Dental Hygienists are professionals in charge of providing oral sanitation and hygienic work on their patients. Unlike Dentists and Orthodontists, Dental Hygienists are concerned mostly with treating minor oral diseases and conditions. They perform routine cleaning procedures and apply preventive treatment on patients’ mouths and teeth. The most common tasks of a Dental Hygienist include applying fluoride, sealing dental cracks and fissures, dental cleaning, treating oral diseases like cavities and gum diseases, and providing patients with hygienic tips and instructions.
The grand majority of Dental Hygienists work in a private or public practice, tending patients by consultations, which are often previously scheduled. They usually work in groups alongside Dentists, Orthodontists, and other colleagues in oral health centres and offices. Dental Hygienists are often found working as assistants to a Dentist. They are, in a way, what a Nurse is to a Physician; providing assistance and a second pair of hands to carry out daily tasks.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of common tasks Dental Hygienists are required to complete.
- Administering dental cleaning procedures, hygienic treatments, and performing minor repairs to dental structure:
- Cleaning teeth, stains, cavities, and gums using specialized tools (e.g. water and air pressure guns, specialized drills, and chisels);
- removing food residues, cement excess, and plaque from the patient’s teeth;
- examining teeth and gums to look for signs of tooth decay and gum disease, as well as nodules and unusual swellings in the patient’s oral cavity;
- documenting and reporting the existence of any disease to the Dentist;
- applying fluoride and other chemicals used to seal and prevent cavities and tooth decay;
- administering local anesthesia to patients when needed, provided they possess the necessary certification to do so; and
- making plaster cast impressions of dental structures for further studies.
- Keeping track of patients’ histories:
- Making observations on a patient’s chart regarding the current status of their oral health and hygiene; and
- documenting and storing patient files for later recall.
- Maintaining working space, equipment, and tools in pristine conditions:
- Sterilizing dental equipment and tools; and
- sharpening blades and chisels.
- Conducting educational conferences and seminars in community centres and schools focused on dental and oral hygiene:
- Explaining the importance of dental and oral hygiene and showing the consequences of poor hygienic habits; and
- providing audiences with leaflets and other printed materials explaining good hygienic habits.
- Assisting Dentists during their daily tasks.
- Conducting routine cleaning duties on teeth and gums.
- Examining teeth and gums for signs of decay or disease.
- Keeping and documenting patient records.
- Applying fluoride and other chemicals to fight oral problems and diseases.
- Maintaining their workplace and tools clean.
The average Dental Hygienist salary is $66,229 per year or $34 per hour. This is around 2 times more than the Median wage of the country. Entry level positions start at $46,000 while most experienced workers make up to $93,000. These results are based on 95 salaries extracted from job descriptions.
- Excellent interpersonal, communication skills:
- Creating and maintaining a communicative environment where patients can feel relaxed and comfortable and have all their questions answered in a clear manner;
- being able to explain issues or diseases in a non-technical language to patients to make them understand their oral condition and what they need to do in order to improve it;
- having outstanding customer service skills; and
- working with a diverse group of people, while always maintaining a positive and professional image.
- Great sense of empathy:
- Displaying genuine sensitivity and concern for patients and their individual needs.
- Strong organizational and time management skills:
- Having strong multitasking skills; being able to prioritize tasks and responsibilities.
- Analytical, problem-solving, and decision-making skills:
- Identifying issues and resolving problems in a timely manner using critical thinking and good judgment.
- High levels of manual dexterity and motor coordination:
- Displaying exceptional attention to detail and good hand skills, having outstanding hand-eye coordination; and
- being able to use dental/technical equipment in an accurate and meticulous manner.
- Exceptional professionalism and strong work ethic.
- Great sense of responsibility and reliability.
Entry-level jobs as a Dental Hygienist are very easily found, especially for those currently in the process of pursuing further studies in order to get a specialization in this area. Becoming a Dental Hygienist in any academic institution requires students to complete a practical section of the course under the supervision of professors and certified Dentists or Dental Hygienists. They can later use these time of supervised practices as part of the necessary experience when applying for a job.
Working as a Dental Hygienist is an excellent way to obtain the experience necessary to move further in the career ladder. The usual educational requirement to work as a Dental Hygienist is completing a college program focused on dental hygiene, which usually lasts between one (1) to three (3) years. All the experience necessary to become and work as a Dental Hygienist can be obtained during the practical portion of the college program.
Once graduated from this program, registration at their corresponding government regulatory body is mandatory. Some of the requirements for registration may vary depending on the province or territory where they’re looking to practice, but the most common include having a diploma from the specialized college or university program taken, passing an examination when registering, and becoming a member of the Canadian Dental Hygienist Association. Once all these steps are completed, Dental Hygienist may work freely.