The Role of a Dental Hygienist
Visiting the dentist for a checkup and other dental needs is necessary in order for a person to maintain healthy teeth and gums. Most dentists employ assistants, known as dental hygienists, to assist with responsibilities such as assessing a patient’s oral health, removing stitches, taking x-rays, removing plaque and polishing teeth, applying sealants and fluorides, and counseling patients about the most effective ways to maintain healthy teeth and gums.
A certified dental hygienist is an indispensable member of a dentist’s office because he or she provides valuable health care services and applies necessary interpersonal skills to a diverse patient population. In that small tools are used to clean and inspect a patient’s teeth and gums, it is essential that dental hygienists are adroit with their hands. Certified dental hygienists are trained to follow safety and public health requirements. When assisting the dentist, the hygienist may be expected to complete charts and operate machinery, all while keeping the patient comfortable and calm.
Certification requirements vary from state to state. However, all dental hygienists must receive at least an associate degree from an accredited dental hygienist education program in order to be considered for employment. Additionally, all states mandate that practicing hygienists must be licensed, by passing the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, as well as additional written and clinical examinations. A prospective hygienist will complete coursework in classes such as communications, orofacial anatomy, dental radiology, anatomy and physiology, head & neck anatomy, oral pathology, periodontics, dental materials, patient management, and microbiology. If a prospective dental hygienist aspires to procure employment in dental research, teach courses in dental hygiene, or work in government and school health programs, he or she will be expected to have received a bachelor’s or master’s degree in dental hygiene. Also, every state requires that hygienists complete six to ten continuing education credits per year to maintain licensure. Dental hygienists must also maintain current CPR certification.
Advantages to Receiving Certification in Dental Hygiene
Licensed dental hygienists enjoy working in a fulfilling and challenging career while earning a competitive salary. Certification allows hygienists to not only complete customary preventative and clinical tasks but also trains hygienists to assist dentists with more advanced work. Also, competent hygienists take more time with patients, permitting dentists to focus on what matters most, fixing patients’ teeth. Additional benefits of a certified dental hygienist may vary, but some of the standard rewards are as follows:
• According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for licensed dental hygienists is $70,210, which averages to be $33.75 per hour. BLS reports that certified hygienists employed in Alaska receive the highest salaries in the nation, at an average of $91,960 annually.
• The American Dental Association reports that 86 percent of dental hygienists receive excellent retirement and medical and dental benefits.
• Employment for dental hygienists is anticipated to grow 33 percent between 2014 and 2022. As the demand for preventative dental services grows, the range of services performed by certified hygienists will expand as well. Opportunities to assist distinct population groups such as the youth, the elderly, and those with special needs are opening in public and private schools, as well as in other public and private settings. Currently, conducting oral health seminars in schools and other settings is one of the growing trends in this field. Hygienists are also qualified to work as dental office managers and business administrators, as well as dental equipment sales associates.
• Working a flexible schedule is another perk in this thriving field. While many dental hygienists work a part-time schedule, others opt to work a full-time schedule; both options enable hygienists to balance their professional and lifestyle demands. Additionally, the flexibility afforded by this profession allows licensed hygienists to choose the setting he or she will work in: private dental practices, community institutions, dental co-ops, specialty practices, nursing homes, and more.
• Respect is a necessary component when choosing a career. The personal gratification and prestige associated with this job are rewarding. Dental hygienists are more than respected and valued team members of every dental practice because of their education and clinical training.
• Creativity and room for professional growth are also attractive incentives in this profession. In that dental hygienists interact with a diverse population, they are allowed to be creative in their methodology for patient management and oral health instruction. In some states, hygienists are allowed to take continuing education courses in administering anesthesia, which is an additional asset to their hire-ability.
The field of dental hygiene is a great option for individuals choosing a career or making a career change. If you enjoy working with people, making a great salary, working flexible hours, and getting the respect you deserve, the field of dental hygiene may be the career you have been looking for.