Dental Hygienist Careers

Are you thinking about becoming a dental hygienist? If so, you will need to know what the job entails and what types of people become hygienists, as the job is not suitable for everyone.

You will need to possess qualities like compassion, excellent attention to detail and an interest in health care. If the career appeals to you, you will also want to know about the qualifications and education required, what the working hours are like and how much you can earn.

The following information will allow you to learn more about what is involved in pursuing a vocational career as a dental hygienist. Carefully consider each point to discover if a career in dental hygiene is for you. Once you have decided, you can then study hard to gain the qualifications you need to embark on this worthy career option.

What are dental hygienists?

Dental hygienists perform a variety of tasks in preventative oral care. These tasks include cleaning teeth, examining teeth for signs of damage and diseases like gingivitis and helping patients to maintain good oral health. The latter can include explaining the relationship between oral health and diet to patients, as well as giving advice on how to choose the right toothbrush and other oral health care tools.

The tools used by dental hygienists include hand tools, power tools and ultrasonic tools to clean and polish teeth. They can also remove stains on patients’ teeth with an air-polishing tool and polish teeth with a power tool that is akin to an automatic toothbrush. Additionally, dental hygienists check for teeth and jaw problems by using X-ray machines.

The services dental hygienists are allowed to legally provide differ from state to state. In many states, hygienists in the health sciences have to be supervised by a dentist. In some states, hygienists are allowed to diagnose particular health issues without the presence of a dentist.

Who is suited to become a dental hygienist?

Do you have the personality traits and interests typically needed to become a dental hygienist? Here are some of the top qualities that hygienists should possess:

  • Dexterity: You will need to be very good with your hands to be a dental hygienist because you will be using precise tools in a small part of the body.
  • A keen eye: You will need to have excellent attention to detail. When cleaning teeth, you must be able to notice stains that need treating. When performing dental examinations, you must be able to detect issues that require the attention of the dentist.
  • Communication skills: Not only will you have to be able to communicate well with your patients, but you will also need to communicate in a precise manner to dentists and other oral health care staff.
  • Compassion. Your day-to-day life as hygienist will involve dealing with people. Many patients may have fears about the dental work that needs to be carried out, or they may be worried about experiencing severe pain. Therefore, you need to be sensitive, helpful and caring when treating patients.
  • Physical stamina. As a hygienist, you will be spending a lot of time on your feet and bending over patients, so you need to be physically fit and not suffer from issues like a bad back.

As well as possessing those qualities, you will also need other skills and traits in order to be a good dental hygienist. You will need to present a professional demeanor, be a team player, have a desire to help people, have an outgoing personality and be able to focus on your job in a busy environment. Being comfortable with using cutting-edge technologies and having a desire to challenge yourself are also important.

How do you become a dental hygienist?

Although the legal requirements differ from state to state, all states require dental hygienists to have a license. If you want to become a dental hygienist, you will usually need an associate’s degree in dental hygiene. If you want to work in areas of research, teaching and public health programs, you will need a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree.

Associate’s degrees can be obtained by enrolling in programs at technical colleges, dental schools, community colleges and universities. The courses take at least two years to complete. Bachelor’s degrees typically take a further two years to complete, and a master’s degree takes an additional two to three years.

To be admitted to a course, you should have completed high school courses in relevant areas, such as health, biology, chemistry, psychology and mathematics. Once you have graduated, you will need to take a licensure examination for the state in which you want to work. This includes a clinical examination and a written examination.

How much do dental hygienists earn?

You can earn good money as a dental hygienist, especially when you consider the fact that half of dental hygienists in the United States work part time. A flexible work schedule is one of the biggest benefits of working as a dental hygienist. It is common for hygienists to schedule their hours around other commitments, family needs and personal interests. In the United States, approximately 47 percent of dental hygienists work 30 to 40 hours a week.

  • Dental hygienists under 30 years of age. Studies have shown 3 percent of this age bracket work fewer than 10 hours a week, 5 percent work more than 40 hours a week and the rest work between those amounts of hours.
  • Dental hygienists between 31-years-old and 40-years-old. Studies have shown 4 percent work less than 10 hours a week and 5 percent work more than 40 hours a week.
  • Dental hygienists between 41-years-old and 50-years-old. Studies have shown 3 percent work less than 10 hours a week and 7 percent work more than 40 hours a week.
  • Dental hygienists between 51-years-old and 60-years-old. Studies have shown 5 percent work less than 10 hours a week and 7 percent work more than 40 hours a week.

The average annual salary for hygienists is approximately $72,910. At the top end of the profession, you can earn over $100,000 annually, whereas the lowest-paid dental hygienists earn around $50,870 per year. The salary is dependent on how much you work, how experienced you are and which state you are working in. The states that offer the highest salaries for dental hygienists are Alaska, California, New Mexico, Washington and Nevada.

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