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Dental Hygienist Career Facts and Job Outlook

Employment of dental hygienists should grow in leaps and bounds over the next ten years. This is due to the increasing demand for dental care by consumers and that hygienists are taking on responsibilities that were previously designated solely for dentists themselves. The growth of the population and the demand for healthy teeth will definitely continue to create a bigger demand for capable dental hygienists.

Dental Hygienist Career Facts

- Projected to be one of the 30 fastest growing jobs 
- Opportunities for part time work and flexible schedules are common

Dental Hygienist Career Description

Dental Hygienists are responsible for prophylactic dental treatments and other forms of patient care. They clean and polish teeth, remove plaque from below and above the gum line and examine gums and teeth for complications. They may also deal with paperwork and dental records as well. Dental hygienists usually have their own office in which they see their patients.

Dental Hygienist Career Details

Naturally, these hygienists remove deposits from teeth, but they also teach patients how to practice good oral hygiene to prevent the deposits from continuing to build up. While examining the patient's teeth and gums they record the presence of any complications or abnormalities. Part of a visit to a dental hygienist may include the removal of calculus, stains, and plaque from your teeth. They may also give x-rays should it be justified. To remove the stains they usually use fluorides along with pit and fissure sealants.

In some states, hygienists may administer anesthetics for certain procedures. They also might place and carve filling materials, periodontal dressings, and temporary fillings. They are not allowed to diagnose diseases, but can prepare and give diagnostic tests for dentists to interpret. In certain situations, a hygienist may work side by side with an actual dentist.

Hygienists are also equipped with the preventive knowledge to inform patients of ways in which to improve their dental hygiene. An example of this would be explaining the relationship between diet and oral health, as certain foods may promote or be detrimental to having healthy teeth and gums. They also show patients how to properly brush and provide a criterion for tooth brush selection.

These hygienists use a variety of equipment that is necessary for the correct implementation of their trade. Instruments such as ultrasonics may be used to clean and polish teeth. X ray machines may also be used to take dental pictures as well.

Programs to Consider:

Dental Hygienist Career Specializations

For the most part, there aren't specializations for the hygienist as his or her trade is already in a focus area with respect to the world of dentistry. This focus involves the teeth and gums and how to properly care for them. Hygienists not only clean teeth, but may also give tests to see if there are any problems along the gum line or with the teeth themselves. Dental hygienists aren't dentists, but they certainly have overlapping responsibilities and tasks.

Dental Hygienist Career Working Environment

One important feature of becoming a hygienist is that its flexible. Schedules can be part time, full time, and can include nights and weekends. Some dentists hire hygienists to only work a couple of days a week, while others have them in the office all the time. Offices tend to be clean and well lit. Hygienists wear goggles and masks as necessary to prevent infection, and are also trained in how to properly manage the equipment that is part of their routine.

Dental Hygienist Career Required Training

All states require any practicing dental hygienist to be licensed. In order to do this, hygienists must graduate from a dental hygiene school, and then pass an oral and written exam. The test is administered by the American Dental Association Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations. Some states even go as far as to demand that the hygienist become familiar and pass a test on the legal aspects of the job.

In the year 2000, there were 256 accredited programs that would prepare students to become dental hygienists. Some of the programs lead to a bachelor's degree, but most result in an associate's degree. Some universities offer the chance to get a masters degree in either dental hygiene or a related area. The associate's degree is enough for someone to practice in a private dental office, but for those who want to conduct research or take part in clinical practice, you usually need a bachelors or higher. Requirements for training programs tend to differ. One standard element of the criterion is for students to have one year of college completed.

Dental Hygienist Career Coursework

Students usually study laboratory, clinical and classroom instruction in the necessary subjects. Classroom instruction includes anatomy, physiology, chemistry, microbiology, pharmacology, nutrition, radiography, histology, pathology, dental materials, clinical dental hygiene, and various social and behavioral sciences.

Dental Hygienist Salary

Median wage for 2010 - $68,250

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