A Career As A Dental Hygienist

Working As A Dental Hygienist
The industry of dental and oral health care provides a lot of job options that can open great career paths and opportunities with the right training and education. Two of these career options that offer job positions in dentistry are as a dental hygienist or dental assistant.

Dental hygienists are professional practitioners that work jointly with the dentist so they can provide total well-being to the patients, aside from good dental care. A dental hygienist’s general obligation is to educate the patients with essential information concerning oral hygiene. Included in this task is the part where he teaches the patients on how to take care of their oral and dental hygiene by showing them the benefits of good dental practice, tips, and methods on how to clean their teeth the right way, and instilling in them how eating habits could greatly affect the condition of their dental health. Through this teaching process, the patient becomes aware of how to take care of their teeth and gums and instruct him on how to avoid developing dental complications in the future.

Apart from the above mentioned duties, dental hygienists also perform other tasks to facilitate the flow of a dental procedure. The dental hygienist is expected to collect and assess certain information about the patient’s oral health. By evaluation, the dental hygienist might find signs of abnormalities in the teeth, and may suggest other assessment tests such saliva testing, oral cancer screening or taking images of the patient’s dental profile through an x-ray. He will then interpret the data collected from these evaluations and help the dentist in assessing the appropriate diagnosis and in figuring out the methods on how to aid the patient. During a dental procedure, a dental hygienist will be asked to clean the hard deposits on the teeth brought about by stains, plaque, or tartar. He will also be the one to polish the teeth, apply fluoride, varnishes and fissure sealants on the patient’s teeth to help prevent cavity formation.

The tasks and roles of a dental hygienist are very essential and laborious, hence, intensive training and education must be undertaken to be able to work as a dental hygienist. A lot of institutions offer competitive training programs for potential dental hygienist, but these institutions require that the candidate should have graduated from high school and had taken at least two years worth of education in college. Training programs offered for dental hygienists often vary in duration starting from a short two-year program up to a six-year dental hygienist program. The students’ curriculum during their study includes chemistry, nutrition, histology, pathology, physiology, microbiology, oral anatomy, clinical dental hygiene, dental materials, pharmacology, and radiography. Before completing their certificates, students are required to participate in am on-the-job training as a dental hygienist in a dental clinic. Afterward, they can choose to take an exam and work as a dental hygienist or to continue their education and proceed to a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree. Graduates of these two academic paths will be introduced to other career options that allow them to practice professionally, embark on a research venture, or work in the teaching profession. A professional license exam conducted by the American Dental Association is needed in order for the graduate to work legally as a dental hygienist in the country.

Dental Hygienist Salary

Once the candidate has passed the license exam, he is now ready to work as professional dental hygienist. In 2008, the salary listed for dental hygienists go at an average of $65, 500 annually, with the lowest salary rate of $56,220 and the highest salary ranging up to $76,990. New graduates and dental hygienists on their first job normally receive $64, 910 every year or around $31.21/ hour, exclusive of overtime pay. Other kinds of compensation could be in the form of commission-based incentives. With the increasing demand of dental hygienists, there will be no doubt that the salary rates will increase progressively in the coming years.

Working As A Dental Assistant

Another good career option to take is that of a dental assistant’s. Unlike the dental hygienist, dental assistants work under the close supervision of a dentist and is not licensed to perform tasks which require clinical procedures. The duties of a dental assistant are also wide-ranging and multi-tasking, working from administrative duties to patient care up to duties in the laboratory.

The main task of a dental assistant is to ensure that equipments and instruments are disinfected and sterilized, prepare the appropriate dental instruments and equipments before a dental procedure and update the dental records of the patients before and after the procedure. During the proper dental procedure, dental assistants are expected to help facilitate the dentist’s work by assisting him in his needs. The dental assistant will hand the instruments and tools according to what the dentist needs. The dental assistant must also make sure that the patient’s mouth is constantly dry and clear with the use of a suction hose. After the procedure, the dental assistant will guide the patient on how to perform general oral care.

In the laboratory, the main task of the dental assistant is to make teeth and mouth casts from impressions, and create temporary crowns. Cleaning and polishing of appliances and equipments are also done by the dental assistant during his stint at the laboratory. Office tasks for dental assistants include ordering the necessary supplies and materials for the dentist’s office, scheduling appointments, receiving patients, keeping the patient’s records updated and complete, and sending bills and receiving payments. Because they work closely with the dentist and assist him during dental procedures, dental assistants are required to perform their tasks near the dentist’s work area and must be fully equipped with all the appropriate protective sanitary gears such as gloves, eyewear and masks.

For people who want to consider working as a dental assistant, training and formal education is not necessarily required, as long as they had taken courses in biology, health, chemistry and office practice during their high school years. Entry-level dental assistants gain experience and training directly in the dental office where they are taught of terminologies, instruments names, daily tasks and functions, and other practical information needed to facilitate an efficient performance in their work. For those who want to acquire proper training and formal education, there are also some training programs dedicated for dental assistants. Certificate and diploma-based training programs for dental assistants often go within the span of one year, while associate degrees take around two years to complete.

Dental assistants can work without the need to take any license examinations. Certifications and license examinations are often only required for dental assistants who want to undertake other specialized kinds of tasks such as radiology. Because there is only little required form of formal evaluation, dentists who hire dental assistants often base their decisions by observing how he/she relates with other people, and if he/she is flexible and agile. These qualities will make him/her helpful in almost all duties in the dental office and especially during dental procedures.

Dental Assistant Salary
As far as salary and compensation are concerned, dental assistants make an average of around $32,380 in a year. Higher paid dental assistant are compensated with more than $46,150 annually. Other benefits that dental assistants receive are paid vacation and health insurance.

The need for dental assistants is also expanding rapidly. More and more dentists and dental offices are looking for dental assistant to help facilitate their daily work flow. In fact, the growth of employment for dental assistants is expected to increase at around 36% between the years 2008 to 2018, making this one of the most in-demand occupations in the United States. Because of this growing need, current entry-level dental assistants and those who want to become a part of this profession should consider getting the necessary trainings, formal education, specialized training and certification in order for them to secure professional license. Dentists will be looking to hire skilled and experienced dental assistants who are licensed to perform specialized tasks. It might be a longer process before getting a work as a dental assistant, but the pay off will be much higher than the average.

As either a dental assistant or dental hygienist you will have a career that will pay your bills for a long time to come!

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