Career Story: Dental Hygienist For A General Dental Office

Dental Hygienist For A General Dental Office

Job Title: Dental Hygiene

Type of Company: I work for a general dental office, helping people learn better oral health.

Education: AS Accounting, New England Community College •• AS, Hygiene, Middlesex Community College (Middletown, CT) •• BS, Accounting, Merrimack College (North Andover, MA)

Previous Experience: I started as an accountant, in cash management at Marshall's corporate office. When Marshall's was absorbed by TJ Maxx, I was ready for a change and accepted a job as a dental assistant/front desk employee at a dental office. After a few years I decided to go back to school to become a dental hygienist.

Job Tasks: My job responsibilities include promoting oral health and informing patients of their dental options. By promoting dental health I inform patients how to maintain or achieve optimum home care. I have also visited schools and nursing homes and completed a survey of the need for services at those sites. I have helping those patients gain access to care. While visiting a site or meeting with a patient in the office, I may discuss electric tooth brushes, water picks, interdental tooth brushes, brushing and flossing techniques. The options worth discussing depend on the patient and the state of his teeth. If a patient needs a tooth extracted and the tooth needs replacement, I would inform the patient of adverse affects if the patient chooses not to replace the tooth and other options available such as a partial denture, a flipper, or an implant. It is important for every patient to know all options for treatment, so the patient can choose the treatment plan they are willing to follow.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best parts of the job include having a patient ready to learn home care. Sometimes a patient comes into the office very tense. It is nice to have the ability to gain a patient's trust. If the patient has avoided dental care because they are frightened and have never been taught how to take care of their teeth. I love the light bulb moment patients have when they finally understand how to improve home care.

The worst part of the job is dealing with a patient whose mother made him come to the dentist. A patient who doesn't want to be there and doesn't want to improve his dental (and overall) health is a source of frustration to me.

Job Tips: In order to get a dental hygiene license you need a two year degree. But this is a minimum requirement and I would suggest a three or four year degree program. The two year program is doable but intense. Some schools also offer a health careers program. The health careers program helps you to learn current medical terminology prior to entering the medical program of your choice. I entered hygiene school with all of my non-hygiene courses already completed and work related experience, and this really helped with balancing home life with a child and husband and school life.

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