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Job Profile: Dental Hygienist

As a dental hygienist you will work primarily in preventative oral health care. Each state creates its own regulations about the responsibilities of a dental hygienist and what tasks they can perform. In general you will:

  • Collect information about the patient's oral and medical health history
  • Examine teeth and gums and, at the same time, inspect the head and neck to identify abnormalities and potential health problems
  • Remove calculus, stains, and plaque from all surfaces of the teeth
  • Apply preventative materials such as sealants and fluorides to the teeth
  • Take and develop dental x-rays
  • Teach patients about good oral hygiene and nutrition
  • Make molds of patients teeth in order to evaluate treatment

Depending on the state you practice in, you may also:

  • Place and remove filling materials, temporary fillings, and periodontal dressings
  • Smooth and polish metal restorations
  • Prepare clinical and laboratory diagnostic tests for the dentist to interpret
  • Administer anesthetics

The majority of dental hygienists work in private dental offices, but there are other options too. You could work in hospitals, nursing homes, public health clinics; you could teach in dental schools or dental hygiene education programs; you could even do research in the field of dentistry. Other career opportunities may also be available in office management, business administration, and companies providing dental-related materials and equipment.

To work as a dental hygienist, you must work well with others, have good manual dexterity, possess excellent math and science skills, and exhibit interpersonal and communication skills. An associate's degree is required, which typically requires about two years of training. After those two years, though, you could be earning more then $35.00 an hour. Dental hygienists, usually, also have the luxury of a flexible schedule; more than half of all dental hygienists work part-time. Those who want to work full-time, however, will generally just work in more than one dental office. Almost everyone is looking for a flexible career in which they can actually make a difference, and if you are interested in the technical side of dentistry, browse through our website and request information about the programs you are interested in.

Schools to consider: