There are many things to consider when you're researching dental hygiene programs and the schools that offer them. You'll want to make sure the courses you're taking and the training you receive puts you exactly where you want to be in your career path. Here are some of the things you can expect when you're studying to be a part of this exciting field.
Training to Be a Great Assistant
In a good dental school, you will be taught how to be the right-hand person for a dentist. This will inevitably involve you working side-by-side with a dentist while the patient is in the chair. You will need to be familiar with all the equipment the dentist is using to provide both routine cleanings to a patient as well as more advanced procedures. You may also be responsible for cleaning the examination room, providing a "bib" around the patient's neck, and making sure the patient is comfortable at all times.
Dental Hygienist Training
In many dental hygiene programs
, you'll be given more extensive training, so that while you'll often still be assisting a dentist, you will also have more opportunities to deal with patients directly. Your regular tasks may involve examining a patient's teeth and gums, charting any cavities or problem areas and taking X-rays. Following a thorough exam, you will be trained in the proper method of cleaning a patient's teeth, including plaque removal, as well as providing patients with fluoride or even dental sealant.
Learning to Use Advanced Equipment and Tools
As a dental assistant or hygienist, you may also be required to take computer images of a patient's teeth, chart any problem areas or let the dentist know of any areas of the mouth that are bothering the patient. You'll probably be responsible for keeping all the equipment in the examination room clean after each patient visit. Also, any tools that are used during a procedure will need to be sterilized, and materials that have been used will need to be restocked.
Whether you are working as a dental assistant or dental hygienist
, there will be a variety of job opportunities once you complete your training at a dental school. You could work for a general dentist or a dentist who specializes in periodontal work or implants. You could also work for a pediatric dentist or even an orthodontist. Increasingly, there are also walk-in dental offices that are set up much like urgent care centers — there are even mobile dental units!
Flexibility on the Job
Working as dental hygienist, you might have the ability to work for many dental offices since some dentists only employ a dental hygienist a few days a week to handle teeth cleanings. This gives you the opportunity to work as much or as little as you want and even the option of working with patients both young and old!
Ultimately, a good school will provide you with the training and the knowledge that you need to succeed in this field. Once you've graduated, you'll have many options regarding the type of dental practice you can work in; hopefully, you'll even be able to find your career "home."
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