Are you a people person looking for good job security and great pay? Are you interested in nutrition and oral health, and can you relate to a variety of different patients? You could have a rich and rewarding career as a dental hygienist. This career is attractive to many people because you can easily make a comfortable living while enjoying flexible or part-time hours. Depending on where you live, you can make a six-figure salary – more than registered nurses! But what does it take to be a dental hygienist? And is it really something you’ll enjoy? Let’s take a look at the realities.
Dental Hygienist Duties
The responsibilities of a dental hygienist will vary by state according to the licensing requirements. Some states require dental hygienists to know how to perform procedures such as placing and removing sutures, and others do not. But as you might expect, there are many duties that are universal. Dental hygienists are responsible for most patient screening procedures, including reviewing health history and dental charts. They also take dental x-rays, which is why working with an x-ray machine is an essential part of training for the job. They can scrape plaque, apply sealants, and make impressions. But arguably the most important part of being a dental hygienist is the ability to counsel and communicate with patients, no matter what their issues with oral health. Teaching patients of all ages about nutrition, plus brushing and flossing techniques, is incredibly valuable work.
Training and Education
Dental hygienist programs are usually the domain of community colleges and technical schools, and there are plenty of options available online. In order to practice as a dental hygienist in a private office, you almost always need an associate’s degree, although occasionally you can get hired with a dental hygiene certificate. Either way, you’ll have to take an exam to get your state license. Keep in mind that dental hygienists who want to work in public health or pursue research and teaching jobs need a bachelor’s or a master’s degree. Once you’ve started your career at a private office, you may wish to expand your commitment to dental hygiene and continue your education. Knowledge of the sciences is important for dental hygienists, so be prepared to excel at anatomy, biology, pharmacology, and periodontology, among other challenging courses, during your journey to become licensed.
Perks of Being a Dental Hygienist
The big advantage to being a dental hygienist is, of course, the salary. The median income for this career is around $70,000 per year, with the top ten percent earning over $100,000. There is also a huge demand for dental hygienists, as there is for most health care careers these days. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts close to 40 percent increase in jobs before 2020. Besides the comfortable lifestyle and abundant opportunities, there’s also the flexibility. Dental hygienists may not get the recognition of being dentists, but they also don’t get the stress. This industry leads the pack when it comes to lucrative careers that offer part-time, full-time, day or evening hours, so it’s a great choice for someone looking to support a family and still spend quality time with them.
Dental hygienists go a long way toward preventing tooth decay and gum disease with their valuable counsel and strong people skills in a dentist’s office. Learning to diagnose and help treat a patient’s oral health issues before they get out of control can help them avoid invasive and painful procedures down the line, and that will make you feel good about what you do. If you’re looking to be a part of the booming health care industry but aren’t sure of where you might fit in, this is a wonderful career opportunity. You might be the right person to put healthy smiles on everybody’s faces.