Working Life: Donna Paton, hygienist, Dental Care Ireland, Tullamore


I check through emails over breakfast. As President of the Irish Dental Hygienist’s Association (IDHA), my inbox is always full. I correspond regularly with the association committee on all matters, from member queries to organising conferences and meetings.

Donna Paton


I start my commute from Mullingar to Dental Care Ireland in Tullamore, where I have a full schedule of patients for the morning. I use the short drive to clear my head. As a dental hygienist, I primarily clean teeth and treat gum disease. Oral health issues can often be linked to other health conditions, so I have an important role to play in preventing disease and helping maintain general health.

I relish the opportunity to meet new people every day. I have been based in Tullamore for a number of years. There is great community spirit, so it’s always a pleasure to see patients, old and new.


My first patient is pregnant with her first baby and her gums have been bleeding a lot. This is a common condition called pregnancy gingivitis.

I am passionate about educating patients on the importance of healthy teeth and gums as part of their overall health. After removing plaque and tartar from this patient’s teeth, we discuss ways of improving her oral health routine.


My next patient is a heavy smoker whose teeth are very stained and sensitive. He is also nervous about his appointment.

We talk through the reasons for his apprehension and I reassure him about the treatment. In my job, it’s essential to be compassionate about dental phobia. In the majority of cases, good communication can resolve any fears.


My last patient of the morning has type 1 diabetes and it is extremely important for her to maintain a healthy mouth, free of infection, to keep her blood sugars and Insulin regulated. I remind her of the need to attend the dentist and hygienist regularly.

After lunch, I check my schedule and patient notes for the following day before travelling to Dublin to meet the conference organisers for the IDHA’s Annual Conference. This year, we celebrate 30 years of our association in Ireland and we have a great line-up, including Professor Donal O’Shea from RTÉ’s Operation Transformation.


After the meeting, I head back to Mullingar in time for dinner, followed by an evening walk to wind down.


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