The first thing you notice about Matt Mitchell, a dental hygienist at Dental Depot Northwest Expressway, is his personality. He’s one of those special people that radiates positivity and a hunger for growth. He’s the first to give credit to others and celebrate their accomplishments as well as the first to offer support or guidance to anyone who needs it.
His whole team adores him – and we do mean his whole team. More than a dozen of Matt’s coworkers, including the doctors and leadership at his office, nominated him as our August 2020 Employee of the Month. Their praises include everything from Matt’s amazing attitude to his hard work ethic and abundance of compassion for others. He’s a team player who always has a kind word ready and who won’t hesitate to pitch in to help.
In this interview, we got to learn a lot about Matt and his experience at Dental Depot, plus his insight into hygiene school, the pandemic, and more. You’ll get to see just how much he cares about his coworkers and his ambitions for the future. And, as a numbing hygienist, he offers a unique perspective into the most-feared part of dentistry.
Here’s what he had to say:
MM: I’ve been with Dental Depot since June 2018, after graduating from Rose State in May. I started at [Northwest OKC] that June and worked there up until October 2019 when the [Northwest Expressway] office opened up. I did six months of assisted hygiene and then I’ve spent nine months as the [numbing hygienist]. It’s good, it’s my favorite part.
DD: How did you decide to get into dentistry and dental hygiene, specifically?
MM: It wasn’t my first choice, honestly; I was going to be a physician’s assistant. I went to OU and had mostly worked towards that and I hit some difficult classes. Luckily, I knew someone who had gone to Rose State, a hygienist, and she gave me a lot of good information about it. I felt like it would be a good fit for me, and all my family – my mom, my sister, and my grandma – they’ve all been dental assistants, so I have a little bit of background with it. There aren’t a lot of guys who have done [hygiene]. It was one of those things where I just jumped in and got into the program the first time. I’m very thankful for it.
DD: How do you approach a patient who may be nervous about being numbed for a procedure?
MM: That’s what I do every day, it’s my favorite part. I love to go in and face those challenges. At this point, as much as I’ve done it, going into numb anyone is easy. If they’re a good patient, it’s routine. But the ones who need a little extra TLC, that’s a challenge that I always look forward to.
What I do with an anxious patient is treat them how I want to be treated. I just pretend it’s me in the chair and if I was super nervous, I’d want somebody to go above and beyond for me. So, I pretty much baby them and just let them know they’re in good hands. I mostly let my skill do the talking for me, ‘cause I know how to make it good. The injection is more comfortable when I go slower because patients don’t ever want to feel like you’re rushing it. That helps out a lot.
DD: How did you decide to come to Dental Depot?
MM: My program director at Rose State was Robin Graham. She wrote the curriculum for the dental assisting program here at Dental Depot, and that was her previous job. She had just started working for Depot at the time and asked if I’d want to come on because she knew there was a spot for me here. I pretty much walked into it because they had talked to me about it before graduation. Dental Depot is the only way I know.
DD: What do you like best about Depot?
MM: It’s very team-oriented. There’s a lot of fast paces and it makes the day go by faster. Every office I’ve been the people are great. They make it enjoyable. I’ve got a very good team here – both teams, hygiene, and doctors – I don’t ever have much to complain about.
DD: What are you most looking forward to in your career?
MM: I’m most looking forward to always learning and advancing so I can become wiser in the career. I want to keep advancing in the company and take what I’ve learned – and I’ve only been doing this for two years, so it’s still fairly new to me – but I want to keep adding onto that knowledge and relaying it to people and helping them be better in this position as well.
DD: So, are you numbing for your whole office?
MM: We actually split duties. Jordan [Wright, RDH] is newer. She just got her local anesthetic so she’s been very interested in it. And that’s how I like to do it – I like to share it, especially when people want to do it. So, if they ask me directly I’m always down for it. If she wants to go in and give it a try so that she can get more comfortable, I’m always down. It gets her reps in. And if she ever needs anything or ever has questions or comes up to a challenge – she knows she can always come to get me for help.
DD: Tell me a little about your team here.
MM: So, on our hygiene team we’ve got Jordan and Coco [Rodgers]. Coco has been with me since almost the beginning – since that November. She’s my hygiene assistant. Before, I was just doing single column hygiene and numbing. When Coco came, it helped out a lot. She’s really good with the patients because she’s very hands-on and very detailed. She’s also really good about patient education, which is what I like.
Jordan has been here for two or three months now and she’s been great. Like I said, she hadn’t had any local anesthetics experiences before and she’d just gotten her certificates and everything. She’s been wonderful to have around. She makes my work go a little bit easier and I get to spend time in places I didn’t get to before.
As far as the doctors’ teams, they’re great all the way around. I’ve worked with a few different doctors here and traveling to other offices. Dr. Josh Phillips and his team were at this office from the get-go. I’d heard some good things about them, and they’re the hardest working group I’ve worked with assistant-wise. They’re go-getters and they care about me the same way I care about them. We’ve always got each other’s backs.
Chontaye [Rogers] and Dayna [Bowles] from Dr. Tara Stanford’s team, I’ve worked with them a few times before when I’d temp at [Northwest OKC] and they’re fantastic. They bring the same mentality that the other team does and they do everything right and they do it efficiently. The longer you work for the Depot the more experience you get and that’s fantastic.
DD: Do you see yourself staying with Depot in the long–term?
MM: Yeah, that’s the plan. They’ve treated me well and have always given me opportunities for advancement. As long as that stays consistent, I have no reason to leave. The only reason I would consider leaving Depot is to go through dental school, so that has been something I’ve looked into. It would be advancement and then I can come back and work here! But that’s always a question I get – it’s something I’m wanting to do but it’s getting those financials and times comfortable enough to go back and do it. With the experience I’ve gotten here, it would be so much easier going into dental school now than it ever would have been before.
DD: What would you say to other hygienists who are just about to graduate or considering coming to Dental Depot?
MM: I’d just say to enjoy their time in school. It’s one of those things where it’s very stressful and you’re looking for the end – you’re ready to just get out and work – but just know that it’s only the beginning, so enjoy that time. Take it one day at a time. And when you graduate, find a place that fits you. Just like how I found that Dental Depot fits me. I like to work at a faster pace and I like to stay busy and [numb my patients], and I get that opportunity here. Find what works best for you, cause not everybody is the same. We’re all just different puzzle pieces, so just find what fits you and take it one day at a time.
When I came out of school, I felt ready. I know I’m very educated and I’d seen a lot of stuff in school. However, people have to know that school is not the end, every day that you’re out here, you’re learning and adding onto that. The first week at Depot, you’ll see more patients here than you did in your entire two years of school. You get that repetition in and see new things all the time. I always keep on learning so I can move up and learn how to be a dentist. I’d like to be able to learn a lot more and teach people a lot more.
DD: What has this year been like for you, especially, as a hygienist?
MM: It’s been different all the way around for everyone. It kind of came out of nowhere, the whole COVID thing, and we had an intermission when we went to emergencies only for a month or two and it really slowed down things. There were a few weeks where they didn’t need me here because we weren’t doing cleanings so they still tried to give me my hours through numbing, so I’d come in and help the doctor. There were a few weeks where I was at home, but they still made sure I got time to come in and work and help them out.
Since then, there’s been a lot of people trying to make up appointments. So we’ve been really busy because there was a kind of rush coming out of it, but it’s kind of evening back out now. We’re as much back to normal as we can be. All of the extra PPE we’ve accepted as our new normal. We know to expect and abide by it. It’s getting a lot better though.
DD: Was it particularly stressful for you at any point? I know that you, as dental hygienists, have a higher potential for aerosol exposure.
MM: Right, especially early on. We didn’t know what to expect or how it would affect us. You see the stuff on the news of people getting sick. It’s definitely scary cause you’re getting up in somebody’s face and they don’t have a mask on and their aerosols are everywhere. It’s something that you always keep in mind. And it may be something you’re not worried about, but you worry about your family. Because you can be asymptomatic and go home, but if you bring it home – you know, I’m confident in my immune system – but what’s it going to do to them?
That’s always a concern so we just have to keep doing what we can with PPE. We have the N–95s with level three masks over it. They make sure we have our pre-procedural masks when we’re taking temperatures upfront when they fill out [their questionnaires].
It’s a tough subject, but we’re doing what we can. Dental hygienists as a whole are really worried about it. There have been people who have moved away from it or stopped doing it, but I wanna keep up with people. It’s my career and it’s important to me. It’s not always gonna be something you’re expecting, but you just have to keep fighting through those adversities and keep going.
For Matt and all of our hygienists here at Dental Depot, their safety is the utmost priority in our day-to-day office operations. We’re confident in their abilities to overcome adversities and changes in their offices. Our teams will continue to be provided with the best PPE materials we can source to ensure the safety of both our staff and our patients during routine cleanings.
When Matt isn’t at work, he enjoys volunteering at 405 Animal Rescue with his fiancée. Together, they have three fosters-turned-adopted dogs and have fostered countless others. Matt grew up playing baseball and played throughout junior college. These days, he enjoys disc golf and watching sports. He also enjoys table-tennis and ping-pong and is up for a match anytime, anywhere.
Matt was nominated for Employee of the Month by many of his coworkers at Dental Depot Northwest Expressway. Here’s what they had to say:
“Matt is always up to help as much as he can with the whole team. Always up to the task with an amazing attitude! He’s is the best.” – Gloria Hernandez
“He has always gone above and beyond from day one! He never once complains or shows frustrations even during trying times. Matt is also a very gentle hygienist and I will follow him anywhere he goes just to have my teeth cleaned by him. He is also caring and is always concerned about others around him whether it’s an employee or patient. Even when he is not at work, he is always finding ways to help his community. He and his girlfriend foster dogs until they can find a permanent home.” – Lauren Cooper
“Matt comes to work every day with a positive attitude. He has a great work ethic and never complains.” – Dr. Josh Phillips
“Matt is a pleasure to work with. He always has a smile on his face and a kind word to say to everyone. Matt does an outstanding job and is always willing to go beyond to help anyone the office. He is a great team player.” – Stephanie Caldwell
“Matt is always willing to jump in there and help anyone without hesitation. He is such a hard worker and has the kindest heart. He is a great coworker and the patients all love him too!” – Destiny Gordon
“He is such a hard worker and never complains. The true definition of a team player! Love his attitude!” – Marisa Valle
“This employee has been nothing but kind and has been one of the best things every day here at our office. He goes above and beyond to make sure everyone is informed in regard to patients and also does his best to make sure everyone around him is doing well. Matt is one of the most genuine, kind, caring, and hardworking people I have ever met. He deserves this more than anyone else I know that works here.” – Sahra Somani
“Matt always works hard! He helps out and has a good attitude!” – Jordan Wright
“From my first day at this location, Matt has been very helpful and friendly. Matt is always willing to help in any way.” – Chontaye Rogers
Dental Depot is a locally owned and operated family company. As such, we believe that the incredible group of doctors, hygienists, assistants, and staff that make up Dental Depot are more than their job titles; they’re members of our extended family. In our family, we like to recognize when someone goes above and beyond, living the Dental Depot values. This August, we are proud to shine a spotlight on Employee of the Month Matt Mitchell.