CYPRESS — After working as a florist for 10 years, Ina Rydalch returned to school 17 years ago to study art, with the idea of becoming an art teacher.
But after taking an anatomy class, she got hooked on medicine and ended up becoming a dental hygienist instead.
"I knew I had to make a decision between art and medicine, but I couldn't stand the thought of all the fatalities that most medical personnel deal with," said Rydalch, now 47.
"So I chose to become a dental hygienist and I'm happy to report that in my 13 years as a hygienist, there have been no fatalities in my chair," she said, laughing.
According to Rydalch, a sense of humor helps, especially when trying to persuade patients to take better care of their teeth.
Instead of scolding them, she teases a little, saying something like, "Floss the teeth you want to keep."
That gets the point across without annoying patients so much that they put off their next cleaning indefinitely.
Rydalch, who also is a teacher in the dental hygiene program at Cypress College, describes herself as a care-giver, an educator and a motivator.
"A large part of being a hygienist is educating the patient about better dental care. And I have to find ways to motivate them the same way I motivate my students," she said.
Rydalch said she finds teaching satisfying because it enables her to improve her profession by making sure her students are well trained.
"I teach them to scrutinize data and analyze new products. That way they are able to answer patients' questions and be well-informed," she said.
"I also encourage them to be active in professional organizations. There are constant changes in medicine and dentistry and the newsletters and journals provide the best way to keep up with all that's going on."