Dental Hygiene Techs
|Recommended Degree Level||Associate|
|Number of Jobs, 2012||190,290|
|Annual Job Growth Rate||4.9%|
|Job Openings per Year (est.)||10,490|
What's Needed: Dental hygiene techs are usually required to have an associates's degree in dental hygiene. Although less common among dental hygienists, certificates, bachelor's degrees and master's degrees in dental hygiene are available. Private dental offices typically require at least an associates's degree or certificate in dental hygiene. A bachelor's degree or a master's degree is typically needed for teaching, research or clinical practice in public or school health programs.
What you study:
- Dental materials
- Dental hygiene practice and theory
- Oral and general pathology
- Dental pharmacology
- Nutrition in dentistry
- Legal responsibility in dentistry
A short look at the work of dental hygienists. Created for the US Department of Labor.
A Day in the Life
As a dental hygiene tech you're the hero who helps patients relax, make their teeth look better and inspires them to floss their teeth more often. However, before you inspire the first patient you'll prepare for the day by reviewing every patient's chart. As a dental hygiene tech you'll review the patients' medical history and look to see what types of preventive treatments may be needed. You'll also find out the last time a patient visited the office and what procedures were performed, such as a new filling.
After reviewing the charts you'll meet with the rest of the staff members to determine what everyone needs to do to make the day run smoothly. You'll set up the treatment room and make sure you have ample supplies and a clean work area. Then you're ready to see your first patient.
If you notice a patient looks anxious you'll take a couple of minutes and talk about their life and family members in order to allow time for their blood pressure to stabilize. You'll update their health history and ask if they're taking any new medications. You'll also ask your patients if they have any dental concerns. After you're done with each patient you clean and disinfect the room.
During a typical day as a dental hygienist you'll perform preventive care, you may work on patients with active gum disease, and apply sealants and fluorides to help protect your patients' teeth. You'll remove tarter, plaque and stains from teeth, and teach your patients about oral hygiene.
During a typical day you'll use hand and power tools including ultrasonic devices and a power tool to polish teeth. As a dental hygiene tech you'll also take x-rays to look for tooth or jaw problems. Depending on the state you live in you may also be allowed to carve filling materials, temporary fillings as well as periodontal dressings.
Certifications and Licensing
In every state dental hygienists are required to be licensed and the requirements vary by state. In most states getting a license requires a degree from an accredited dental hygiene program and passing practical and written examinations. To get specific requirements contact your state's medical or health board.
Full-time versus part-time: Some dental hygiene techs work seven to eight hours a day, however over 50 percent of dental hygienists work part-time. Dentists often hire a dental hygiene tech to work just a few days a week so some dental hygiene techs work for more than one dentist.
Work location: The vast majority of dental hygienists work in dental offices.
- The American Dental Hygienists Association (ADHA) offers education and career development; click on the education & careers button to review the useful information. The American Dental Hygienists Association's annual session includes the Center for Lifelong Learning which provides an extensive amount of continuing education sessions in a three-day program designed to develop clinical skills and offer the latest content on evidence-based practices. Also, its online career center offers access to career opportunities across the nation. Individuals can also post their resume online. The ADHA also provides resources such as scholarships as well as fellowship and research grants. Click on the resource button to review an array of helpful resources.
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Handbook provides an overview of the various task performed by dental hygienists. The BLS also provides salary data, educational requirements as well as an employment growth forecast.
- The American Dental Association (ADA) provides career information such as career advantages for prospective dental hygiene techs. Click the Education & Careers button then click on the text "dental team members." Also, take the time to watch the informative dental hygienist career video. The ADA also provides education and testing requirements for dental hygienists.