Embarking on a career as a dental hygienist is not a decision that can be made lightly. It’s a profession that requires a great deal of stamina, “people skills” and desire to really be of help to others. One must be a team player and be okay with work that is often repetitive. But that aside, many dental hygienists say that it’s an honour to do the work they do.
Is a dental hygienist career right for you?
Only you can make that decision but try to be as informed as possible. An excellent suggestion is to find a dental office where the hygienist will allow you to “shadow” her or him for the day. Observation of their routine, the types of patients they deal with and the tasks involved with each will certainly give you a better idea. Speak to as many working dental hygienists as you can to hear their thoughts on this career and see if your personality traits match theirs to some degree.
It’s not a bad idea to speak to dental hygiene students either. You’ll be able to better gauge the unique challenges of programs offered and decide if you have “the right stuff” to be a student of this profession. The programs are demanding.
There are many reasons why this is a great career for some and not for others. It depends entirely upon what you want out of it but here’s six good reasons many dental hygienists point to in making it their career choice:
- It’s people-centred. Ideally, the hygienist works in a friendly environment, where they are constantly interacting with others daily, namely patients and coworkers. If you are a “people” person with a strong desire to help others and educate them about the importance of their oral health, it might be a great fit for you.
- Flexibility in scheduling is common in the profession. Some want to work only part-time, particularly if they have young families to raise. Others want full-time or to work evenings only or weekends only. Chances are you’ll find a dental office with scheduling that fits your unique needs.
- Job stability is a big factor in any career choice. But it’s not a problem for the dental hygiene field in this country. The need for hygienists has grown exponentially in Canada in the past decade and industry statistics bear out the belief that this likely won’t peak until somewhere into the year 2020.
- Excellent income is always a draw to this profession and why not. When one works hard, one expects to be justly rewarded. In Canada the average hygienist’s annual income is around the $70,000 per year mark, however, in some areas, the Western provinces in particular, dental hygiene professionals are earning far more – over $100,000 annually in Alberta.
- Career advancement for the dental hygienist holds a number of possibilities. After graduation, many new hygienists find they want to go further, perhaps pursuing a bachelor’s or master’s degree in the field, leading to a career in research or even teaching. At Aplus Dental Institute, hygienist students are particularly fortunate to have postgraduate studies in Orthodontics/Paedodontics incorporated into the curriculum. This gives them additional skills that are in demand and higher income earning potential from the get-go.
- A wide range of opportunities are available to the dental hygienist graduate. Canada is a big country, allowing the hygienist to practise where she or he chooses, subject to each province’s own licensing procedures. But if one wishes to leave, the training they receive at Aplus Dental Institute will be respected to the degree that working overseas is also a choice.
In addition, beyond clinical practice, professional roles of the dental hygienist are found in the public health sector, business, advocacy and entrepreneurship as well as the previously mentioned research and academics.
Whatever your goals, know that dental hygiene is a career choice that offers respect and prestige and, most importantly, the chance to make a difference in the lives of others.