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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Influencing the Future of Dental Hygiene: Trends, Predictions, and Beyond

July 27, 2023

It’s no secret that oral health is essential to our general well-being. But according to one recent study, about 25 percent of adults between the ages of 20 and 64 currently have at least one cavity. Statistics like that help underline why dental hygiene is such a talked about subject.

But what is a dental hygienist? And what present-day trends are shaping its future? Read on to learn about the future of this promising career and determine whether it might be the right job for you.

Dental Hygiene – What Is It?

Dental hygiene has to do with any habits, techniques, or best practices that help support, maintain, or improve the health of a patient’s teeth and gums. Everything from standard daily brushing and flossing to advanced oral surgery would fall under the umbrella of dental hygiene.

Current Trends in the Dental Hygiene World

While there are many trends shaping the dental hygiene world, there are a few in particular that are absolutely worth exploring.

Technology Advancements

As is true with virtually all areas of healthcare, technology is shaping the course of the dental hygiene world. Telehealth and mobile applications are enabling dental hygiene professionals to embrace remote dental services, for example. Rather than requiring someone to come into an office for an appointment, many concerns can be addressed (and basic conditions can be diagnosed) via a secure video conference. This has dramatically improved the effectiveness, not to mention the availability, of patient care.

Digital Marketing Use

Another major trend shaping dental hygiene has to do with the increased use of digital marketing to reach patients. According to another recent study, about 77% of prospective patients say that they always research care providers of all types via search engines like Google before booking an appointment. About 76% of patients conduct research on a provider’s website, and about 52% of people use other online resources.

To effectively reach out to these potential new patients, dental hygiene professionals need to be ready to meet them where they are. That means increasing their online presence, making digital marketing vital.

Navigating the Changes in Patient Expectations and Preferences

One of the biggest challenges that dental hygiene professionals face has to do with ever-changing patient expectations and preferences. They want access to care anytime, anywhere – period. If they have a question, they may not make an appointment to get an answer. They might email you or send you a direct message through their patient portal. The same is true for following up with care recommendations you’ve made in the past. Understanding these changing patient expectations is the key to forging a better and longer-lasting connection with patients.

The Future of Dental Hygiene: Predictions

With technology evolving so rapidly, it can be difficult to accurately predict what the future of dental hygiene might hold. Still, there are a few important clues as to where this all may be headed that are worth paying attention to.

Striving Toward an Increase in Preventative Care

Thanks to many advancements in modern tech and healthcare best practices, there has been a significant increase in preventative care in recent years. Not only can preventing an issue or stopping a small problem before it has a chance to become a bigger one save a patient money, but it can also help prevent other health-related issues, too.

Tech and Patient Care Integration

Along the same lines, newer technologies are leading to more dental hygiene professionals embracing newer and more advanced technologies – all of which dramatically improve the level of care that patients receive. As recently as a decade ago, technologies like 3D imaging or 3D printing were not commonplace.

Flash forward to today, and they’re more accessible – not to mention more affordable – than ever. They can be used to help make more accurate scans of the mouth, to help create models that will be used for things like braces or planning advanced dental surgery, and more. All of this makes it easier for dental hygiene professionals to develop the right game plan for the patient at the right time.

Obstacles Dental Hygienists Face

One of the major obstacles that most dental hygienists face has to do with their license. While licensure is one of the prerequisites for dental hygienist positions in most states to work legally, the requirements of obtaining said license can vary widely depending on where you’re located. Likewise, there is very little reciprocity between states. This means that if you move out of state, you’ll probably need to repeat the licensure process

Additionally, dental hygienists may have an undesirable schedule due to the nature of their work – although this will obviously vary depending on who employs them.

Because dental hygienists can have a heavy workload at particularly busy practices, they may also go long periods of time without a break.

Dental Hygienist and All It Entails

Ultimately, being a dental hygienist involves becoming a licensed healthcare professional who works with a dentist to provide critical patient care. As is true with a dentist or specialist, the goal of any hygienist is to prevent and treat various diseases, all while promoting quality oral health.

In addition to cleaning teeth, the answer to the question “What does a dental hygienist do?” can vary significantly on a day-to-day level. At some point, they will likely find themselves conducting X-rays, collecting various medical histories from patients, offering education on proper oral care, removing plaque, tartar, and other obstructions from someone’s teeth, checking for signs of gum disease or other issues, and more.

Different Opportunities for Career Growth

One of the most important things to understand is that being a dental hygienist does not mean you are destined for a life in private practice. While this is the path that many choose to pursue, there are several additional options out there with additional training.

If you can go on to earn a bachelor’s degree, for example, that can open the door to working in education or even school and public health programs. Going on to obtain a master’s degree can advance your career toward research, healthcare administration, and even advanced clinical positions.

Always Learning: Continuing Education and Training

As is true with many other professions in the healthcare field, dental hygienists should always prioritize continuing education. Especially thanks to trends like those outlined above, the industry is rapidly changing. The process required for something as seemingly simple as filling a cavity has changed dramatically in the last ten years, and if you don’t make it a priority to stay up-to-date on all the latest trends and best practices, you will find yourself left behind.

Of course, depending on where you received your license, you may also be required to take multiple hours of continuing education courses on a regular basis in order to maintain it.

Find Your Dental Hygiene Path

If you’d like to find out more information about the trends and predictions that are shaping the future of dental hygiene, or if you’d like to discuss your own path in the field in a bit more detail, please don’t delay – contact San Joaquin Valley College today.



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