Dental Hygienist Careers

If you want a career in the dental industry, but you do not want to become a dentist, you may want to look into becoming a dental hygienist.

Before a patient sees their dentist, they see a dental hygienist, and the hygienist cleans teeth and performs X-rays. Someone with this type of career can also provide preventive dental care such as looking for signs of cavities. With the advancement of dentistry, maintaining the health of real teeth is easier than ever. While it requires less training to become a dental hygienist than to become a dentist, you will still need the proper education. You also need to learn how to work under a dentist to ensure that you meet the oral health needs of every patient. Since dental hygienists are in high demand, you have greater chances of finding a job in the industry.

What is a dental hygienist?

The majority of dental hygienists work in dental offices and similar practices, but they can also work hospitals, clinics and a wide variety of places they may be related to the dental profession but do not perform dental services.

Dental hygienists can perform a variety of tasks, such as dental cleanings and taking and developing X-rays. Dental hygienists also assess the patient’s oral health and report what they find to the dentist, and they are responsible for providing preventive dental care. Such forms of preventive care include applying sealants and fluorides to patient’s teeth to help protect them from gingivitis. They must also be good at taking notes and being detailed oriented, since dental hygienists document treatment plans that are given to patients. Hygienists also educate patients on oral hygiene and give them tips for proper dental care, such as how to brush and floss properly to maximize teeth and gum protection. Finally, they must document the patient care that they are providing.

Since dental hygienists do perform many dental services, they must know how to use many dental tools. When cleaning teeth, they may use hand tools, ultrasonic tools and lasers, on certain occasions. To remove stains and plaque, they must use air-polishing devices. And when a dental hygienist performs dental X-rays, they must arrange the X-ray machine to take proper pictures of the desired teeth.

While dental hygienists are given many responsibilities, they must do so under the supervision of a dentist. The guidance required varies depending on the individual state and the type of setting in which the hygienists work. Depending on the state, a dental hygienist may be able to diagnose specific oral health problems without supervision or oversight from a dentist.

How do I become a dental hygienist?

While the requirements for dental hygienists vary by state, all states require that dental hygienists be licensed professionals. If you are interested in becoming a dental hygienist, you are going to need to complete an associate’s degree in dental hygiene. You can do so at your local community college, or most technical schools and universities, typically within three years. During that time, students are given classroom courses, as well as courses in a laboratory and clinical settings. Typical courses that you will study include nutrition, pathology, anatomy and periodontics. Additional courses can include physiology, radiography, medical ethics and patient management. After you have completed the required education, you will also need to obtain the appropriate licenses, registrations and certifications. In addition, you will most likely need to obtain a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification. To find out the specific requirements for dental hygienists in your state, contact your state’s Board of Dental Examiners.

How much can I make as a dental hygienist?

If you pursue a career as a dental hygienist, you can expect to make a decent salary. As of May 2017, the median annual wage for dental hygienists is just over $74,000, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median salary is defined as the wage that falls “in the middle,” and a median wage means that half of the workers earned below this amount, while the other half earned more. The bottom 10 percent of hygienists earned less than $51,000 annually, while the top 10 percent in this career earned more than $101,000 per year. It is important to note that while salaries will vary, so will employment benefits. Sick days and vacations day will vary depending on the employer, as will the retirement contributions. Before you take a job, it is essential that you have any questions answered about job benefits, retirement packages, and paid time off. Many dental hygienists work part-time, and most work for more than one dentist due to the few required workdays for each office.

Is there a demand for dental hygienists?

The demand for health science jobs is growing, and it includes the need for dental hygienists. However, as the demand for dental hygienists is growing, so is the number of students graduating with degrees in dental hygiene. Since there is more competition in the job market than ever for dental hygienists, prospective employees will need to have strong resumes and grades to be considered top candidates.

Before you run out to apply for a job as a dental hygienist, you need to take into account your geographic situation. Metropolitan and large cities may have an influx of dental hygienists, but rural areas with little to no access to dental services may have the most job openings. Before you apply for a job as a dental hygienist, check for job openings in the surrounding cities and towns for the best career option for you.

Can I advance my career as a dental hygienist?

Dental hygienists have the opportunity to further their careers if they choose to do so, but it will depend on their level of education, and the experience that they have gained working as a licensed dental hygienist. If they qualify, they can advance their career by teaching dental hygiene in dental schools or education programs. However, if you would like to get into research or teaching, you will need to further your education in dental hygiene with a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree. Additional career options include research, business administration and office management. You may also be able to work for companies that market and sell dental equipment and materials.

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