When patients come in for their annual visits, most of their time is spent having their mouth checked not by a dentist but by a dental hygienist. In the typical visit to a dental center, patients are coming in for a routine checkup, not for dental surgery. Much of that task belongs to the dental hygienist who can do everything from clean the patient’s mouth to educate them on proper hygiene.
Dental hygienists all go through an educational program that teaches them the cleaning process, how to use dental equipment, how to talk to the patient about their dental health, even how to administer anesthesia. This leads into specialized training before finally joining the field as a professional.
One of the most important skills a dental hygienist needs is strong social ability. Patients do not spend much of their time thinking about their teeth and may need education on proper care. Having a calm personality and the ability to communicate clearly with patients goes a long way toward developing lasting relationships with patients.
An unexpected downside of working as a hygienist is the physical toll. Dental hygienists spend most of their time holding instruments inside patient’s mouths, with can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. Much of the day is also spend sitting on a stool and leaning over, often resulting in back pain.
However, that is outweighed by the benefits of seeing good work reflected in each patient and getting to spend time with a multitude of unique perspectives. The field is still growing and the demand for new workers, especially males, is strong. The pay is strong, starting around $40 an hour, and modern technology is easing the physical strain dental hygienists have experienced for years.