Basic oral health is important to an overall healthy life, yet access to professional care is still a challenge for many Americans. Dental Hygienists fill an important role in improving access to quality dental services as well as serve as a resource for oral healthcare education.
Dental Hygienists are skilled healthcare workers and perform a variety of roles including clinician, educator, researcher, administrator/manager and advocate. A typical day may include teaching a kindergartner how to brush his teeth or helping a senior citizen properly care for her dentures, help manage a dental practice, or take patient x-rays. Under the supervision of a dentist, dental hygienists work directly with a wide variety of patients, providing basic oral healthcare and helping them keep their whitest and healthiest smiles.
Dental jobs – dentist and dental hygienist in particularly – typically rank high on the scale of best occupations…financially and for personal fulfillment. And, according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), growth among dental hygienists over 10 years should be 11 percent, which is much faster than average job growth.
You’ve heard becoming a dental hygienist is a good career move, but what does the job entail on a daily basis? Dental hygienists are considered skilled healthcare workers, who are trained in the techniques, skills and concepts of dental care. The position requires an associate degree and the knowledge to pass national and/or regional exams to become licensed. Since hygienists work directly with patients, good “people skills” also are needed.
Dental hygienists’ duties have changed over the years. They primarily still provide preventive cleanings, but today are assigned additional responsibilities. Their typical day includes treating patients, updating patient histories, reviewing radiographs and, often, maintaining and inventorying equipment in the dental office.
While they work under the direction of a dentist and aren’t able to make diagnostic decisions, dental hygienists work on their own, typically treating about 10 or so patients each workday. For each patient, they will assess their status, probing and analyzing their mouth, determining whether x-rays are needed, do full cleanings, and create a treatment plan for the patient. In cases where extensive dental work is required, a hygienist may assist the dentist by administering the anesthetic necessary for the procedure.
As a profession, dental hygiene has become very important to the success of any dental office. It’s a respected, in-demand occupation. If your goal is to join those ranks, Fortis Colleges and Institutes can help. Dental Hygiene programs are offered at campuses in Alabama, Georgia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Utah. Offerings may vary by state and campus; check out our Dental Hygiene Program page for details and the campus nearest you.
Soon, maybe you will be the person telling us to “open wide!”