While every industry has its own ebb and flow regarding career growth and job outlook, the healthcare industry, especially dentistry, is constantly in demand and growing.
Dentists and dental hygienists are the providers taking care of an individual’s teeth and overall oral health, and, in fact, most patients spend a lot more time with their hygienist.
So, what does a career path look like for a dental hygienist? What is the job outlook for dental hygiene professionals? Today’s article will tackle both of these questions and more. Let’s get started.
What is a Dental Hygienist?
Dental hygienists are trained dental professionals who remove dental plaque and tartar in a clinical setting to prevent a patient from experiencing dental decay, gum inflammations, and other oral problems like acute pain and tooth loss.
Dental hygienists also teach patients the best oral hygiene techniques and practices, allowing dentists to devote time to higher-level diagnoses and restorative dental treatment.
Additional duties and responsibilities include:
- Polishing teeth
- Examining a patient’s mouth for problems
- Communicating the signs to the dentist to further evaluate oral conditions
- Make radiographic images
- Apply topical fluoride and sealants
- Document patient care and treatment plans
How Do You Start a Career as a Dental Hygiene Professional?
To start a career as a dental hygienist, you must enroll and complete a dental hygiene program.
Dental hygiene programs offer a variety of dental hygiene degrees with in-person and online options, including Associate of Science (AS) in Dental Hygiene, Bachelor of Science (BS) in Dental Hygiene, Master of Science (MS) in Dental Hygiene, and even continuing education courses for licensed dental hygienists in Dental Hygiene Postgraduate Education programs.
At a minimum, dental hygiene professionals need a certificate or two-year associate’s degree to practice. However, many employers and students prefer to obtain their bachelor’s degree, especially if they are interested in research, teaching, or clinical practice in public or school health programs.
Admission requirements will vary depending on the program and institution. Students should research to understand what will be expected of them when they apply and ensure the program is accredited by the Commission of Dental Accreditation (CODA).
At University of Bridgeport (UB), applicants must submit their high school transcripts, a personal statement, two recommendations, hold a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher, and complete the following prerequisites:
- Anatomy and Physiology I and II
- Introduction to Chemistry
- Intermediate Algebra
- English Composition
Students in dental hygiene programs typically consist of classroom, laboratory, and clinical instruction focusing on inorganic chemistry, dental radiology, dental public health, anesthesiology, and periodontology.
Finally, upon graduation, candidates can pursue licensure to practice in their state of choice and officially start their career as a dental hygiene professional. The most common exam is the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE), but be sure to research your state-specific requirements.
Did you know that Dental Hygiene students at University of Bridgeport gain hands-on experience in our on-campus Dental Hygiene Clinic? Learn more today!
Dental Hygiene Career Paths
Dental hygienists are in high demand and extremely valued today, primarily due to the increasing population and the aging generation of baby boomers, more public awareness and the importance of overall health and dental hygiene, and improved access to healthcare.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, dental hygiene’s employment rate and career outlook are projected to grow nine percent by 2031, faster than the average for all occupations. This will also result in an average of 16,300 openings each year.
For these reasons, more and more dental hygienists work in dentist offices. Not to mention that there are other career opportunities for trained and degree-holding dental hygienists.
For example, you could manage medical services or staff for an entire dental office. Or, you may seek out educational positions at a college or university. It all depends on your personal interests, goals, and aspirations. Hence, many candidates choose to earn their Bachelor’s in Dental Hygiene to expand their employment options.
Dental Hygienists’ Job Outlook and Salary Information
In addition to doctor’s offices, dental hygienists are allowed to work in nursing homes, community health centers, prisons, hospitals, and other long-term care facilities.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that dental hygienists earn a median annual wage of $77,810, with the highest ten percent earning more than $100,200.
Dental hygienists also typically receive benefits such as vacation, sick leave, and retirement contributions from their employers, and many work only part-time for a few days a week.
With its strong job outlook, high salary potential, and flexible degree pathways, it’s no surprise that more and more students are attracted to and pursuing a career in dental hygiene. Plus, they can enjoy hands-on work, interact with and help patients live healthier lives, and pursue plenty of advancement opportunities.
Start your journey toward this valuable, meaningful, and rewarding position with a Bachelor’s in Dental Hygiene at University of Bridgeport. Our evidence-based educational program will enhance your awareness, application, and utilization of dental hygienists in healthcare, research, and educational and community settings.
UB also offers financial aid and comprehensive support services to ensure students get through school and into a great career. Expand your opportunities and apply today or contact us for more information.
Your future starts today!