Dental hygiene offers a rewarding and gratifying career. Dental hygienists examine teeth for symptoms of oral disease, clean patient’ teeth, and offer preventative care. Dental hygienists also educate patients on the best methods to improve and maintain excellent oral health.
Although requirements for a career in dental hygiene vary depending on the state, dental hygienists generally complete an associate’s degree in dental hygiene and receive a state license. Becoming a dental hygienist in Delaware requires an associate’s degree from the accredited school in the state. The Dental Hygienist Program at Delaware Technical and Community College in Stanton – Wilmington offers an excellent program.
Education and licensure are important aspects of obtaining a career in dental hygiene. However, there are several important qualities a potential dental hygienist should possess. Compassion is a useful quality to possess when patients are suffering from considerable pain. Hygienist must display sensitivity to patients that show anxiety or fear about undergoing a dental procedure.
This career also requires an attention to detail. Dental hygienist must be detail oriented. This skill helps hygienists follow specific guidelines and practices that are essential to helping dentists treat and diagnose patients. This is useful for the instances when the hygienist performs procedures without the supervision of a dentist.
One of the more relevant qualities of any hygienist is dexterity. This is a career that requires an exceptional ability to work well with the hands. All dental hygienist perform work-related duties in close quarters and over a small area of the body. This job requires considerably precise tools and small instruments. It is important to add that interpersonal skills are also a quality hygienist need to work well with co-workers, dentists, and patients.
As previously stated, a career in dental hygiene requires an associate’s degree. Although there are several bachelor’s degree programs in dental hygiene, this is far less common in the state of Delaware. A bachelor’s or master’s degree is generally required for a career in teaching, public health, clinical practice, and research programs.
It is important for high school students considering a career in this field to enroll in courses that include mathematics, biology, and chemistry. In some cases, continuing dental hygiene programs may require at least 1 year of college. Associate’s degree programs provide in-depth classroom instruction, laboratory, and clinical instruction. The degree program also requires students to study periodontology, anatomy, nutrition, physiology, and radiography.
Licenses and Certifications
Although requirements vary considerably from state to state, every state requires dental hygienists to earn a license. In the state of Delaware, licensure requires passing scores on practical and written exams as well as a degree from an accredited dental hygiene program. Applicants that require specific application requirements should contact Delaware’s health or medical board.
Duties and Responsibilities
The duties and responsibilities of a dental hygienist range significantly depending on the practice; however, dental hygienists generally do the following:
• Educate patients on proper oral hygiene techniques
• Clean teeth by removing plaque, tartar, and stains
• Protect teeth by applying fluorides and sealants
• Perform and develop X-rays
• Maintain patient care and treatment plans
Dental hygienists use several tools to perform their job. Polishing and cleaning teeth require ultrasonic and hand power tools. Removing stains may require air-polishing equipment which applies a mixture of baking soda, air, and water. Hygienists also use X-ray equipment to take images of the teeth and jaw area. X-rays help diagnose and treat issues with the teeth or jaw.
Other responsibilities of hygienists vary by state. There are states, including Delaware, which allow licensed hygienists to set and carve filling materials.
Salary and Job Outlook
In 2012, the average annual salary for dental hygienists was $70,210. The lower 10 percent of professionals earned less than $46,500, while the top 10 percent earned more than $96,200. Most dental hygienists receive benefits that include retirement fund, vacation pay, and sick leave. However, benefits are generally available to full-time dental hygienist. It is important to add that in 2012, more than 50 percent of dental hygienists worked part-time.
The job outlook for dental hygienists is promising. Projected employment for dental hygienists is expected to grow more than 30 percent from 2012 to 2022. This growth rate is considerably faster than the average for other industry related occupations. As research and technology continue to link oral health to general health, the demand for dental services provided by hygienist will continue to grow.
Overall, a career in dental hygiene offers stability and growth. This career requires an associate’s degree and licensing in the state of Delaware. The program at Delaware Technical and Community College in Stanton – Wilmington is an ideal stepping stone to become a dental hygienist in Delaware.