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What Do Dental Hygienists Do on a Daily Basis?

Dental Hygienists – Day To Day Work

If you’ve ever considered working with teeth, then you’ve probably spoken to someone who was a dental hygienist. These are the men and women responsible for a number of different tasks around a dentist’s office; however, they are not dentists themselves. The exact tasks they do vary based on what is required.

Cleaning

Dental hygienists are typically responsible for cleaning a person’s teeth when they arrive at the dentist’s office. Dental hygienists will employ a variety of tools to achieve this task, including the standard tartar pick (sometimes called a scaler), the powered toothbrush, and the water nozzle. Anyone who has been to the dentist is familiar with all of these tools, and what is done with them – the scaler is used to remove plaque, stains, and tartar from the teeth, often through manual scraping. However, ultrasonic scalers are available that many patients prefer. The powered toothbrush is used to scrub stains off the surface of the teeth, and the water nozzle is used to keep the mouth hydrated and clean off debris.

Diagnoses

While a dental hygienist does not perform examinations or give diagnoses themselves, they do perform tests and take these tests to the lab for the dentist to look over at a later time. A dental hygienist may also perform a preliminary exam, checking for obvious problems such as cavities, missing teeth, and gum disease. A dental hygienist is also responsible for providing advice to patients to help them take better care of their teeth and prevent the much more painful and more invasive procedures that can often occur as a result of poor dental care.

Day to Day Work

Dental hygienists also perform a large number of behind the scene tasks within a dental office. They are responsible for ensuring the sanitation supplies are fully stocked: gloves, surgical masks, glasses, etc. Dental hygienists are also in charge of cleaning an examination room after a patient has left, disinfecting the various supplies that were used, as well as the chair the patient was placed in. They often assist the dentist during procedures, providing the tools so the dentist can keep their attention focused on what they are doing.

Certification

Becoming a dental hygienist is not nearly as intensive as becoming a dentist. An associate’s degree is the base requirement, although passing a licensing board exam is also required. Hygienists must them work in a sort of apprenticeship position to learn the trade fully. Hygienists are expected to study orofacial and head and neck anatomy, periodontics, dental materials, radiology, and more. A hygienist has a better chance of finding work if they continue their education through to a bachelor’s degree.

Employment

A majority of dental hygienists are only hired for a few days out of the work, and quite a few work only part time. However, hygienists do enjoy the benefits of flexible scheduling. Dental hygienists are one of the nation’s fastest growing careers, largely due to the fact that many dental hygienists are older. As these individuals retire, the field opens up for the younger generation to step in. Another reason is that dentists who employ multiple hygienists can often generate more revenue than those who do not, and the low education barrier makes it a very attractive career path.

Salary

Dental hygienists do not make as much as dentists, but they are able to enjoy a very high paying salary. The average earning of dental hygienists is somewhere around $64,000, although in certain states the highest pay has been reported as $91,000. Training, experience, and education play a large role in how much a hygienist makes, as well as whether they work on a part time or full-time basis. Roughly 86 percent receive benefits, further increasing the attractiveness of the career.

Hygienists who work in major metropolitan areas are likely to earn more than their counterparts who work in more rural environments. Hygienists employed through dental offices also earn more than those who work in outpatient facilities, but the sheer number of employment options makes it a steady career with reliable job security.