Job Title: Dental Hygienist
Education: Associate of Science in Dental Hygiene, Miami Dade Community College
Previous Experience: I worked as a Dental Assistant prior to going to school.
Job Tasks: I received my Dental Hygiene degree from a two year program (Associate of Science). I passed the national exam and each of the states I have practiced in requires a state exam. To keep the license current, each year we are required to keep up to date with continuing education credits. Most programs are now four year degrees (Bachelor of Science).
As a Dental Hygienist, I was responsible for cleaning teeth, patient education, a soft tissue exam to look for oral cancer and taking x-rays. I would usually see approximately eight patients per day. But if a patient had an involved case and needed a longer appointment time, the numbers would flucuate and I would see less per day.
A typical appoinment time is 45 minutes which starts with the soft tissue exam, checking for cavities, taking routine x-rays, scaling (cleaning) the tooth surfaces, polishing the tooth surfaces, reviewing home care and then the dentist would come in for his or her exam. Each patient has a chart that needs to be filled out per visit, that could take between 2 and 10 minutes depending on the the findings that day.
If there was a break between patients I would work in the front office scheduling appointments, filing patient charts, filling out insurance forms, or answering the phones. I could also help in the lab with cleaning and developing x-rays.
Travel would be involved if the necessary licensing continuation requirements were out of town. Usually classes were available within a short drive and many are now available online.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of being a dental hygienist was the satisfation I received from helping a patient learn to take care of their mouth and have great home care. The fact that patients come in every 6 months, keeping good records I was able to monitor their improvements. It gave me great joy to be able to show someone that they had maintained a healthy mouth.
The worse part would be the fact that not everyone would take care of their mouths between check-ups and I would have to point out poor oral hygiene and unhealthy tissues.
I was sorry that I had not gotten my four year degree so that I could teach Dental Hygiene.
1. Experiment with the dental field prior to committing to school, it could be as an assistant with on the job training, front office help or ask your dentist is you could just be an observer.
2. Know ahead of time the amount of science classes involved with the degree.
3. Defintely get the four year degree!
Additional Thoughts: Dental Hygiene is a well paying career for someone with "people skills" that enjoys helping others.