Do you have an interest in dental health and oral hygiene? Then you should consider pursuing a dental hygiene career. As a hygienist you will play a pivotal role in the dental office and in each patient’s oral health as you perform routine care, discuss preventative measures, and screen for dental diseases.
If this sounds like an attractive job, a career as a dental hygienist could be a good fit for you. Learn more about this profession, its job outlook and its education and training requirements.
What Does a Dental Hygienist Do?
In many situations, when a patient goes to the dentist for a routine checkup, he or she will spend the majority of his or her appointment with the dental hygienist.
Registered dental hygienists perform several tasks with patients, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,1 including:
- Performing preventative procedures to remove tartar, stains, and plaque.
- Applying sealants and fluoride to protect teeth.
- Taking radiographs.
- Assessing the patients’ health and work in conjunction with the dentist for overall patient care.
- Documenting patients’ care and treatment plans.
- Educating patients about oral hygiene techniques.
To perform these tasks, dental hygienists use several types of equipment, including hand, power, and ultrasonic tools, according to the BLS. They also use X-ray machines to scan patients for tooth and jaw problems.
Hygienists also talk with patients one-on-one to discuss good oral hygiene practices, the link between their diet and oral health, and how their oral health can impact their overall well-being. They may also make recommendations for types of toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss to use, and demonstrate how to correctly use these products.
Dental hygienists also work closely with dentists to relay information about patients and determine what instructions to give to them. They might also perform certain tasks under their supervision.
Why Become a Dental Hygienist?
When choosing a career, you want a job that has a bright future and provides a stable income and lifestyle. Becoming a dental hygienist provides all of these.
Working as a dental hygienist lets you earn good dental hygienist pay with stable hours in a comfortable work environment. There are ample job opportunities in this growing field to help you land a position. This job also provides flexibility, as many dental hygienists have the option of working part-time.
Benefits of Being a Dental Hygienist
There are many benefits to becoming a dental hygienist. Some of the perks can include a comfortable salary and sufficient job opportunities. According to the BLS, the job outlook for a dental hygienist is bright.2 Other advantages can include interacting with patients and getting a feeling of satisfaction from helping people.3 Dental hygiene jobs can also offer diversity as you can work with numerous types of people each day, from children to adults to elderly patients.4
Dental Hygiene Jobs
Dental hygienists can work in several different types of environments, including dental offices, hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical facilities. By far, the most common workplace is a dental office. According to the BLS, 94% of dental hygiene jobs are in dental offices.8
Part-Time vs. Full-Time Dental Hygiene Jobs
Dental hygiene jobs provide flexibility so you can pursue a full-time or part-time career. Depending on the demand of the office, some dentists might only need part-time help a few days a week. This can mean you could work for multiple dentists to fill a full-time schedule.9
Pediatric vs. Adult Dentistry
Dental hygienists can work with patients of all ages, from kids to adults to seniors. You can also choose to focus on one age group by pursuing a job at a specialized facility. While some general dental practices work with patients of all ages, there are pediatric clinics that only work with children. If you only want to work with elderly patients, you can also pursue a career at a nursing home or a senior facility.
A dental hygienist can pursue other related jobs. Some of these include:
- Pediatric Dental Hygienist: In this role, you specialize in working with children and tending to their oral health needs. This is a great job for people who love children and teaching them about good oral hygiene.
- Registered Dental Hygienist: Also referred to as an RDH, this is a licensed dental hygienist. All dental hygienists in the U.S. are required to obtain a license to work with patients, but the requirements might vary by state.
- Dental Assistants: While dental assistants perform some of the same tasks as a dental hygienist, they are not trained to do all their work. They also perform more office work than hygienists, including scheduling appointments. Learn more about how to become a dental assistant.10