Dental hygienists are in high demand, claims the Bureau of Labour Statistics. With an annual average salary of around $74,820 and a projected 10 year growth rate of 20%, the job outlook is amazing- making it the best time to be a part of this field. And as the population continues to grow and age, and technology flourishes, these already critical services are likely become even more sought after.
Are you considering a career as a dental hygienist? if the answer is yes, then you might be wondering : what does he/she do on a daily basis? The question is normal and we are here to answer your question. Given below is a list of things a dental hygienist does, their responsibilities and the kinds of tasks that you might come across while working in this area. We will try to discuss it at length to give you a basic idea.
The Key Responsibilities of a Dental Hygienist
Dental hygienists are meant to play a pivotal role in patient’s health and their overall well-being. They support the dentist and perform certain important duties, like the ones we have listed below. These duties form an integral part of the dental hygiene game for most patients.
- Reviewing Dental and Health History
Before any dental treatment is provided by either the hygienist or the dentist, the hygienist must take a quick glance at the medical history of the patient. This review is a critical tool that hygienists can put to use for a lot of things. That includes:
Finding out about the patient’s previous dental treatments and medical conditions
Understanding any changes in the overall health condition, prescription drugs and medications, or allergies
Evaluate any oral health risks
Prevent medical unforeseen emergencies
The information collected during this assessment will be then used by the hygienist and dentist and inform the patient about their personalized and curated dental treatment plan.
- Screening Patients
Besides collecting a brief overview of the medical history of the patient, hygienists are also required to screen the patients for any previously existing conditions of dental decay and oral diseases, before the dentist has suggested any treatment or medicines.
This process takes not more than 5 minutes to complete, but it is an important step before the patient visits the dentist. By taking a quick inventory of head, neck, and mouth, it’s possible for a hygienist to identify the dental health and oral hygiene issues before they spiral out of control leading to tooth loss of any kind.
- Conducting Dental Cleanings
The part of a dental hygienist’s role with which you might be most familiar is the process of dental cleaning.
Hygienists use a large spread of tools and techniques to get rid of the tartar build-up, stains, and plaque from the teeth, significantly improving the dental and oral health conditions of the patient by preventing or lowering the risks of cavities and tooth loss. Dental cleaning also helps the patients to get a radiant, confident and a beautiful smile that they desire. It goes without saying that getting your teeth cleaned at regular intervals improves your overall oral health conditions.
- Taking Dental X-rays
We cannot emphasise enough on the importance of dental x-rays in preventive dental care. Hygienists make use of these x-rays to spot impending dental problems at the very nascent stages, and take care of them before the issue blows up and gets out of their hands. Dental x-rays can also be beneficial to the dentists in identifying cavities, gum disease, oral infections, and even some types of tumours.
The frequency of the x-rays being performed on the patient, depends on the patient and their overall dental and oral conditions. It is dependent on whether or not they showcase the signs of a dental ailment, their age and their risk of being susceptible to a dental or oral disease. These tasks are some of the common ones that a dental hygienist has to perform on a daily basis.
- Applying Preventive Care
After the hygienist is done with the dental cleaning procedure, they also have to make sure that educate the patient about preventive oral and dental care. Precautionary treatments like the application of fluoride and sealant are also some of the important tasks that the hygienists have to perform. These steps ensure the promotion of dental health of the patients in between two appointments.
Sealants , on the other hand, are specifically beneficial for children, in controlling dental decay in certain specific areas inside the mouth. A dental sealant, is an acrylic type material that plays a significant role in protecting the chewing surfaces of the back teeth.
- Teaching Patients Good Dental Hygiene
Educating the patient about the benefits of maintaining a proper oral health regimen is an important aspect of a dental hygienist’s job description.
If you look at it, they are effectively serving as public health ambassadors, by teaching their patients and by making them aware on how to take proper care of their oral health. Dental hygienists instruct and guide patients of all ages on how to properly brush and floss their teeth, and also makes them understand about the necessity of doing so. They are also professionally trained to discuss the connection between the patient’s diet and their oral health conditions and make possible recommendations to help patients choose their toothbrushes and other oral care tools.
- Helping Patients Improve and Maintain Good Dental Health
This is kind of similar to the previous point that we were talking about. This task too, deals with the importance of educating the patients and enabling them to promote and maintain a healthy and practical oral hygiene habits, behaviour and lifestyle choices for themselves. Their patients who are now equipped with the knowledge of proper techniques, patients are more likely to maintain good dental health.
- Documenting Care and Treatment as It’s Performed (and Communicating with the Dentist)
Hygienists bridge the gap between the dentist and the patient. after finishing up with the cleaning process and the dental screening procedure, the next task of the dental hygienist is to submit their findings and reports to the dentist. The hygienist also prepares the patient for his/her visit to the dentist by letting the patient know about their findings and the possible course of treatment that the dentist might suggest. They also review the areas of concern that will be addressed in detail by the dentist during the visit.
The role played by the dental hygienist is equally important to that of the authentic dentist, because they provide the dentist with the initial findings and the data about the patient. This initial data goes on to form the foundation of the treatment procedure of the patient. They also play a pivotal role in creating and maintaining the dental records, keep a track of every thing that is discussed and performed during the patient’s visit to the dentist.
How to Become a Dental Hygienist
If you like what you have read so far, and this sounds like a career that you might want to go for, given below are some of the things that will possibly help you achieve your dream.
To become a dental hygienist, you are required to earn a license that has been authenticated by the state in which you aspire to find your career. Every state requires the professional to earn a license that has been duly authenticated by the state, but the requirements and the criterion varies from one state to another. The minimum educational qualification required to become a professional dental hygienist is an associate’s degree from an accredited and authentic program. However, earning a bachelor’s degree or even further academically relevant degrees and make your path easier to launch your career and earn the salary that you truly deserve.
It is wise if your professional network is made up of people who you run into the in the academic settings, your work-related connections and your personal relationships. It is likely to represent a group of people who can help , advise and guide you with career opportunities, learning experiences and relevant exposure. It is likely to sky rocket your career trajectory, which is why it is important to make constant efforts to connect with others in the relevant field. To be able to connect, the alumni association might be a good place to start. You can also consider attending work related parties, workshops, seminars and other similar social events.