Hygienist you should know: Laurie Ambrose, RDH

March 21, 2012

With so many amazing dental hygienists in the profession, we want to provide an avenue for you to learn about and be inspired by your peers. Whether it’s someone from the practice down the road or on the podium at a CE event, everyone has a story to share.

With so many amazing dental hygienists in the profession, we want to provide an avenue for you to learn about and be inspired by your peers. Whether it’s someone from the practice down the road or on the podium at a CE event, everyone has a story to share. This month, we interview Laurie Ambrose, RDH, MS, a dental hygienist who is now Ultradent's National Endodontic Manager.

What sparked your interest in the dental hygiene profession?

I always loved my dentist as a child. Whenever I got my card in the mail, I wanted to go immediately. Originally, I toyed with the idea of becoming a dentist, but at the time, it just seemed like too much school. The dental assistant in the practice I went to recommended dental hygiene.

After graduation, did you have a clear picture of the type of practice you wanted to be part of?

While I was getting my Bachelor's in dental hygiene, I worked part-time in a lot of practices and used that as an opportunity to figure out what kind of dentist I wanted to work with. I knew I wanted someone who was caring, willing to go the extra mile for patients and who would help me grow as a hygienist, mentor me.

Why do you think it is important for a dentist to "mentor" his or her dental hygienist?

It's not easy to find and, honestly, you need to learn to work with whatever dentist you have. But in the end, if you can't see your dentist as a mentor then you may be resigning yourself to limited professional development. You need to find someone who is willing to let you bring new technologies and ideas to the table, and then look at them in a serious way. Not all dentists want you outside the box. Try to find someone who is willing to keep learning and not just maintain the status quo.

Professional growth is definitely a theme in your story. Did you always have a desire to go beyond clinical practice?

It's important to me to keep my knowledge base expanding constantly. I'll get to a certain point and know that I need more. Whatever I'm doing at the time is never the end goal. That's a big part of the reason I chose to get my Master's degree-I wanted to keep my options open. 

How did that work out with your transition onto the Ultradent team?

I've always known that I can do more. At the time the Ultradent position became available, I knew I needed a change from clinical, something new and fresh-I had been doing it for 17 years. When the sales position came up, it was a great challenge. I could use my clinical and hygiene skills, but in a whole new way so that I could keep evolving.

What was the most difficult part of transitioning from clinical to sales?

The biggest change for me was moving from the very structured world of dental hygiene, where you always knew your schedule, to the world of sales where it's never the same every day or every week. When I was an endodontic specialist, I was covering 10 states and always traveling with someone new.

Now, you're the National Endodontic Manager. Do you ever feel intimidated to be in a clinical realm so different from your dental hygiene background?

In the beginning, it was a big, overwhelming thing. I knew what endo was, but not about the procedure. I never sat in on it because I had always been in the hygiene room. I threw myself into textbooks, articles, etc. I wanted to know as much as possible. A lot of times, that meant reading and training, but it also has meant being willing to ask questions of my doctors, especially when it pertains to their particular methods. That has really helped. This field is constantly changing, so I'm learning something new everyday.

What does your new day-to-day routine look like?

As the National Endodontic Manager I am the manager for all seven regions in the U.S. I'm the person behind the tools that help them educate their offices, sales reports, and your overall "pinch hitter." I co-travel with my team, going all over the country now, and help with anything that comes up requiring support for seminars and tradeshows. Life has been exciting with some of the new product launches!

It's amazing that you've come this far, managing a team in an area that was never part of your original clinical education. What advice would you pass along to your peers?

One of the things I've come across a lot-whether it was getting my Master's in Health Administration, starting in endo or now-is that people are constantly saying, "You're just a hygienist. How am I going to put you out there as credible?" I'm not "just" a hygienist. That "just" really bothers me because I can do anything I put my mind to. I would tell other hygienists: Don't sell yourself short or let someone pigeon-hole you into a category.

We're intelligent people who work hard to get where we are. Whether we are training patients on preventive care, doctors on endodontics or company employees on a product, it's all working from the same basis of being a good educator. 

Having accomplished so much professionally, what are you hoping to conquer in your life outside of dentistry this coming year?

I've traveled so much that now, with my kids a little older, I'm looking forward to traveling with them and showing them the things I've seen. The main goal is just to spend as much quality time with the kids as possible.