Shadowing a DoctorJuly 14, 2014
While there are many different career options to choose from in the field of dentistry, not everyone relishes the additional responsibility that comes with working as a dentist nor do they want to go through the expensive and extensive education that goes with the career. If you are interested in pursuing a career in dentistry, you might want to think about working as a dental hygienist. A career as a dental hygienist requires relatively less education but still offers pretty attractive perks including a strong salary, job security, excellent working conditions and the tremendous job satisfaction.
Also known as oral health practitioners, dental hygienists are clinical health care professionals who work within a dental team to help prevent health problems. Although dental hygienists do play a role in treating all oral problems associated with the teeth and gums, their role is more of preventing dental problems rather than treating them.
A dental hygienist helps a dentist in carrying out several different procedures such as scaling, cleaning and polishing teeth, and applying topical products such as fluoride and fissure sealants. As a dental hygienist, there are several different settings you can choose for a work environment, including general dental practices, community dentistry practices and hospitals. If you choose to work as dental hygienist in a hospital, part of your job function would be to help the orthodontist during complex treatments and surgery.
In some cases, you would also work one-on-one with patients to help prevent and treat diseases and health problems related to the teeth and gums. You would be responsible for assessing and investigating any issues of the teeth and gums as well as designing tailored programs of dental hygiene for patients.
Education & Training
In the UK, a dental hygienist programme runs for two years or up to 27 months. All programmes are full time.
Besides dental schools, these programmes are also offered by the Defence Dental Services Training Establishment. Dental Hygienist courses cover subjects such as dental health education, anatomy, physiology, dental pathology, preventive dentistry, and general patient care. Continuing training is important in order to learn and stay updated with the latest advanced dental care techniques that can be used in preventative patient care as well as for treatment of gum and tooth disorders. Some dental schools offer combined programmes that include dental hygiene and dental therapy.
To be able to register and practice as a dental hygienist you would need to obtain a recognised Diploma in Dental Hygiene. 5 GCSEs or equivalent (including English and Biology) are the minimum eligibility requirements for a dental hygienist course, in addition to at least 2 A-levels or a recognised Dental Nursing qualification.
Choosing Dental Hygiene As A Career
Dental hygiene is a good choice for you if you are interested in the field of dentistry but prefer a career that has a shorter and less rigorous training programme as compared to dentist training.
A dental hygienist in the UK typically earns an annual income of about £19,500 to £25,000 when first starting off. However, after a reasonable amount of experience, this figure can go up to about £37,000 or more per year.