The dental hygienist is a position that works closely with the dentist in providing quality oral care to patients. They have a wide range of duties, such as patient care and lab work. They work very closely with dentists, patients, and other office staff. The dental hygienist position is a much like the assistant position, but has more responsibility in the office and requires training, certification, and licensure to fulfill the role.
Dental hygienists may prepare patients for the dentist by performing a variety of tasks. These tasks include: examine and evaluate a patient’s teeth and gums and then cleaning them, take and develop x-rays, make assessments on a patients’ oral health, remove stains and/or plaque from a patients’ teeth, and teach proper dental hygiene in order to maintain excellent oral health. Dental hygienists can also be responsible for oral cancer screenings, head and neck inspection, dental charting, and making impressions of patients’ teeth (if needed).
As stated below, different states have different regulations on what a dental hygienist does. In some cases, hygienists are allowed to administer anesthetics, place and carve fillings, and make a preliminary diagnosis for the dentist to interpret. For more detailed information on what job duties are for a dental hygienist in a specific area, interested parties should contact the local state board for more information.
The two kinds of areas that a dental hygienist may specialize in within the practice are with the dentist and in the business aspects of the practice. There are many different types of environments that a dental hygienist may work in and those include: small offices, hospitals, schools and clinics, and in nursing homes. Currently, about only half of hygienists work full-time hours during the week. This means that most hygienist have another source of income. Also, some offices may offer extended hours into the evening or during the weekend and dental hygienists would be required to work those hours, as well.
Dental hygienists work in a well-lighted, clean environment. Hygienists must wear personal protective equipment (PPE) including: gloves, mask, and special clothing. This is especially true when working radiological procedures. They may also be exposed to certain illnesses or diseases and have to work with sharp objects in which handling those objects could result in disease exposure.
The average salary for a full-time dental hygienist is about $50,000 a year. The lower salary range is around $42,000 and dental hygienists can make as much as $89,000, depending on the type of facility in which a dental hygienist is employed. Instructors and/or hygienists with advanced educations usually make a higher salary. Geographic location and years of experience will also determine pay.
Most full-time dental hygienists are also offered a complete benefits package. This exceptional benefits package usually includes: health and dental coverage, uniform allowance, vacation and sick pay, 401K, stock option plans, and life/disability insurances.
Promotion and Career Advancement
The field of Dentistry has a large need for dental hygienists and that need is expected to grow in a massive way. The growth and need of this profession in the future is excellent. The reason for this growth is that many dental hygienists are being hired to complete some of those tasks that have been handled by dentists and because of the population growth. After a dental hygienist acquires enough education and experience they can advance to a higher-paying teaching position.