A Dental Hygienist also works with a licensed dentist similar to a dental assistant. Though some of the tasks of the hygienist are similar to that of a dental assistant, a dental hygienist’s responsibilities and involvement with the patient is more and therefore the training period to become a dental hygienist is more. On the flip side, a dental hygienist is paid more than a dental assistant.
Dental Hygienist Job Description
A dental hygienist is responsible for various tasks such as observing the condition of the patient, recording their health history and abnormal conditions if any, removing plaque deposits from the patient’s teeth, educating the patient about the hygiene and maintenance of the teeth. Their tasks also includes examination of the gums and teeth of the patient and if needed prepare a diagnostic sheet for the dentist. The dental hygienist also takes care of the local anesthesia, application of fluoride etc.
Some dental hygienists have added responsibilities such as performing filling jobs and dressings, preparing molds of teeth for evaluation. Though there are no high risks involved in this field, a dental hygienist has to protect oneself against infections from patients. A dental hygienist is mandated to wear safety glasses, gloves, and surgical mask for their protection. The hygienist, like the dentist, while working for long time on a patient, should also take care of his/her neck from being damaged.
Dental Hygienist Certification and Training
There are dental programs that offer both a 2 year course and a 4 year course. An associate degree is achieved on completion of the 2 year course. Community and technical colleges offer these courses. A student must be a high school diploma holder or GED with minimum of 18 years old to be eligible to apply for and enter the dental hygienist program.
Dental Hygienist training includes all subjects such as microbiology, pharmacology, periodontology (the study of gum diseases), physiology, anatomy, pathology, behavioral science, dental hygiene and dental materials. A state license is a MUST to become a dental hygienist and this is acquired by graduating from an accredited program and by clearing the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination. Only when you have acquired the license can you add ‘RDH’ to your name.
Dental Hygienist Work Schedule
A dental hygienist normally work in shifts and often has the option of choosing the shifts. It is normal practice to work only 3 times a week at a particular dentist office. Hence, most of the dental hygienist will work in more than one place.
Dental Hygienist Salary and Job Prospects
This is one of the professions that has high scope of demand and faster growth than some of the other medical professions. This is primarily due to the growing population and that fact that people are now becoming more and more appearance and health conscious. Also adding to this is that fact that more and more older people are opting for false teeth as they lose their natural teeth. A dental hygienist salary range is between $44000 on the lower end and about $90000 on the higher end. That said, the typical salary will range in the middle 50% and is often between $55000 and $78000. Additional benefits are provided for the dental hygienist and these include paid leave, medical insurance and retirement plans.
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