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WY - Wyoming

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New Albany - IN - Indiana

 

Dental Hygienist

It takes a special person to be a dental hygienist, the person who cleans teeth and examines the teeth and gums of a dental patient. Dental hygienists have to be both courageous (to go inside another person's mouth and for the purposes of examining and cleaning the teeth of an individual who might well be in a great deal of pain) and compassionate (because they understand just how uncomfortable many people are at the dentist, and how many people would rather be anywhere but sitting in a dental chair).

As one of the fastest growing jobs in the United States at the moment, an increasing number of these courageous, compassionate individuals are needed to fill the roles played by a dental hygienists. Although they require more education than a dental assistant, they have an opportunity to perform more specialized tasks than an assistant, and also receive a significantly higher pay for their work (a dental assistant earns about $13 per hour, whereas the median wage of a dental hygienists is closer to $30 per hour – more than double what the average assistant earns).

 

The Roles Played by Dental Hygienists

The main role of the dental hygienist is to provide preventative dental care by cleaning a patient's teeth (removing deposits such as plaque), educating the patient about the appropriate dental care for his or her situation, and checking both a patient's teeth and gums for any potential abnormalities or diseases. Sometimes the hygienist will also take dental x-rays and perform other lab-oriented duties, but often these tasks are more likely performed by the dental assistant.

Dental hygienists are often hired by dentist offices to work only two to three days per week. This can be perfect for a hygienist who only wants to work part-time, but it is not unusual for hygienists to work in multiple dentist offices.

Becoming a Dental Hygienist

Unlike dental assistants, who often receive on the job training for their position and often do not require a special degree or certification, dental hygienists usually need to have completed at least one year of college before being accepted to an accredited hygienist program, and the program itself then requires a minimum of an associate's degree. Some dental hygienists obtain bachelor's or even master's degrees within their field.

After having obtained an associate's degree or having completed their dental hygienist's program, the future dental hygienist must then gain a license to practice in their particular state. Requirements vary from state to state, but by and large, the licensing exam consists of a written and clinical evaluation. The majority of states also require the dental hygienist to pass a written exam regarding the legalities of dental practice in their particular state.

The state of Alabama is unique; it is the only state in which dental hygienists can fulfill their education requirements through a state-supervised on the job training program.

Anyone considering a career as a dental hygienist should take into consideration that the job requires a very high level of manual dexterity. For a patient, one slip by a dental hygienist can lead to serious pain.

 

Job Prospects for Dental Hygienists

The job market for dental hygienists, just like the job market for dental assistants and for most nurses, has a very bright future. As a field expected to grow by 30% by 2016, it is one of the fastest growing fields in the nation.

As aforementioned, dental hygienists earn an average of about $30 per hour. Highly experienced dental hygienists in high paying regions of the country can earn as much as $40 per hour, while the lowest paid dental hygienists earn about $20 per hour. For the average dental hygienist working 40 hours per week, a year's wages would amount to about $53,000.

 

 


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