Jacquetta Hollingsworth's mother had hoped her daughter would become a nurse like her, but she found another career path in health care and became a dental hygienist.
Growing up in Harlan County, Ky., Jacquetta said nursing was a much more revered profession for women than dentistry. But her mother always worked nights because nurses with more seniority got the coveted day shifts. Planning to become a mother someday, Jacquetta wanted a more family-friendly career.
When her father's friend, a dentist who had served with him in Vietnam, asked Jacquetta to answer the phone in his office one day in a pinch, she found her calling. He trained her as a dental assistant but encouraged her to become a dental hygienist or a dentist, saying she would eventually become bored as a dental assistant.
"I worked as a dental assistant for four years, including at the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry," Jacquetta said. "He was right. You're the first one in the office every day and you're the last one to leave at night."
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Jacquetta earned her bachelor's degree as a registered dental hygienist at the University of Louisville School of Dentistry. She is also certified in anesthesia.
She works four days a week in the Perimeter Drive office of Lexington dentist William Fain. Seventy-five percent of her patients are regulars, and she maintains a long waiting list.
Most days, she treats eight adult patients, taking X-rays, cleaning and polishing teeth, probing gums and doing preventative fillings. She checks their medical history and takes their blood pressure. If a patient's mouth is too tender for a procedure, she can numb it to prevent discomfort.
WORKING MOM, COACH
Her family includes husband Maurice Hollingsworth Jr., sons Byron, 21, and Jarice, 15, and daughter Ashanti, 13.
Jacquetta, an afterschool activities carpool mom, has coached all three of her children in sports, including basketball and fast-pitch softball. At age 44, Jacquetta still plays shortstop on her own softball team.
She also finds time to give back to the community, using her dental hygiene skills for the Salvation Army and at community outreach events sponsored by U of L.
Jacquetta's parenting and coaching experience helps her to educate and motivate her dental patients, whether they are 8 or 80 years old. She uses visual aids such as photos and illustrations to demonstrate the potential for gingivitis if patients don't floss regularly, for example.
"I'll say ‘This is totally healthy gum tissue and this is gingivitis. If you don't start flossing, this is where you're going to be,'" Jacquetta said.
Although Dr. Fain is a family dentist, rather than a pediatric dentist, they treat some children, Jacquetta said.
"Pediatric patients are a little harder to deal with," she said. "You have to ease them into it."
The dental hygienist has been bitten by a young patient, but most of the time she finds a way to communicate the importance of proper dental care.
"If I have an 8-year-old who won't open his mouth, we may start by counting his teeth or talking about a reward in the treasure box."
Jacquetta truly enjoys the patient interaction her job requires.
"I love the one-on-one with my patients," she said. "I love getting to know patients and giving them the tools" they need for maintaining good oral health. "But when I leave the office at 5:30 p.m., I'm totally with my family and in mommy mode."