Dental hygiene is considered one of the fastest growing occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The employment for dental hygienists is expected to increase by as much as 30%, which is classified as much faster than the average growth rate for all occupations. The opportunities and career advancement for hygienists makes it one of the most promising occupations through the next decade. Thus, if you have great motor skills, have a genuine interest in educating others about maintaining their health, and enjoy working with different types of people, you might want a career in dental hygiene.
In 2006, 167,000 jobs were held by dental hygienists. Almost all of them worked in the offices of the dentists but a small number worked in physician offices, employment services, and other fields. The hygienists closely work together with dentists and dental assistants and have direct interaction with patients; thus, they must have the ability to communicate effectively with different types of people.
Dental hygienists are licensed preventive oral health care professionals who provide clinical, educational, and therapeutic services to patients. They are responsible for performing screening procedures such as assessment of the teeth and gums, oral cancer screening, and inspection of the head and neck. They check for any signs of tooth decay and abnormalities in the oral cavity. If patients show symptoms of dental abnormalities, the hygienists have the dentists check on them. One reason why hygienists ought to have a good motor skills is because they use various tools such as rotary instruments and ultrasonic devices to clean and polish the teeth of patients. They remove stains, tartar, and plaque in preparation for the dentist’s examination. They also give injections of anesthetics for deep cleaning and root cleaning procedures. Protective teeth materials, like sealants and fluoride, are also applied. Impressions of patients’ teeth are also made by the dental hygienists if dentists need to study the casts to evaluate the patient’s oral condition. At times, dental hygienists obtain and develop dental x-rays, organize dental charting and perform documentation, and manage office activities. One of the most significant functions of hygienists is educating and motivating patients to maintain good oral hygiene. Through this, they are able to help the patients achieve good overall health.
Individuals who have decided to start a career in dental hygiene should obtain an associate, baccalaureate, or master degree from a school that offers dental hygienist programs accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. Formal training and dental hygiene education are received at community colleges, technical schools, vocational schools, dental schools, and universities. An associate degree program takes around two years to complete, whereas, a baccalaureate degree requires at least four years of classes and training. Some schools that offer baccalaureate degree programs require that prospective dental hygienists complete at least two years of college before they are enrolled in the program. The degree programs also include practicum practices, where students have internships in actual work settings to gain and develop their technical and clinical skills.