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Dental Hygiene Program Career Facts

Nature of Work

In the dental office, the dentist and the dental hygienist work together to meet the oral health needs of patients. Since each state has its own specific regulations regarding their responsibilities, the range of services performed by hygienists varies from state to state. Some of the services provided by dental hygienists may include:

  • patient screening procedures; such as assessment of oral health condition, review of the health history, oral cancer screening, head and neck inspection, dental charting and taking blood pressure, temperature and pulse

  • taking and developing dental radiographs (x-rays)

  • removing calculus, plaque and stains (hard and soft deposits) from all surfaces of teeth

  • applying preventative materials to the teeth (e.g., sealants and fluorides)

  • applying antimicrobial therapies to assist in prevention of oral disease progression

  • teaching patients appropriate oral hygiene strategies to maintain oral health

  • teaching patients about the relationship between oral health and systemic diseases

  • counseling patients about good nutrition and its impact on oral health

  • making impressions of patients’ teeth for study casts

  • performing anxiety and pain management techniques through the use of nitrous oxide sedation and local anesthetic procedures

Employment Prospects

Dental hygienists are projected to be one of the 30 fastest growing occupations. Populations growth and greater retention of natural teeth will stimulate demand for dental hygienists. Additionally, ongoing research linking oral health and general health will continue to spur the demand for preventative services by hygienists. Opportunities for part-time work and flexible schedules are common.  The majority of hygienists work in private practice dental offices.  However, opportunities exist in sales, education and public health clinics, correctional institutions and managed care organizations.

Skills You Need

Dental hygienists should work well with others and must have good manual dexterity to work in patients' mouths. High school students interested in becoming a dental hygienist should take courses in biology chemistry, and mathematics.

Expected Earnings

Median annual wages of dental hygienists were $62,250 in 2010.  Dental hygienists earn salaries that compare to other health care professionals.  However, earnings vary by geographic location, employment setting, and years of experience. Dental hygienists may be paid on an hourly, daily, salary, or commission basis.

Benefits vary substantially by practice setting and may be contingent upon full-time employment. According to a 2009 survey conducted by the American Dental Hygienist Association, about half of all hygienists reported receiving some form of employment benefits. Of those receiving benefits, paid vacation, sick leave, and retirement plans were the most common.

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Health and Human Services at Lansing Community College

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Phone: (517) 483-1410
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