Career Story: Dental Hygienist In A General Dentistry Practice

Dental Hygienist In A General Dentistry Practice

Job Title: Dental Hygienist

Type of Company: General dentistry office providing care to families.

Education: AS, Quinsigamond Community College (Worcester, MA)

Previous Experience: I have worked as a dental hygiene clinician in seven different dental practices over a 26 year span.

Job Tasks: I am responsible for providing dental exams, oral cancer exams, blood pressure screenings and dental cleanings. I also perform fluoride treatments, apply tooth sealants, take dental x-rays, and provide vital oral health care instruction which includes demonstrating how to use tooth brushes and floss and how to care for your braces and dentures. I apply tooth desensitizers and sub-gingival antibiotics to help patients with localized gum infections. Part of my oral health care instruction includes diet and overall health as they pertain to dental hygiene.

I see an average of eleven patients in an eight hour day. A typical appointment would consist of reviewing a patient's medical history for changes and updating these into their chart, taking their blood pressure, performing an oral cancer and dental exam and writing down any concerns for the dentist to check later in the appointment. Then I would take any necessary x-rays and get them into the developer for processing. I would then perform a thorough dental cleaning, a scaling with instruments and a polishing with pumice and a rubber cup. For children, this would be the time, immediately after the cleaning, to perform a fluoride treatment. Most oral health instruction takes place during the cleaning or immediately after. Finally, I would mount the x-rays and call the dentist in to check any problem spots. Once the patient's gone out, I perform a thorough cleaning and disinfection of all surfaces, before setting up and bringing my next patient.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best parts of my job would include the ability to help other people improve their oral, and sometimes overall general health. I enjoy the relationships I develop with my patients; their faith and trust in me is one of the most rewarding things I have ever felt. I have helped people quit using cigarettes and chewing tobacco, and they have thanked me for possibly saving their lives. It is a very good feeling to be able to affect someone in such a positive way. I enjoy the actual work, the pay rate is excellent and the hours very flexible, which is great when you are raising a family.

The only bad part of my job is that my day is hemmed in by appointments. I have to stay on schedule and that is sometimes inconvenient, especially when I want or need to spend some extra time with a patient. That part's stressful.

Job Tips:
1. Go to a college with a four-year program and get a bachelor's degree. People want you to have one these days.

2. In high school, advise your guidance counselor that you are interested in dental hygiene, so that you can take the appropriate courses as there are specific requirements to apply for the programs, and you will need these before being considered. Many people find they have to pay for a pre-requisite college chemistry course, when they could have gotten it for free in high school.

3. Work in a dental office, if you can, either before or during your dental hygiene training. It is very helpful when you are trying to do your clinical duties if you already have some experience of how a dentist's office works.

Additional Thoughts: If I could go back, I would have attended a four-year, bachelor's program, simply because that offers an individual the options to do others things with a dental hygiene career besides just the in-office clinical aspect of it.

If you want to consider a career in dental hygiene, be sure that you are a "people person." Many people have a real fear of the dentist's office, and you are usually the clinician they spend the most time with. You need personal skills to put them at ease, and to explain the treatments and recommendations in a way that makes them feel comfortable.

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