What is a dental hygienist?
This is a health care professional who specializes in helping patients maintain good oral hygiene. They are also known as a Registered Dental Hygienist or an Oral Hygienist. The roles that a dental hygienist plays can be very complex and can vary between dental clinics and dental offices. A dental hygienist is an important educational resource for patients for providing them with invaluable information in regards to the proper care of their teeth.
Job description of a dental hygienist
As mentioned what job duties a dental hygienist has will depend on their working environment but generally they are responsible for the pre-care of the patient before the dentists sees them, help the dentist during the actual procedure, and provide post-treatment care. A dental hygienist may even be responsible for examining and cleaning a patient’s teeth. Another job responsibility they may have is to evaluate the neck, mouth, and head to look for any indications of oral disease or decay.
Some of the other jobs that a dental hygienist might do can include:
- Taking and developing any x-rays of the patients teeth
- Developing care plans for the patients on how to maintain good dental hygiene.
- Polishing and smoothing mental restorations
- Sealant applications and administrating fluoride
- Do teeth cleaning
- Making casts of the patient’s teeth for the dentist to study later so the dentist can evaluate them and know what the patient needs.
- Can also do office management stuff like make appointments, take payments for services rendered, make notes in the patient’s chart about what they did such as cleaning the teeth, x-rays taken, making sure that the medical history of the patient is up-to-date, etc.
- Making sure that the patient is comfortable and if it is a child they need to reassure the child that the dentist is not going to hurt them.
A dental hygienist also has to have good “people skills” which means that since you will be dealing with patients and quite possibly frighten children you will need to know how to talk to them to make them feel calm. Some come to the dentist office or clinic in severe pain and will be grouchy to the dental hygienist so you will have to know how to talk to them and not let their grouchy mood make you be rude to them. You should also know how to use good body mechanics because throughout the day you may be in some awkward positions working with patients so you want to make sure that you are not hurting your back.
How to become a dental hygienist?
Before graduating from high school you should make sure that you take mathematics, chemistry, computer classes, English, and biology classes to give you a head start on your associate degree for being a dental hygienist. To be admitted to a dental school, trade school, or college you will first have to have a personal interview in order to determine if you are suitable for this type of job. When you graduate high school some of the colleges that you have applied to get your associate degree may require that you take at least 1 year of general college studies and then take the college entrance examination. There are some colleges that offer a 2 year certificate program to become a dental hygienist but it would look better on your resume to say you have an associate degree instead of a certificate.
Dental hygienist is considered an oral health professional. Typically all they need to become a practicing dental hygienist is an associated degree and be licensed by the state. The associate degree that a dental hygienist holds is usually an Associated of Applied Science degree. This is a 2 year degree that you can get at most community colleges, dental schools, or vocational institutes. Getting this type of associate degree will help you prepare for a career as a dental hygienist through clinical and classroom instruction. They will take such classes as dental materials, oral pathology, pain management, radiology, periodontics, infection control, pharmacology, and community dental health.
During your schooling you will be required to complete a certain number of hours working in a dental office under the supervision of the dentist or the licensed dental hygienist. The eligibility requirements to take the state test will vary from state to state but almost all states require that the student havefrom accredited dental hygiene program post-secondary credentials. In addition, the school that you graduated from should be accredited by the American Dental Hygienists Association. Some of the other requirements to get your dental hygienist license are:
- Letters of recommendation and/or school transcripts
- CPR certification
When it is time to take the exam to become a dental hygienist you will take the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination that is given by the American Dental Association. After this exam you will have to complete a state or regional clinical board examination. If you decide after working for awhile or before you start working that you want to get a higher degree to help ensure that you will be given a higher salary you can go for a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or both. With either or both of these degrees you could secure a position in research and teaching. For some positions in school or public health clinics you would need either a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
Some of the top dental schools in the United States include:
- San Joaquin College in Stockton, California
- Argosy University which has 28 campuses in several states such as Texas, Georgia, California, etc along with online classes
- Remington College which also has campuses in several states such as Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, etc along with online classes
- Sanford Brown Institute which also has campuses in several states such as Florida, New York, New Jersey, etc.
- Concorde Career College in Memphis, Tennessee
When looking at the different dental schools or colleges that have dental hygienist programs there are four things that are necessary to make it a great school to attend. You should make sure that they are an accredited school, look at the faculty qualifications, graduate employment statistics, and have post-graduate programs.
Work environment and schedule
Almost every dental hygienist works in dental clinics or dental offices alongside the dentists. You may also find some who work in outpatient care centers, physician offices, hospitals, extended-care facilities, correctional facilities, the military, and schools. They will usually work full or part time Monday thru Friday between 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. What the actual hours would be would depend on the hours the dental office or clinic is open. There are some states that have changed the law that will allow dental hygienists to open their own practice offering just teeth cleaning services.
This is one medical professional where they do not need to worry about being on-call or working on weekends although there may be some dental offices or clinics that are open half a day on Saturday. In the dentist office or clinic there may be more than one dental hygienist so the duties would be split. Also if there are more than one dentist in the office or clinic each one may have one dental hygienist working just for them.
Working as a dental hygienist there are three types of services that they are responsible for which are treatment, prevention, and education. When a patient comes to see the dentist they are guided to an exam room that does not have the exam table as in a physician’s office but have a chair instead. The dental hygienist will examine the patient’s teeth and gums to see if there are any potential oral problems. Before the dentist sees the patient the dental hygienist may have to remove soft and hard deposits of tartar, plaque, and stains from their teeth.
After the dentist has seen the patient and there are going to be dental procedures done during the visit they may administer anesthetics to either put the patient to sleep or number the area where the procedure is going be done. Some dental hygienist will even prepare apply filling materials. They may also remove any sutures that the dentist has to put in after removing a tooth, or teeth, especially the wisdom teeth. Once everything is done the dental hygienist will educate the patient on the procedure they just had, how to take care of it, and when to call the dentist if they feel that they are having problems. The dental hygienist may also tell the patient how to maintain good oral hygiene such as what type of toothbrush they should buy and the best type of toothpaste would be good fit for them.
The dental hygienist may also be responsible for disinfecting and sterilizing the equipment. When working as a dental hygienist most will wear scrubs and comfortable shoes as they may be on their feet a lot during the day going from room to room taking care of patients, making sure that the dentist will have everything in the room that is needed to do a procedure if that is what the patient is seeing the dentist for.
Pros and cons of being Dental Hygienist
Enjoying classes of chemistry and biology and enjoying helping people can certainly make you a solid candidate for a career in dental hygiene. The economic look in this field is very great, and the job opportunities can be found in many facilities and settings.
This career as a dental hygienist has already gained much attention because the number of demands increases every year, and like in any other field has its pros and cons.
Working as a dental hygienist will not depend so much on factors that you cannot control. The employment opportunities will always be available since people are in need many times for dental cleanings to lower the requirements of having to go that much to a dentist.
The salary of a dental hygienist in the United States is higher than in other occupational healthcare fields. These salaries are even higher than the salaries of many technologists and or health professional technicians that play as well an important part in dental health care fields. The median pay for a dental hygienist in the US reaches about $70,215 per year. The wage will differ according to the dollar fluctuation that is based upon the working hours in an institution and based on the experience that one has in this field.
The hours of work for a dental hygienist are much lower compared with other fields in which you have to work more for less money. You’ll have extended schedule options as well the fact that you’ll have the flexibility in your schedule. For instance over half of the dental hygienists worked part time while other employed by practices had a schedule that didn’t include weekends, nights or weekends. If you will prefer to work evenings or even on weekends as a dental hygienist, then you can apply for a job that offer extended hours.
As for becoming a dental hygienist, a huge con can appear when you start enrolling for the educational path. In order to be able to register for a dental hygienist school, you must fulfill some specific criteria and have completed on the way an associate program. All the states require for these specialists to have a license to practice. This requirement involves the fact that you’ll have to pass some exams.
Enrolling in a dental hygienist school and then completing all the state requirements can be many times a costly thing to do. This is because at the end of your studies you be in some financial debts that need to be paid. This job among others has a lack of variety during the usual working hours. In this field, the work can become pretty boring with performing the same routine activities. Also, it misses out benefits plans, such as allowing the employee to benefit from health insurance, sick leave or even retirement plan.
The work in a dental office can be physically demanding due to the uncomfortable position. This means that many times, while treating a patient as a dental hygienist you will have to adapt to this lack of comfort. Unfortunately, such actions often lead to various back and neck aches.
Dental Hygienist job growth
The projected job growth for dental hygienists has an ongoing rate of 20% that is much faster than the average for all occupations. The job satisfaction in this field is presented as higher due to the nature of the job and the stability that it offers among other.
The demand for dental care is established due to the large aging baby boom population and individuals that continue to keep their original teeth and in need for proper hygiene and maintenance of their teeth.
As the Dentists practices grow, these professionals will be in need for more dental hygienists that will assure and perform the dental care routine, making easier for the Dentists to see and receive more patients.
The job outlook for dental hygienists is numerous, these professionals being in high demand due to the nature of the job that they perform being an aid not just for the patients but also for the other specialists that they are working with.
Dental hygienist salary
The average yearly salary for a dental hygienist depends a lot on where you will be employed. Those who are working in a private dentist office have an average yearly salary of $67,220 and if you are employed by a hospital it would be $55,670 If you are working in outpatient care centers your average yearly salary would be $68,170. The average yearly dental hygienist salary is will vary from state to state and takes in many different factors such as where they are working, the geographical area, how many years experience you have, etc. According to research that has been done by the year 2022, the expected job growth will be 33%. This is due in part to the renewed focus on oral care and the increasing population. It is also one of the fastest growing occupations.
In the Western part of the United States is where the highest average yearly salary for dental hygienist is. As of 2013 California was the highest paid state with the average yearly salary of $93,289, and Nevada with an average yearly salary of $91,350 and Washington the next highest at $90,540. The top 5 is rounded out with District of Columbus at $88,320 and Connecticut at $84,320.
In addition to the salary there is also the benefit package which can include paid sick, vacation, and personal days, health and life insurance that could include your family, 401K, social security, pension, vision and dental, and possibly reimbursement for the uniforms that you have to purchase.
Salary of a Dental Hygienist in 2015
In the US, a dental hygienist salary is estimated at an average that reaches $68,254 per year. For the year 2015 a dental hygienist salary is determined by the type of employer, the education that one has and mainly due to the years of experience. According to the type of employer a dental hygienist hired in the private offices would have a different salary than of those who work in the area of hospitals.
Dental Hygienist Salary in 2016
The income for a dental hygienist, in the United States, for the year 2016 tends to vary from an average that is comprised between $58,220 per year and up to $76,710 per year. The salary for someone working as a dental hygienist varies according to various factors. The biggest factor that impacts this group is the demographic factor- geographical location, followed by the industry, company size, and tenure.
A dental hygienist income is as well impacted by the bonuses that are provided, many of them exceeding $3,010, the profit sharing that is usually comprised between $489.05 and $5,697 per year. The commission that is granted can reach even up to $20,479 per year. Some of these professionals according to each employer receive benefits such as sick leave, vacations, and even contributions to their retirement funds, or other presented bonuses.
According to the lowest and the highest points in this salary branch, the average estimations indicate some rates of decrease and increase in the income. For instance, for those working as dental hygienists with a lower income, the expected amount can reach at around $46,546 per year while those at the other end, with a higher salary, can expect to take home up to $96,289 per year or even higher.
The income varies according to each city and state, region and area. The factors that impact the earnings that are decisive are the costs of living and the living expenses of that particular region. There are cities that will pay a higher income while other will pay a lower income. For instance, a dental hygienist in Seattle can expect at a quite good salary while one working in the area Boston or Denver can expect at large paychecks. The lowest-paying market income rate is to be found for dental hygienist in the area of Jacksonville, with 7% to 8% below the national average.
According to the employer, those that are self-employed can earn a lot more than those that are working for hospitals, or dental offices or larger firms. This, of course, depending upon the state in which they are performing their services.
Dental hygienist salary in Canada, Australia and UK
- In Canada the average yearly dental hygienist salary is C$42,176 – C$92,972 with a yearly bonus of approximately C$2,687.
- Being a dental hygienist in Australia your average yearly salary would be AU$49,873 – AU$109,190 with a yearly bonus of approximately AU$4,848.
- In the UK you would earn an average yearly salary that is based on your age. If you are in your 20’s it would be 27,969, in your 30’s it would be 36,547, and in your 40’s and 50’s it would be 43,259.
Conclusion on dental hygienist salary
For only needing a associate degree which you can get in 2 years to become a dental hygienist the salary is good because there are some medical degrees that involve much more training and schooling, including medical school, that the average yearly salary for those degrees are on par with that of a dental hygienist. Before embarking on a dental hygienist career understand that what average yearly salary you would make depends on several factors such as geographical location, where you are working, and years of experience. The salary of a dental hygienist has also shown a growing trend the last several years and is expected to continue growing so the average yearly salary can only get better. If you like talking to people and working in people’s mouth all day, then this is the job for you.
- First Published Date: 23 July, 2014
- Last Updated Date: 21 August, 2016