Becoming a dental hygienist can offer you many professional and personal rewards if you enjoy working one on one with people. You have to be both qualified and personable, and enjoy interacting with a wide variety of individuals to be a successful dental hygienist. In addition, you must be skilled at placing patients at ease, many of whom have deep-seated fears of dental work. As a dental hygienist, you can work in both adult and pediatric practices. If you do work in a pediatric setting, you must also be skilled at entertaining and working with children.
You'll have standard work days that typically run from Monday to Friday. However, it is not unusual for dental practices to only work four days a week, having either Monday or Friday off. Some are open on Saturday, so don't be surprised if you don't have the whole weekend off.
Office hours typically run from around 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., with some minor variations. In order to prepare the office for patients, you will typically arrive prior to the opening. Additionally, you may also have to stay after closing to clean and sanitize equipment and prepare for the following day. Depending on the office protocol, most hygienists will get a 30-minute or one-hour lunch break.
What You'll Do
On any given day, dental hygienists perform a wide range of duties. In addition to cleaning and sterilizing all of the equipment, you must also equip each room with the necessary supplies for each patient. You'll also take x-rays of patients' teeth and perform dental cleanings, scalings, and overall oral examinations. Another vital responsibility is discussing proper dental care with the patient, such as flossing and brushing.
Your "Typical" Day
Every day brings different experiences for a dental hygienist due to the varied nature of patients who seek treatment. However, there are standard duties that are performed routinely and set the course for each day’s schedule.
Prior to your patients coming, you'll have to review the day’s charts to determine treatment needs and set up the necessary equipment for the first appointments. Patient appointments can range from standard preventative checkups and cleanings to the treatment of gum disease, filling a cavity, or root canals.
After performing the necessary dental treatment, you will have the dentist come in and check the teeth or perform any advanced dental procedures. After discussing any follow-up care with the patient, you'll give your patients their goody bags and send them on the way. Then it’s time to clean the room and set out sterilized equipment for the next patient. Following a lunch break, you will repeat similar duties after lunch. At the end of the day, the hygienist is responsible for cleaning and sterilizing all equipment in the office. Sometimes, they must also clean the rooms themselves, including mopping floors and wiping down chairs and counters.
Out of all the careers out there, dental hygienists are known to have some of the highest amounts of job satisfaction. And it only takes three years to get that degree! Be contacted by a dental school today.