Want a Career to Smile About? Try Dental Hygiene

What do you look for in a career? If you’re like the majority of jobseekers, you look for flexibility, security and great pay.

Nowadays, there aren’t many jobs out there that satisfy all of these traits. During the recession, many industries had to lay off workers or reduce their pay to avoid bankruptcy, but one field, dental hygiene, is more lucrative than ever. According to Atlanta Journal-Constitution, dental hygienists are in demand, receive higher-than-average pay and enjoy flexible schedules.

Among healthcare jobs, dental hygiene is one of the most flexible. Approximately 50 percent of dental hygienists work part time and having an adjustable schedule attracts people who are raising children or pursuing further education. Transitioning to full-time is as easy as working with two dentist’s offices, which also can prevent monotony with a variety of responsibilities and types of patients.

This flexibility is accompanied by a high salary. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports dental hygienists earn an average of $32.81 per hour, which is higher than in most other healthcare jobs.

Dental Hygienists Can Expect to Spend a Lot of Time With Patients

During a routine exam, patients often see more of the dental hygienist than of their dentist. Generally, a hygienist has a number of responsibilities:

  • Cleaning teeth
  • Performing preventative maintenance
  • Helping people monitor and maintain their dental health
  • Taking X-rays
  • Educating patients about gum disease prevention

They work closely with dental assistants and dentists, so if you’re personable and truly interested in healthcare, this could be the perfect career for you.

Although dental hygienists don’t diagnose diseases, they help dentists prepare diagnostic tests and assist during treatment phases. Also, because each dentist uses slightly different techniques and equipment, dental hygienists always are learning new aspects about their field, making the job interesting and engaging.

Some hygienists find work inside corporations and provide care to employees as part of the company’s benefit package. This can offer many perks, including full benefits and opportunities for ongoing, paid training.

Hygienists have the opportunity to work with a diverse pool of patients, which can make their job challenging and rewarding. The dental health issues that children face are different from those faced by the elderly; however, in both cases, a hygienist needs to find innovative ways to encourage patients to take responsibility for their oral care.

The Job Outlook for Dental Hygienists Looks Great Through 2020

New dental equipment and technology is introduced to the field all of the time, only increasing the demand for dental hygienists. The job market opens up considerably as you gain higher levels of education.

Starting positions only require two years of training, but a master’s degree in public health can lead to a corporate job, teaching position or career with a government agency, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Studying for a degree in dental health isn’t all about teeth; students in these programs also learn about pathology, anatomy, radiology and pharmacology.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution examined future projections for the dental hygiene profession and came up with some encouraging figures. Researchers found the market should see an annual growth rate of approximately three percent. On a national scale, the field is expected to grow by 38 percent between 2010 and 2020, translating to 68,500 new jobs over the course of the next decade.

Desirable career opportunities are expected to open up in the entire healthcare sector. By 2020, the number of jobs in this industry is expected to grow by 5.6 million, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Dental hygienists, like most healthcare professionals, have a high level of job security. The economic collapse in 2007 had no noticeable effect on the field’s growth rate.

To begin working toward a career in dental hygiene, you’ll want to find a university where you can complete your courses. Consider enrolling in a Master’s in Public Health program — and prepare yourself for a satisfying career.

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