Career Choices – Becoming a Dental Hygienist
What is a dental hygienist? A dental hygienist is one who provides oral health care, which includes teeth cleaning and prevention of tooth decay and gum disease. There are three basic categories of services provided by a dental hygienist : education, prevention, and treatment. During a regular dental visit, patients are initially guided by a licensed dentist to a dental hygienist that evaluates their teeth and gums for possible oral concerns. After an initial examination, the dental hygienist then instructs the patient on proper dental hygiene habits such as daily teeth brushing, flossing, and regular professional cleanings. The overall goal of dental visits is to educate patients about good oral health care and prevent future dental problems from developing.
Prevention of dental problems includes taking care of one’s teeth and gums. Dentists work with patients to develop care plans based on their personal needs. Some examples of care plans are Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO), and referral programs. A dentist can suggest different types of care plans based on patient needs or other criteria identified by the patient and the dentist. A preferred provider organization provides reduced costs and other benefits to members.
Another type of dental hygiene care plan is a nursing care plan. This type of plan is most often used by the long-term or chronic ill. In contrast to the short-term or preventive care plans, a nursing care plan provides routine, preventative dental health care. Examples of care included in this type of dental hygiene care plan are annual dental exams, professional cleaning, and other recommended oral healthcare services. The cost of a nursing care plan depends on the individual state’s regulations.
The third type of dental hygienist is an interprofessional. An interprofessional, also known as an ‘interventional’ or ‘complementary’ practitioner, provides health professionals with various services, including management and coordination of a patient’s overall dental care plan. Some interprofessional practitioners offer comprehensive preventative services and may work directly with patients to address specific needs. These practitioners work under the supervision of a primary care physician or dentist.
To work as an interprofessional collaboration, a dental hygienist needs to have: A bachelor’s degree; six years of experience as a practicing dentist or other oral healthcare specialist, and three years of experience as a nurse or medical technician. A professional training program is also needed. Some states require candidates applying for a dental hygienist position to participate in a clinical internship program. Candidates who successfully complete the internship program will be able to join the workforce immediately as a dental healthcare manager.
The fourth type of dental hygienist is the supervising dentist. A supervising dentist is responsible for evaluating and treating patients with oral health concerns. In many cases, these physicians are involved in educating patients about oral health, prevention procedures, and the importance of proper brushing techniques and equipment. Dentists also perform preventative dental x-rays each year. In some areas, these exams are required by law.
The role of a dental hygienist also includes educating patients on the importance of good oral hygiene, as well as providing education about preventing tooth decay and other diseases. Dentists often collaborate with dental hygienists to educate patients about these things. In some situations, dental hygienists coordinate care with dentists, offering preventative screenings and treatments on a sliding scale basis. Some states, such as Tennessee and New Jersey, require that all licensed dentists collaborate with a hygienists on an ongoing basis for patients who have oral care needs not covered by their primary care physician.
Dentists play an important role in maintaining the oral health of patients who visit their offices. By providing preventive care, educating patients about proper dental hygiene, performing routine maintenance procedures, and offering emergency services when necessary, dentists play a major role in the overall health of their patients. By considering these career choices, you can be on the right path to a rewarding career that will benefit you both emotionally and medically.