CAREER DEVELOPMENT / MAR. 13, 2014
version 5, draft 5

How to Become a Dental Hygienist

Dental Hygienist is quite a new career, but one that has become more and more important in the past decade. Given the fact that people have had terrible teeth since the dawn of man; it is probable that this is going to continue to be a growth career for the foreseeable future.

What do Dental Hygienists do?

At a basic level, Dental Hygienists do the less specialised work which dentists usually do. They usually provide patients with a deep clean using dental tools and a flossing. However, they also provide patients with many other services. Typical tasks that a dental hygienist may perform include:

  • Giving expert advice on dental care and how to clean teeth effectively
  • Perform root planning and scaling also known as deep cleaning to remove plague and gum disease
  • Cleaning and polishing peoples teeth
  • Under the supervision of a dentist they may apply local anaesthetic
  • Take x-rays

Salary

Your salary is essentially dependent on where you work. As a dental hygienist you can choose to work either privately or for the NHS. Private work is usually better slightly paid; however, this guide will deal only with NHS dental hygienists. NHS workers have the added benefit of better pensions and increased job security that come with working for the NHS. Although not as well paid as dentists at all, their training is not anywhere near as rigorous, or their level of responsibility as high.

Entry Level AfC band 5

£21,388 - £27,901

Experienced AfC band 6

£25,783 - £34,530

What Qualifications are Needed?

First and foremost, it is important that you care about healthcare and oral hygiene. It is also important that you are good at science, preferably biology. In order to work as a dental hygienist it is necessary for you to take one of these courses, all of which are approved by the General Dental Council (GDC).

  • Foundation degree in oral health science (2 years)
  • Diploma of higher education (DipHE) in dental hygiene, or hygiene and dental therapy. (2 years)
  • Degree in oral health science, or dental therapy and dental hygiene (3 years)
  • Register with the General Dental Council (GDC)

Career Development

Prospects for dental hygienists are pretty good at the moment as they continue to be hired. Also if someone is working for the NHS then there is the added benefit of a good pension and job security. There are opportunities for management and teaching as well as the possibility of specialising in areas such as orthodontics. What is important to note is that dental hygienists have to keep their knowledge up to date and undertake at least 150 hours of continual professional development every five years. This can be through conferences, courses, workshops and meetings.

Even though they do not earn as much as dentists, there is a certain amount of growth in the career at the moment. So if you feel that you have the right characteristics to be a dental hygienist then why not give it a go?

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