Duties and Responsibilities: A registered dental hygienist (RDH) is a licensed dental professional who specializes in preventive oral health, typically focusing on techniques in oral hygiene. Dental hygienists provide three types of services to their patients. The first of these is preventive services to promote and maintain good oral health. The second is educational services to help patients develop behaviors that promote better oral health and help them understand the importance of practicing these behaviors. The third type of service provided is therapeutic services which are treatments meant to stop disease and maintain healthy tissues in the mouth. Local dental regulations determine the scope of practice of dental hygienists. In most jurisdictions, hygienists work for a dentist, and some are licensed to administer local anesthesia. Common procedures performed by hygienists include cleanings known as prophylaxis, scaling and root planning for patients with periodontal disease, taking of prescribed radio graphs, dental sealants, administration of fluoride, and providing instructions for proper oral hygiene and care.
Salary: Hygienists make a comfortable salary, especially considering that most of those in the profession work part-time. In 2011, their median salary was $69,280. The best-paid earned $94,850, and the bottom 10 percent earned $46,020. Many of the top-paid hygienists work in dentists’ offices, but outpatient care centers and ambulatory health care services also pay well.
Education: Dental hygienists receive their education through academic programs at community colleges, technical colleges, dental schools or universities. The majority of community college programs take at least two years to complete, with graduates receiving associate degrees. Receipt of this degree allows a hygienist to take licensure examinations, become licensed and to work in a dental office. Two years of College education are needed to apply for a dental school. Some high school requirement would be biology, health, psychology, chemistry, mathematics and speech.
Reflection: I really wouldn’t enjoy touching dirty instruments or dealing with anyone who would cry at every dentist visit. This job seems as if it needs patience and that is something I just don’t have.