If you're considering the role of a dental hygienist, you may have a specific idea of what your daily tasks would look like, like wearing a white coat and aiding the dentist with procedures while tending to patients' cleaning and care needs. But, “The grass is always greener on the other side.” So, before choosing this profession as a career option, you need to assess the pros and cons of being a dental hygienist to ensure you are on the right path.
Dental hygienists are licensed healthcare professionals specializing in preventing and treating oral diseases. They work under the direct supervision of a dentist to provide preventive, diagnostic, and therapeutic services for promoting good oral health. They play an important role in providing comprehensive dental care to patients.
Dental hygienist typically performs a variety of duties including:
They also provide preventative treatments such as fluoride applications, x-rays, and other procedures related to oral health.
As a Dental hygienist, you are also responsible evaluate to existing restorations, taking impressions for study models or dentures, and applying temporary fillings. To be eligible for this profession, you must have a minimum of an associate degree from a dental hygiene program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation.
Programs include both classroom instruction and clinical experience in a supervised dental clinic setting. Apart from educational requirements, most states require that applicants qualify for the state licensing examination before practicing as a dental hygienist. The National Board Dental Hygiene Examination is usually required for state licensure.
Here are the most prominent advantages of being a dental hygienist you should look for closely.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is going to be a boost in job opportunities by 11% for dental hygienists from 2020-2030. This increase will be mainly due to the growing demand for dental care among the aging population, who need more dental attention to keep their teeth healthy as they age.Also, the general public has become well aware of the connection between good oral health and overall physical well-being due to educational outreach initiatives.
You’ll have the opportunity to work flexible hours, part-time or full-time, in many different settings. You have the freedom to choose from several different types of dental practices and specialties, including private practice, hospital/institutional practice, public health dentistry, and community health centers.
Besides working as a dental hygienist in traditional settings, you may also pursue other career paths such as teaching at universities/colleges or doing research in laboratories. Based on your interests, you can specialize in areas like pediatric dentistry, forensic odontology, orthodontics, geriatric dentistry, or public health.
Depending on your preferred work atmosphere, you can select to work at a small private practice with one doctor or a larger corporate organization with multiple locations and providers. Additionally, there are multiple specialties in dentistry to work in, such as periodontics. For instance, if you enjoy working with children and can thrive in a fast-paced environment, consider a pediatric practice. With plenty of options available, you can always opt for another if you don't like your current work setting.
The increasing number of dental clinics means a demand for dental hygienists. You can look up job openings for hygienists on Glassdoor or Indeed. On the plus side, there are employment opportunities available for hygienists worldwide, therefore, it’s easier to find a job in your preferred location.
As mentioned earlier, the grass is always greener on the other side, and the same goes for dental hygienists. Here are some of the drawbacks to consider when assessing your career path:
The job involves dealing with numerous patients daily and managing paperwork and other administrative tasks. You may also be required to use sharp tools or electric equipment and work in uncomfortable positions while treating patients who might be anxious or uncooperative due to fear of dental visits.
At times, it can become monotonous doing the same thing repeatedly with little room for creativity or new ideas. This could lead to boredom, resulting in decreased motivation levels that ultimately affect your performance at work.
As a Dental hygienist, you may have to work in close contact with patients. And working close to the patients means being exposed to potential hazards such as radiation, blood-borne pathogens, allergies, and other communicable diseases. To reduce the risk, you must take certain safety precautions during treatments or working with hazardous materials.
In most cases, advancement opportunities for dental hygienists are limited. You may be able to move up the ranks within your current organization or practice, but if you’re looking for more career growth and higher salaries, you would have to look outside your current role. You may also find it difficult to fix a job abroad due to licensing requirements varying from country to country.
The extent of what a dental hygienist can do depends on the state they practice in. Some states allow more diagnosing, procedures, and treatments, while others have more restrictions. In certain states, dental hygienists can own their practices, but in others, they must be directly supervised by a dentist. These requirements may also affect the education and certification dental hygienists need to obtain before being licensed in that state.
The profession does have its share of merits and demerits, but it’s important to weigh both sides of the coin before you decide to pursue this profession. With the right attitude and dedication, you can enjoy your career being a dental hygienist. No matter what you decide, becoming a dental hygienist can give you the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives, so consider all that factors before and give it your best shot.
Dental hygienists often encounter busy schedules, tardy patients, or challenging cases in their workplace. The repetitive nature of these tasks can sometimes make you feel like a machine and lead to stress, anxiety, or frustration.
On a usual workday, dental hygienists attend to approximately 8-10 patients and play an important role in the efficient functioning of dental practices. Their duties may vary widely, including cleaning teeth or providing anesthesia.
Having a positive attitude as a dental hygienist can greatly benefit your patients. They often feel more comfortable with enthusiastic, amicable, and approachable hygienists, as it reduces their anxiety about visiting the dentist.
In 2021, the median salary for Dental Hygienists was $77,810. The top 25% of earners in this field made $98,260, while the bottom 25% made $73,540.
Although preventive cleanings remain their main task, they now have additional responsibilities. Their daily routine includes treating patients, updating medical records, reviewing X-rays, and sometimes managing the dental office's equipment and supplies.