Island House hygienist, Karen Easton, wanted to work in the health field for as long as she can remember. “I started working as a dental nurse in the school holidays,” she explains. “I knew that I wanted to do something health-related but I didn’t want to be a nurse. I loved the sense of teamwork of working in a dental practice, and the variety that comes from meeting different clients every day.” When Karen left school she began the two-year training programme to become a dental nurse. “I worked in Ipswich initially, and although I enjoyed the dental nurse role, it was always my aim to become a hygienist,” she says.
Once she’d made the decision to develop her career, Karen headed off to Edinburgh to undertake a year’s training as a hygienist. “I loved Edinburgh and made a lot of great friends there. However, I was very young and being so far from home made me quite homesick.”
Back in East Anglia after successfully completing her training, Karen began working as a hygienist at dental practices in Ipswich, carrying out a mix of National Health Service and private work. “One of the dental nurses I knew told me that Mike Smith in Woodbridge was looking for a hygienist to work with some of his patients,” explains Karen. “Initially, I came to the old Island House practice in the car park in Woodbridge for just one day a week. It was just me and Mike in those days, before any of the other dentists had joined.
As the practice grew, we did become rather cramped, although I had a lovely surgery with views of the River Deben. We were all really excited about moving to the new building, however, because it would enable us to offer our patients so much more.”
The new Island House is anything but cramped. Plentiful space gives all dental staff more room to work and helps create the relaxed, peaceful environment for which the practice is renowned. “It can be tricky generating a relaxed, warm atmosphere in a large practice,” says Karen, “but the team here has managed it. There’s a really good mix of people here – everyone is very welcoming and helpful. That attitude, combined with the latest equipment and facilities help to make visits stress-free for patients.”
There was a time when people were as anxious about visiting the hygienist as they were about going to the dentist, fearing that they’d be ‘told off’ for not looking after their teeth properly. “Thankfully, times have changed, and my patients know that I’m here to help,” says Karen. “Many people now look forward to seeing the hygienist and to getting some support with maintaining a healthy mouth.
If a hygienist can help people to keep their gums healthy, it leaves the dentist free to do their work. We can help people not only by cleaning tricky places but by helping them learn how to look after their own teeth properly.
None of us is taught how best to brush our teeth, so even as adults it’s helpful to learn new habits because they, like healthy teeth, should last a lifetime.”