Dental hygienists will clean a patient’s teeth, removing tartar, stains, and plaque as they brush, floss and scrape. Dental hygienists are also involved in educating patients on the best ways to brush and floss teeth, as well as which products to use.
The majority of the more than 200,000 dental hygienists work in dental offices alongside dentists. Think of a dental hygienist as an insurance agent. “You see dentists when you have a problem,” says Kelli Swanson Jaecks, former president of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association. “But you see dental hygienists for preventative health care.”
Along with technical know-how, dental hygienists should have excellent communication skills. “The client’s head is in their lap basically,” Swanson Jaecks says. “They should know how to read a client and relate to a client.” She also says good hand-eye coordination is a must, as are critical-thinking skills since dental hygienists are on the front lines of assessing a client’s oral health.
“More and more dental hygienists will be hired to do this preventative health care,” but Swanson Jaecks says that physicians’ offices, emergency rooms, and medical clinics are increasingly hiring dental hygienists to provide their patients with more holistic health care. These professionals can also be hired in academia and in research.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 5.9 percent employment growth for dental hygienists between 2019 and 2029. In that period, an estimated 13,300 jobs should open up.