Dental hygienists generally train by getting an associate’s degree specific to the job. There are numerous colleges around the country that offer the course, and it’s increasingly popular. The job itself offers many rewards, but there are also some drawbacks to bear in mind.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, dental hygiene is among the fastest growing occupations in the U.S., and the outlook for employment is favorable in most areas. The Bureau predicts 36% growth in employment through 2018, which will mean another 50,000 jobs. This is due to an increasing emphasis on preventive dental care, as well as an aging population that is increasingly keeping its teeth into old age.
For the level of education that’s required, this is a well-paid job. The median annual wage for a dental hygienist in 2008 was $66,570. Some hygienists were able to earn over $90,000 a year, while the lowest 10% were just below $44,000.
Dental hygienist positions can be very flexible and can be made to fit an irregular schedule. Many part-time positions are available, and some hygienists are able to work for several different dentists, boosting their wages. It’s a great option for a parent who wants to juggle family life with a well-paying job.
While it’s a great job for someone with good people skills, bear in mind some of the time you’ll be working with patients who may feel scared and vulnerable, and hence may be prone to be grumpy or even angry. It’s probably a job at which you may not always see people at their best.
Because of its flexible and sometimes part-time nature, this is not a job that regularly comes with good benefits. The American Dental Hygienist Association reported from a survey that only half of hygienists questioned reported some form of employment benefits, usually sick pay or paid vacation days. Health care is not a common benefit of the job.
Although the working conditions in dental offices generally are good, because of the nature of the work, hygienists can be prone to postural problems and back pain. In addition, the repetitive nature of the motions involved can lead to issues such as carpal tunnel syndrome.