Dental Career Profiles: Dental Hygienist

Are someone's teeth (good or bad) the first thing that you notice when you meet them? Or do you look forward to your six month dentist visit so much that you have it marked on the calendar with a smiley face? If you answered yes to either of these questions, it's a pretty good guess that you take care of your teeth. Have you ever thought about helping others take care of their teeth and instructing them in proper dental hygiene? Well, before you jump head first into a career as a dental hygienist, this article with give you a description of the job responsibilities and requirements.

Job Responsibilities

The job desciption for a dental hygienist can vary from state to state, but there are several responsibilities that are pretty common to all hygienists regardless of where they work. The primary function of a dental hygienist is to prevent serious dental health issues and disease in patients. Below are a list of job responsibilities that relate to this primary function:

  • Cleaning hard and soft deposits—such as tarter, plague, and stains—from patients' teeth.
  • Instructing patients in proper dental hygiene habits
  • Administering cavity-prevention treatments
  • Treating periodontal diseases
  • Taking x-rays of patients' teeth
  • Making casts of the mouth and teeth for crowns and prosthetics
  • Administering diagnostic tests for the dentist's evaluation

Along with these job responsibilities, it is also possible that hygienists in some states will administer local anesthesia to patients or perform some duties that were previously reserverd for dentists.

It's also very important for a dental hygienist to have excellent people and communication skills, as they will be interacting with patients constantly on a daily basis. As many dentist offices are working to remove the common perception that going to the dentist is "scary" or "painful" it helps to have a warm and friendly staff to work with patients.

Education Requirements

Individuals looking to start a career as a dental hygienist must fulfill certain education requirments in order to get work. Before getting accepted into an accredited program a prospective hygienist must have a high school diploma or GED. If you meet that requirement then there are many colleges and institutions across the United States that usually offer associate's degrees upon completion of their programs.

Dental Hygienists must also be licensed by their practicing state. In the majority of states you must successfully complete an accredited dental hygienist program and pass a written clinical examination.

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