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Career Story: Dental Hygienist In A Private Practice

Dental Hygienist In A Private Practice

Job Title: Dental Hygienist

Type of Company: A dentist's office.

Education: AS, Dental Assisting /Office Management, Mount Ida Junior College •• AS, Dental Hygiene, Bristol Community College

Previous Experience: I worked as a dental assistant in a one-doctor practice for a few years while going to dental hygiene school. Later I worked as a dental hygienist part-time in two different dental offices. After I got married, my husband and I opened our own dental practice in Connecticut.

Job Tasks: I perform oral health care assessments that include a review of the patient's health history, dental chart, oral cancer screening and an evaluation of his gum health. I wear a mask, gloves and protective eyewear and clothing to protect myself. I take any x-rays that are needed, and administer local anesthetic when required. (Not all states allow hygienists to administer novocaine, but Connecticut does.) I then removing plaque, calculus (tartar) and stains from above and below the gum line using dental instruments and apply cavity prevention agents like fluorides and sealants. I educate the patient about plaque control and proper techniques for them to maintain healthy teeth and gums. I also discuss the importance of good nutrition for maintaining optimal health and the importance of regular dental care. I set up appointments for people. I also clean and disinfect all surfaces in the operatory after the patient's departed. All instruments are then cleaned and sterilized.

I also perform some office duties such as calling to confirm my patients for the following day, sending out appointment reminder cards for patients 3 or 6 month dental hygiene visits, writing reports of my patients' visits. I also keep up with the latest procedures by taking continuing education courses and reading dental hygiene magazines.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best thing about my job is the satisfaction I get from helping people. But my work schedule is pretty good too (I can work full-time, part-time, weekend or evening hours) and the pay is excellent: $30-$50 an hour depending on which state you work in.

The worst part of the job is the stress of standing, sitting and bending all day and the possibility of exposure to a patient's infectious diseases.

Job Tips: Take plenty of science and math courses in high school. Volunteer at a dental clinic or shadow at your dental office to see if you like the work setting and can stomach blood and other fluids. Talk with your dental hygienist about her job and her satisfaction with her career.

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