A career in dental hygiene is rewarding on many levels. You work with people, assisting them in maintaining their oral health and improving their lives. You also work as an important member of a dental health care team, assisting dentists and other professionals in delivering care to patients.
Where You Work
You work in the offices of general dentists and dental specialists; public health agencies; hospitals; nursing homes; community health clinics; public schools; dental schools and dental hygiene education programs; and in business and industry.
A Growth Field
The field of dental hygiene is projected to be one of the 30 fastest-growing occupations over the next several years. Salaries are good, and flexible work schedules are often available in this high demand field. Dental hygiene offers excellent career opportunities for nontraditional students.
Here is an overview of the different careers you might pursue as a dental hygienist, as outlined by the American Dental Hygienists’ Association and American Dental Association:
- Clinician – Dental hygienists are in demand in general dental practices, as well as in specialty practices such as periodontics or pediatric dentistry. In addition to performing technical duties, they play an important role in teaching patients appropriate oral hygiene techniques and counseling them regarding good nutrition and its impact on oral health.
- Administrator/Manager – Dental hygienists also find career opportunities in various segments of the health care industry, working for dental product companies or insurance companies. They hold administrative positions in education, professional associations, public health, and hospitals.
- Educator – Some dental hygienists teach in dental hygiene and dental school programs, write and edit educational materials, or work as consultants to dental companies.
- Researcher – Some dental hygienists conduct or assist in conducting research at institutions of higher education, government agencies, and industry.
- Consumer Advocate – Some dental hygienists work for consumer groups to advocate for access to health care, and advise consumers on issues such as insurance, products and political issues affecting health care.
- Public Health Dental Hygiene – Some dental hygienists work in health policy and program management and administration.
A B.S. in dental hygiene also provides an excellent foundation for graduate studies in such fields as dentistry and public health.