Single Mom, Triple Ambition: How Taylor Gilliland Is Carving Her Career in Dental Health

As a young, single mom of three daughters under the age of ten, Taylor Gilliland needed to deliver a one-two punch of success toward the dental health career she envisioned. Having earned her Dental Assisting certification at Carrington College in late 2022, Taylor was ready, just six months later, for the bump up to Dental Hygienist education and training.

Carrington College’s Boise campus checked off her primary needs: accelerated program, hands-on training in a clinical environment and aggressive instructor and job placement support. At the core of Taylor’s drive: community involvement – and Carrington College had deep roots there. She was ready to double-down on her career ambition.


How did you find your original Dental Assisting program at Carrington College?

I knew I would definitely further my education and was just doing online research for colleges in my area. I did an interview with Carrington and a walk-through (campus) and instantly just fell in love. The tour wasn’t overwhelming, I liked the community feeling of the campus and the campus wasn’t huge.

They didn’t just throw me the basics of the Dental Assisting program. They were interested in why I was there, what I was currently doing —and I appreciated that they wanted to know me…my motivation. From the moment I walked through the door, they already seemed invested in my success.


You completed the Dental Assisting program? Why the leap to Dental Hygiene?

Dental Hygiene was the plan all along. I’d applied to a hygiene program years ago, but didn’t get in. I just took a longer route to become a hygienist. And I got a lot of good experience and understanding as a Dental Assistant.


What was the biggest surprise about your Dental Hygiene program?

Just how much you learn. The whole process of becoming a hygienist is so much more than I ever anticipated it would be. And how much hygienists truly know and do. I have a new appreciation for hygienists everywhere!


Favorite classroom moment?

I’ve had a lot of those. The ‘lightbulb’ moments of figuring something out are great. I surprised myself in that I really enjoyed learning to give injections. I’ve never been a fan of receiving a shot, but giving them gave me another viewpoint of that. And the more I learned, the more I was intrigued to learn.


Do you get the instructor support you need?

Every instructor at Carrington is very reassuring. They will ask, ‘Do you understand’, ‘Is there a way we can help you more’…and they would give us extra coaching, more tutoring hours if we needed it. They were supportive of our success because they know what it’s like to be in our shoes.

When I was in the Dental Assisting program, Anna Walton (instructor) just had such a love for dentistry, it was contagious. The love for what she does caused me to lift my sights higher.


What is your greatest difficulty right now?

Probably the ‘mom guilt’. I try to give myself grace in that area; remind myself that this isn’t a forever state for us. This is a struggle period – and that window is very small. Those are the moments when I kind of reground myself with the girls (ages 8, 4 and 2). There are hugs and we agree that we’re going to get through this, and it will be great.

They are little watchers. I am showing them that hard times mean better days ahead. And they are watching every bit as much as they are listening.


Do you have outside or family support?

My aunt Tina lives close by and helps emotionally and with childcare issues, absolutely. A lot of times if daycare or the girls’ school calls or someone is sick, she is right there to help. She was once a single mom, putting herself through school and now tells me, “If I can do it, you can do it”. She is always ready for the next adventure…and I want to be like that.

And Jenna (8) is my little Study Buddy. She’ll listen and say, ‘Good job, Mom; you’ve got it!” My girls have definitely been my Number One Cheerleaders.


What inspires you to complete your Dental Hygiene program?

Definitely my girls. I want to be the mom they look up to. I want to be the best version of myself for them and completing this program and succeeding as a hygienist is a way of showing them that if I can do it, they can do it – in whatever capacity they choose.

I’ve always had the mentality that God has brought me this far and will take me wherever I need to be. It’s helped me thus far.


What was your message as a student speaker at a recent Carrington College ribbon-cutting?

“Today is a celebration of our collective dreams, aspirations and the boundless potential for positive change. As students at Carrington College, we stand on the threshold of a future where our education will empower us to make a lasting impact on our community. Let us step through this new campus and embrace the responsibility and privilege of serving others, forging a healthier, more vibrant community for generations to come.”


How far might a Dental Hygienist career take you?

I would love to succeed as a hygienist, but there have been moments when I have considered sharing my education by becoming an educator. I’ll spend time in the field to make sure I have really good clinical experience first, of course. I also want to get my Bachelor’s degree and see where furthering my skills and education might take me.


What might your future hold?

My main goal is to continue to grow and expand my knowledge in dental hygiene. Balance being focused and light on my feet. And, I love just breathing the same air as my girls; adventuring with them, creating new memories – that’s my biggest hobby.

Coming from a large family we value the importance of a support system. Those values have shaped the person I am and everything I’ve done thus far. Wherever I land in the future, I think I’ll do just fine there.

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