Rutar ’15A becomes first male to be named Nebraska Dental Hygienist of the Year
Ryan Rutar ’15A was all smiles on Friday, and for good reason.
The Doane Master of Arts in Management graduate was recognized at the Nebraska Dental Hygienists Association annual convention as the recipient of the 2019 Nebraska Dental Hygienist of the Year. Rutar becomes the first male in Nebraska to ever receive this award.
“It’s definitely humbling and gratifying to be acknowledged by your colleagues,” Rutar said. “Within dental hygiene, it’s a reverse role of sexism. Instead of the boys club, it’s the girls club.”
According to the American Dental Education Association, only 4% of hygienists across the country are male, and in Nebraska, that number is believed to be even smaller. Dental hygienists are the third most female-dominated profession in America according to a 2017 Boston Globe report, next to speech-language pathologists and preschool and kindergarten teachers.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in biology in 2007 and a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene in 2010, Rutar said it took him nearly six months to be hired in a dental office. He started part-time, then eventually transitioned into a full-time role. Rutar says he hopes the number of men working in dental hygiene will grow in the coming years.
“Part of the reason I strive to be a leader within the association is to open people’s eyes about the lack of diversity within the profession,” he said. “For the NDHA to acknowledge me, I think it means I’m hopefully creating the impact that I was hoping for.
“A lot of men don’t realize that when you graduate, your salary as a hygienist starts around $30/hour. It’s a great profession and you typically work Monday through Thursday.”
Rutar stays busier than the average hygienist, however, as he recently started a new business called Pearly White Prevention on top of working as a full-time clinical hygienist and manager at Morning Glory Dental in Lincoln. Pearly White Prevention is a dental hygiene coaching and consulting practice co-founded by Rutar and Erin Haley-Hitz.
Rutar said there are not many dental hygiene consulting practices in the Midwest and that they have gotten good interest so far, particularly from rural communities. Haley-Hitz said that Nebraska is in a unique situation with a lot of dentists set to retire soon and the new dentists that replace them could benefit from consulting or coaching to get their business underway.
As Rutar and Haley-Hitz developed Pearly White Prevention, Rutar found that he was incorporating a lot of his work as a student at Doane in the MAM program.
“The MAM program really helps develop you personally and professionally,” he said. “It has really benefited me today. I learned a lot about emotional intelligence, self-reflection, and how to change and grow. I’ve used a lot of applications from the program a lot more than I initially thought I would.”
The Nebraska Dental Hygienists Association is broken up into five different “components” or regions -- Lincoln, Omaha, Greater Nebraska, Northern Nebraska, and Panhandle. Every region hands out awards each year, and those award winners are eligible for the overarching NDHA awards. Rutar was named Lincoln Dental Hygienist of the Year by the NDHA two years ago.
Haley-Hitz says that Rutar winning the Dental Hygienist of the Year award can be seen as breaking a barrier for males with the lack of male hygienists in Nebraska.
“He is absolutely deserving of the award,” she said. “Ryan has a magnetic personality. When he walks in a room, people want to meet him.”