Nature of Work
Dental hygienists examine patients' teeth and gums, recording the presence of diseases or abnormalities. They remove calculus, stains, and plaque from teeth; take and develop dental x-rays' and apply cavity-preventive agents such as fluorides and pit an fissure sealants. Dental hygienists use hand and rotary instruments and ultrasonic equipment to clean and polish teeth, x-ray machines to take dental pictures, syringes with needles to administer local anesthetics.
In some states, hygienists administer anesthetics; place and carve filling materials, temporary fillings, and periodontal dressings; remove sutures; perform root-planning as a periodontal therapy; and smooth and polish metal restorations. Although hygienists may not diagnose disease, they can prepare clinical and laboratory diagnostic tests for the dentist to interpret. Hygienists sometimes work chair side wit the dentist during treatment.
Dental hygienists also help patients develop and maintain good oral health. For example, they may explain the relationship between diet and oral health, or the link between oral health and such serious conditions as heart disease and stroke. They also inform patients how to select toothbrushes and show them how to brush and floss their teeth.
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. Opportunities for part-time work and flexible schedules are common. More than half of all dental hygienists work part time (less than 35 hours a week).
Skills You Need
Dental hygienists should work well with others and must have good manual dexterity, because they use dental instruments within a patient's mouth, with little room for error. High school students interested in becoming a dental hygienist should take courses in biology chemistry, and mathematics.
Median annual wages of dental hygienists were $66,570 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $55,220 and $78,990. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $44,180, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $91,470.
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.
Allied Health and Human Services
Health and Human Services Bldg, Room 108
Phone: (517) 483-1410
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