A dental hygienist works together with a dentist to provide oral services to patients. A dental hygienist may provide treatment to a patient or according to a dentist’s recommendations. The responsibilities of a dental hygienist vary from state to state, but one may outline the following ones as the most common:
- screening procedures (oral cancer screening), dental charting, head and neck inspection, and the review of health history;
- informing patients about the necessity of oral hygiene and teaching them how to prevent the development of oral diseases;
- removing calculus and plaque;
- taking dental radiographs;
- providing consultations about the correct nutrition;
- making documentation and management activities in the office.
In addition, a dental hygienist as well as the other health care workers should obey the code of ethics which guarantees that he/she provides qualitative service to patients and does not damage their health or cause other problems (CDHO Code of Ethics, 2014). This code of ethics can be introduced by five principles, which are:
- Beneficence. A dental hygienist uses his/her skills to help patients receive qualitative care and prevent the development of oral diseases.
- Autonomy. A dental hygienist assists a patient to choose the most optimal for him/her oral service.
- Privacy and confidentiality.
- Accountability. The services provided by a dental hygienist are regulated by the principles, standards and laws of DHA 1991.
- Professionalism. A dental hygienist provides his/her service in order to bring good to a client and to the public.
Education, Registration, and Certification
A dental hygienist may receive his/her education in dental schools, universities, and community or technical colleges. As a rule, community college programs offer a two-year educational program and an associate degree after graduation. This degree gives a right to work as a national, state or regional dental hygienist. If a person studies at the university, he/she may have bachelor or master degrees. The university program also requires two years, but it gives an opportunity for teaching or researching in school or public health programs.
Dental hygiene program requirements depend on a school. For instance, the high school requirements may include the courses of biology, chemistry, health, psychology or even speech. Nevertheless, the majority of programs require that a person has completed at least one year of college education. The average cost of an associate degree is about 30,000 dollars; the bachelor degree costs about 45,000 dollars, and master’s degree – from 50,000 dollars and more (Dental Hygienist Education and Training Requirements, 2014).
The accreditation of a dental hygienist is provided by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) of the American Dental Association. Almost all states require that a student passes dental hygiene education programs in order to be eligible for state licensure. Moreover, students have to pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination.
Being a dental hygienist is a profession that is in high demand; a person may be employed in a hospital, public health clinic or nursing home. According to a degree, a dental hygienist may also teach hygiene students in colleges or dental schools. A good dental hygienist receives a wide choice of opportunities for working. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the dental hygiene occupation will grow on 33 percent by 2020. The number of jobs is quite high; for instance, at careerbuilder.com, one can find more than 1,000 jobs for dental hygienists which were posted during the last 30 days (Dental Hygienists, 2015).
In 2013, the average salary of a dental hygienist was about 71,000 dollars. The highest salary was almost 97,000 dollars, and the lowest salary was 48,000 dollars. However, there were only 10 percent of dental hygienists who had low salaries. The top-paid dental hygienists are in California, especially in such areas as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Rosa, and others.
A majority of jobs require that a dental hygienist has State License at Hygienist and 1-2 year experience of work. This fact is easy to explain, because hospitals and medical centers need specialists who have already used their knowledge and skills on practice, but not only in theory. Dental hygienist’s obligation predetermines the performing of complex functions; thus, he/she should be qualified enough in order not to hurt a patient.
Additional education is obviously an advantage for this occupation, but a dental hygienist can perform his obligations well without any additional knowledge. Nevertheless, deep knowledge in biology or psychology may increase the promotion of a dental hygienist up to the career ladder, especially if he/she teaches students at college.
One of the largest organizations which present interests of dental hygienists on a national, state and local level is ADHA (Journal of Dental Hygiene, 2015). The members of this organization receive professional support which predetermines helping with correct decision making and participation in various associations. On the official ADHA website one can also find a list of dental hygienist associations which are located in every state; for instance, Pennsylvania Dental Hygienists' Association, Utah Dental Hygienists' Association, Dental Hygienists' Association of the State of New York and many others. Depending on the state, the cost of membership for students varies from 99 dollars to 145 dollars per year. Professional journals can be found on adha.org; the price of a journal varies from 60 to 80 dollars for 10 issues. In order to receive an access to a journal, a member should pay 60 dollars for one year, 100 dollars for two years, and 135 dollars for three years (Journal of Dental Hygiene, 2015).
Every three years a dental hygienist has to prove his license by passing continuing educational courses. A dental hygienist has to take 36 hours of approved continuing educational courses (Continuing Education: Q & A., 2014). The continuing educational requirements may be received if a dental hygienist is a member of a Dental Hygienist Association like ADHA. In this case, members of such association receive access to these courses. If a person is not a member of such organization, he/she may pay additionally for them or search for free courses at dentalcare.com (Continuing Dental Education, 2014).
Reflection and Personal Career Plan
I think this profession is suitable for me, because I am interested in biology. I believe that my personal skills and knowledge will help me to become a good dental hygienist in the future. In order to achieve this goal, I have to make a clear plan which will guide me. I want to enter a college and receive a bachelor or master degree in dental hygienist. After my graduation I want to work about 3-5 years in order to receive practical skills and after that I have a desire to teach students at university, college or other dental school.