Career Snapshot: Dental Hygiene
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
- Job prospects are expected to remain excellent. It is expected to be one of the fastest growing occupations through 2012, in response to increasing demand for dental care and the greater utilization of hygienists to perform services previously performed by dentists.
- Opportunities for part-time work and flexible schedules are common.
A dental hygienist is a licensed primary health care professional. Dental hygiene is the science and practice of the recognition, treatment, and prevention of oral diseases.
Typical functions of the clinical dental hygienist include:
- Assessing and monitoring medical and dental health histories
- Performing head and neck cancer screenings
- Obtaining and assessing dental X-rays
- Identifying oral and systemic health problems
- Treating oral diseases by removing deposits from the teeth and applying therapeutic agents
- Preventing further disease by applying preventive agents such as fluorides and dental sealants
- Educating individuals and groups on oral health care and promotion
- Developing oral health programs to meet the needs of school and community settings
Dental hygienists become licensed in Texas by first becoming a registered dental hygienist, which requires the successful completion of a program of study accredited by the American Dental Association (ADA) Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) and successfully passing the National Dental Hygiene Board Examination. Then the registered dental hygienist must successfully complete a state or regional examination (like the examination administered by the Western Regional Examination Board), and an examination on the state laws pertaining to dental hygiene in order to apply for a state license to practice.
The majority of graduates work in the private practice dental settings. Dental hygienists are also employed in hospital and institutional clinics, long term care facilities, corporate health facilities, school systems, research facilities, dental insurance companies, corporate sales, and as teachers in dental hygiene programs.
Occupational Outlook Handbook