Dental Hygienist Job Description, Qualifications, and Outlook
With a work environment mainly based around dentists’ offices, and just as likely to work full-time as well as part-time, individuals with the dental hygienist job description and salary are usually responsible for educating patients on how to improve their oral health. They most often have to clean teeth, provide preventive and curative oral care, and examine patients for signs of oral diseases.
Having an employment rate far superior to the United States average for all occupations, people with the dental hygienist job description have a highly optimistic professional outlook. Other than the fact that it takes about three years plus a license to start practicing the job, the dental hygienist job description is generally full of benefits.
Job Overview: What Does a Dental Hygienist Do?
Usually working under the supervision of a licensed dentist, oral experts with the job description of a dental hygienist are not qualified to perform the same procedures or to make the same kind of diagnostics as the dentists under which they work. They mostly focus on more menial tasks, such as keeping their patients’ gums and teeth healthy and clean.
Dental Hygienist Job Duties
The responsibilities most often encountered on the job for people with the dental hygienist job description are as follows:
- Adhering to the appropriate protocols and procedures.
- Preparing treatment rooms and preparing patients for their dental hygiene treatments.
- Welcoming, seating, and calming the patients.
- Answering patients’ questions and requests and providing to them all the information they need.
- Performing maintenance and sterilizing the tools necessary to the practice.
- Evaluating oral health and performing patient prophylaxis.
- Selecting the materials and techniques necessary for each patient’s needs.
- Performing radiographic studies and using different types of probes.
- Performing several dental procedures: cleaning stains and deposits from teeth; assessing levels of gum recession; applying fluoride and other such cavity-preventing substances wherever necessary; arresting the development of tooth decay; maintaining the patient’s appearance and ability to chew, and so on.
- Assisting the dentist on occasion.
- Keeping one’s CPR certification.
- Keeping a reliable stock of oxygen and emergency drugs.
- Having a directory of emergency numbers and educating patients on what they are going through.
- Offering post-op instructions and reminding patients of their next scheduled dental appointment.
- Keeping track of dental and medical histories of patients.
- Keeping all information pertaining to patients confidential.
- Complying with rules, procedures, and regulations of the dental practice.
- Following all of the hygienic norms and infection-control protocols.
- Keeping up with all the advances in the field.
- Attending workshops, meetings, and society gatherings as often as possible.
Dental Hygienist Job Essential Skills
Attention to details. A great attention to details is mandatory in order to be able to perform this job accordingly. Also, advanced technical skills and the desire to keep developing and evolving skill-wise are mandatory. High levels of dexterity and an organized personality help this professional as well.
Compassion. The dental hygienist need to be nurturing and caring with his patients. He has to have a strong moral compass. And also a large amount of compassion and empathy in order to do the job.
Interpersonal skills. This professional must have great listening and oral communication skills. Also, developed interpersonal skills and the ability to work as part of a team are very important.
Strong stomach and stamina. The job can be properly done only by a person with a very strong stomach and high amounts of stamina. As individuals with the dental hygienist job description cannot be easily disgusted and have to spend many hours on their feet. A resistance to working under high amounts of stress and pressure is also necessary for this professional.
Becoming a Dental Hygienist Professional
While dental hygienists do work under the supervision of a dentist, that is only in an official sense. Unlike dental assistants, the dental hygienist job description allows for employees to see to their patients on their own time and leisure. They even have the ability to direct their own tasks and workflow. The dentist usually just has to be around for the diagnosis and to help decide on the most suitable treatment course.
Qualifications and Training
There is quite a bit of studying to be done in order to be able to practice the dental hygienist job description. An associate’s degree in Dental Hygiene is required in pretty much all states, as is a state license. CPR certification is also required throughout pretty much all states.
While the associate’s degree most preferred is a bachelor’s degree, others are also approved by most states. These can either be a master’s degree, a bachelor’s degree, or an associate’s degree. They can be obtained from any one of the more than 270 programs accredited by the American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation.
The time spent studying in order to get the necessary degree is usually around two years. In order to get into dental hygiene school, people aspiring for the dental hygienist job description need to have excelled in math, chemistry, biology, and health courses. As well as to have some years of junior college beforehand.
The median salary for dental hygienists was reported at $72,910 per year or $35.05 per hour in 2016. That is more than double the minimum wage, and it can get even higher over the course of one’s career. These additional sources of income which can add to the salary of someone with the dental hygienist job description are overtimes, bonuses, commissions, and profit sharing.
According to Payscale, unlike most positions in health care, the dental hygienist job description doesn’t really guarantee too big of a salary increase over the course of one’s career. What experience does help with, however, is opening up new career opportunities. As well as increasing the chances of one getting hired in a new position.
Some workplaces, for example, require either more than five years of experience as a Dental Assistant or three years of experience as a Dental Hygienist in order to hire someone for the position. This is owed to the high amounts of responsibility thrust upon new dental hygienists on hiring, as some tend to crumble under all the pressure. Previous experience shows that they are able to handle the stress.
Dental hygienist job descriptions could very well vary slightly from one dentist’s practice to another, just as they could vary from a private sector to a public sector setting. Similarly, working full-time and part-time may also include some more or less minor differences when it comes to the job description for the dental hygienist.
What is great about the dental hygienist job is that one can schedule their working hours according to own personal wants and needs. While only 47% of dental hygienists work 30 to 40 hours a week, 17% of dental hygienists reported they have spent more than 20 years at their primary dental employer according to a study from 2014.
Job Outlook & Advancement Opportunities
The job outlook for people with the dental hygienist job description is full of prospect and very optimistic. First of all, the employment rate for the profession is estimated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to grow 19% by 2024. That is much faster than the 8% average for all occupations in the United States. That is so thanks to the general nationwide increase in oral health concerns, as well as to studies linking oral health to general health concerns.
The job is very sought-after due to overtime compensated with as much as $60.51 per hour. Bonuses amassing about $3,000 a year, and commissions able to go up as to as much as $20,000. Also, with profit sharing adding another $5,600 a year to the salary of the dental hygienist job description.
In fact, here are some of the things about the career most appreciated by people with the dental hygienist job description:
- Great personal and professional satisfaction;
- A great amount of prestige;
- A high amount of variety throughout their day;
- Great job flexibility (both schedule-wise and setting-wise);
- Higher job security than many other jobs;
- Plenty of future job opportunities.
The dental hygienist job description is one of the most sought-after in oral care. The relatively low educational requirements, the high salary, and the many career opportunities which open up for people in the position may sound like reasons enough. However, the highly optimistic job outlook is yet another reason.