change how patients view going to the dentist, and some advice for anyone wanting to become an RDH.

Ok, Iman, tell me a little bit about your background and how you became a hygienist and about some of the other things you’re doing right now! 

Yeah. So I've been in the dental field for about eight years. Gosh, time flies! I started off as a receptionist at 17. During that time I decided that I wanted to become a hygienist. So I went to school and I was working at one of the largest practices in Chicago called Dentologie and I started doing all of their marketing and social media.  I really fell in love with branding, dental practices and making it seem less scary. Changing the experience of going to the dentist and changing the way people see going to the dentist.

So, I did that for five years. During that time, I went to hygiene school, became a dental hygienist, and then I started working in corporate America for a pretty large DSO company in the city of Chicago and in Indiana and that's helped me a lot. It also taught me that I never, ever, ever want to be in corporate America.

I feel like that happens for a lot of people! You finally get there and as soon as it happens, you're like: “Ok, I made it and I do not want to be here."

I mean, it was a great learning experience. I met so many smart, intelligent people, but it just wasn't my scene. I knew I wanted to create something. So I started working on Millennial RDH, which is my page now. And I've grown that for maybe like a year and a half, two years. And I've been seeing great success. I started doing consulting and I started working with other general brand practices during that time as well as  just really focusing on being a dental hygienist. You don't just have to work in a clinical setting, there's many opportunities for hygienists out there. So that's where I'm at now! 

You mentioned something that I'm really intrigued about and that I've seen a lot in just the brief time I've been working with you and other hygienists: a lot of hygienists are really big into social media and they utilize that. Talk a little bit about Millennial RDH, how that came to be, and what your goals are there.

So from building brands, I knew what it took to build a really good social media presence. When I was in hygiene school, you would look up dental hygienists and there wouldn't be any Instagram pages about it. And this was not even that long ago, this was like five years, maybe four years ago. And there would be tooth fairies and like pink sparkly things. And I'm like: “this is not a definition of what a hygienist is like!”

 And so I really wanted to change how people saw dental hygiene and I wanted the profession to be looked at differently. I also wanted patients to look at us differently. We're not there to tell you every time you come in, “this is how you floss” or whatever. We're there to really educate you and help you get on track with whatever you need. Whether you need advice about your boyfriend, this visit, or the next visit, you need advice about what toothbrushes you should use. That's the message that I want to get across with millennial RDH, because we're just regular people.

So you’re playing a little bit of that bartop psychologist! It's a great thing. That's important, right? You touched on it, but sometimes people are embarrassed or just hesitant in general to see a dentist and it's great when you can kind of humanize it and really just take down that barrier for patients. Why do you think people have that hesitancy or are just kind of turned off by going to the dentist?

Dental phobia is a thing. People are terrified going into the dentist and sometimes it's because they had a really bad experience. They had a traumatic experience when they were younger. 

One time I went to yoga and I was talking about going to the dentist and why people are so afraid. It's an intimate setting. Your mouth is open, there's somebody so close to you and like, you do have to prepare your mind for that. And you know, they can feel your energy. And if you seem timid or if you seem upset it's a vulnerable place to be in. So I think that's a reason why people are so afraid to go to the dentist. They also don't want to know if there's something wrong. I don't want to know if there's a big hole in my tooth and I have to spend $2,000 to fix the hole. Like, no. I'd rather go on vacation, right?

**Questions and answers in this interview were edited to format for your reading enjoyment. To watch the interview in its entirety, Find us on our youtube channel @wallyhealth or click here. To learn more about Iman, find her on Instagram and TikTok @millennial_RDH

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