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What Does a Dental Hygienist Do?
Oral health care is important, though it is too often overlooked in today’s fast-paced society. Unfortunately, an estimated 75 percent of American adults have some form of periodontal disease, which is the most common cause of tooth loss, according to the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA). This is easily prevented through regular visits to dental hygienists, who are responsible for keeping the teeth of patients clean and healthy. Dental hygienists work with patients to remove soft and hard deposits, tartar, stains, and other
elements that negatively impact the patientís oral health. Hygienists also take x-rays of teeth to look for hidden cavities or other issues that cannot be seen without the aid of the x-ray technology. They educate patients about the importance of oral health and what steps must be done to maintain healthy teeth and gums. Hygienists typically do not drill and fill cavities, but rather refer patients who need such services to dentists.
What Is the Employment and Salary Outlook for a Dental Hygienist?
Health care is one of the most stable and improving industries in the work force today. There will always be a need for health care professionals due to the complexity of treating the human body, the unpredictability of disease and the inevitability of aging. Due to this ongoing need, health-related jobs will continue to rise as medical technology advances. In particular, job openings for dental hygienists are rapidly increasing. In fact, employment opportunities for dental hygienists are projected to improve an amazing 36 percent through 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As the population rapidly increasing, the need for dental hygienists becomes more apparent. With more people come more mouths in need of care, thus meaning there will need to be more dental hygienists to care for them. The salary of dental hygienists is substantial as well, with those working in the field earning an average of $66,570 annually, according to the latest information available from the Bureau.
How Can I Become a Dental Hygienist?
Aspiring dental hygienists must first obtain an associate degree in an accredited dental hygiene program. These programs typically last approximately two years, during which time students take courses in dental anatomy, radiography, oral health education, and other classes that are designed to increase the studentís knowledge of working in the field. About 80 percent of all dental hygiene programs require students to also complete outside clinical work in a community or public health center before graduating so that they may gain the valuable experience needed to successfully work in the field, according to the ADHA. After completing a dental hygiene associate degree program, prospective dental hygienists must then obtain licensure in the state in which they will practice. To earn licensure, program graduates will have to successfully complete an examination proctored by the American Dental Association (ADA). This examination tests the graduate’s fundamental medical knowledge of the occupation to ensure that those who practice are well-suited for the job.