Dental Hygienist


A Career in Oral Hygiene

A dental hygienist is a licensed oral health professional that has graduated from an accredited school and has passed state licensing requirements. A career as a dental hygienist is being discovered by people more and more everyday which is one of the reasons why the Bureau of Labor and Statistics it among the fastest growing occupations and projected a 36 percent growth in employment through 2018. However, Dental Career Guide has researched and talked to hygienist and as of 2010 the majority of job markets for hygienist are extremely saturated as there are not enough doctors hiring or many just hiring for part time. This can be due to many factors such as not enough dentist graduating to meet the number of hygienist, the economy and dentist and consumers cutting back, and others as well. People who find out about the dental hygienist career love the fact that becoming one not as rigorous, the job is flexible, and the pay is very good. All these factors are explained in detail below.

Dental Hygienist Job Description

The role of a dental hygienist varies from state to state and also depends on the work environment itself as to what their duties are. In a clinical setting, dental hygienist educate and explain to patients about oral health, perform specific dental care procedures, and assist dentist with prep work. Dental hygienists communicate directly with patients and explain oral health issues including nutrition’s effect on oral health, preventive methods against cavities and oral diseases, proper toothbrush selection and brushing techniques, flossing, and following a specific oral hygiene program for patient treatment. They also screen patients by checking oral health, examining the teeth and gums for abnormalities and diseases, performing oral cancer screenings, reviewing oral health history, comparing dental charts, and taking and developing dental pictures. Dental hygienists also perform dental procedures inside the mouth as well. They also apply cavity-preventative materials like fluorides and apply dental sealants. Removing hard and soft deposits is one of their primary roles and dental hygienists use instruments to remove plaque and tartar above and below the gumline. Some states allow dental hygienists to perform other routines as well. Administering local anesthetic or nitrous oxide analgesia, placing and carving filling material, applying periodontal dressings, and removing sutures are some procedures allowed by some states. Dental hygienists will also perform some prep work for dentists to look over and these include measurements, lab test and results, and many others.

Dental hygienist can work in a variety of settings from dentist’s office, clinics, hospitals, and other health facilities and with continued education they can hold teaching, research, administrative, and other positions. Some may branch out into working for accompany like Colgate and hold a position as a sales representative or an administrative position.  Others can become program directors at teaching institutes or join in on major research on topics like oral cancer. A handful of dental hygienists even become marketers for new products and instruments like teeth whitening tools for dental offices or have a dental hygiene practice. Those working in a dental office settings usually work part time or regular times which provides flexibility..

Dental Hygienists Schools

To become a dental hygienist requires education through a program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). The reasons why many people who are looking for a new career or are looking for another career later in life decide on this one is because education at the minimum is around two years and further study can be done later on. Dental hygienists can earn a certificate, associate degree, baccalaureate degree, or even a master’s degree as there are programs that offer all these training levels. They can also go further after their master’s and earn a PhD. The majority of education programs are offered through community or junior colleges that offer an associate’s degree like an Associate in Applied Science. This allows applicants to stay local, pay cheaper tuition and fees, and save on living expenses. University, four year colleges, dental schools, technical institutes, and a few others also offer dental hygienist training programs. Dental hygienists education consists of didactic courses, laboratory work, and some clinical experience. The more advanced degrees generally offer longer periods of hands on experience. According to the American Dental Hygienists’ Association, the estimated cost of tuition and fees for an associate’s degree was $30,155, $40,207 for a bachelor’s and $23,133 for a master’s degree.  Check out dental hygienist schools for more information.

Dental Hygienist License

To officially work as a dental hygienist requires a state license and in order to obtain a state license requires graduation from an accredited dental hygiene program, passing a written and clinical exam, and meeting further requirements that differ depending on the state. The National Board Dental Hygiene Examination is required for the written exam for all states except Alabama which has its own licensing rules in the Alabama Dental Hygiene Program. For the clinical exam, many states have formed a regional board for testing while others have their own. The regional board mandates the clinical test for applicants from those involved states. States have other requirements such as background checks, jurisprudence exams, immunizations, CPR certification, and many others. The states that allow dental hygienists to perform more duties like administering anesthetic have more requirements as well that need to be met. After licensing, the credentials Registered Dental Hygienist, RDH can be used.

Dental Hygienist Salary

Dental have a flexible work schedule and plenty of educational resources but they also make good money. How much a dental hygienist makes is going to vary by location and job responsibilities but the BLS report for May 2009 showed that the median annual wages was $67,340 with the lowest 10 percent earning less than $44,900 which means 90 percent of dental hygienist made over $44,900. For a complete breakdown of income information check out the dental hygienist salary page.