The job description of a dental hygienist is very similar to that of a dentist. In practice, a dental hygienist performs many of the same tasks a dentist would, including removing plaque and tartar from patients’ teeth, using dental instruments to clean teeth, protecting patients’ teeth using sealants and fluoride rinses, and instructing patients on proper maintenance of their dental hygiene.
In many cases, the dental hygienist performs the majority of the work in a dental office, with the dentist only performing a brief inspection.
What Does a Dental Hygienist Do?
Dental hygienists normally work part-time schedules. They may be expected to work nights, early mornings, afternoons, weekends, or a combination of these. The hours you work will depend on the specifics of your position. A dentist may have more than one dental hygienist working in a practice, and dental hygienists may work for more than one dentist.
The dental hygienist job description includes a variety of responsibilities. Dental hygienists remove hard and soft deposits, such as tarter, plague, and stains, from patients’ teeth. The dental hygienist’s job description also involves examining patients’ teeth and gums for any abnormalities, and recording and presenting these findings to the dentist for further analysis.
The dental hygienist job description may also include job duties like:
- Administering anesthetics to patients
- Preparing fillings
- Applying cavity-prevention treatments
- Preparing laboratory diagnostic tests
- Smoothing and polishing dental restorations
- Taking x-rays of teeth
Dental Hygienist Job Requirements
Background education in dental anatomy, dental practices, and oral hygiene are important for dental hygienists. Since the dental hygienist sometimes performs the majority of the work done on a patient, they need to be current on the latest best practices and be well versed in the science and medical knowledge behind dental hygiene.
Dental hygienists also use a variety of hand and rotary tools, ultrasonic devices, and x-ray machines. Consequently, they must have exceptional manual dexterity skills in order to successfully use these instruments. The dental hygienist courses offered by most training programs teach the background knowledge and hands-on skills needed to fill this job description.
The Dental Hygienist Work Environment
Dental hygienists work in clean, well-lit offices where they are expected to stand and sit for long periods of time. In addition, there are a number of health and safety regulations that dental hygienists must observe. For instance, they must wear protective clothing such as gloves, surgical masks, and safety glasses to minimize the spread of germs.
Dental hygienists usually work in dental offices or group practices, working alongside dentists and dental assistants.
Dental Hygienist Job Outlook
The dental hygienist profession is predicted to see high growth over the next decade. Not only is the population of elderly growing, but an increasing number of people are choosing to seek professional dental care for their teeth.
In addition to increased employment opportunities, you can also expect a robust dental hygienist salary even during your first years of work. dental hygienists make a national average of around $68,000 per year. Job prospects for dental hygienists increase with certification.
Figures courtesy of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Employment & Wages database.