What is a Dental Hygienist
Dental hygienists are professionals who help evaluate a dental patient’s oral health. They can also make recommendations to help protect and promote good oral hygiene. They are the first line of defense against many of the most common dental diseases such as gingivitis or other types of gum disease. Dental hygienists can help dental patients develop better dental habits which can, in turn, help protect their teeth and allow them to keep their natural teeth for a longer time. Dental hygienists almost always work in a dental office but they are not dentists. Dental hygienists are somewhat similar in the dental world to nurses in the medical world, meaning they don’t require the same level of education as dentists but provide invaluable support to them.
EDUCATIONAL AND LICENSING REQUIREMENTS
Dental hygienists generally need an Associate’s Degree in dental hygiene. Unlike most Associate’s Degree programs, however, those for dental hygienists generally take three years to complete rather than two. Dental hygienists also need to be licensed by the state. While specific licensing requirements will vary from state to state, they generally require both clinical and written examinations as well as a degree from an accredited institution. In many cases, dental hygienists may also be required to have CPR certification.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median income for dental hygienists was just under $75,000 a year or around $36 an hour.
The demand for dental hygienists is expected to increase by 11% between 2018 and 2028, which is significantly faster than most occupations. This is largely due to two factors. The first is that as research shows a stronger and stronger link between good oral health and good overall health, more people are becoming aware of the importance of maintaining good oral health. This creates an increased demand for dental hygienists.
The second reason for the expected growth is due to the aging population of baby boomers. While people of all ages are becoming more aware of the importance of dental hygiene and its impact on overall health, as people age they become even more keenly aware of the need to care for their teeth if they want to keep them. Baby boomers represent one of the largest populations of the last century and as they head into their golden years they also represent one of the largest populations in need of services like dental hygienists.