How to Navigate Your First Dental Hygienist Job

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Congratulations on starting your career as a dental hygienist! Landing your first dental hygienist job is an exciting milestone, but navigating the professional world can also feel overwhelming. Fear not; we’ve prepared this comprehensive guide to help you successfully transition into your new role. 

In this article, we will cover how to become a dental hygienist, tips for succeeding, and the different career paths. 

How to Become a Dental Hygienist 

Dental hygiene is a career that requires a license to practice. Each state grants licensure, and hygienists must practice in accordance with requirements set by the state. While the process may differ depending on your location, almost every state follows a similar process that leads to licensure.

  1. Graduate from a dental hygiene program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).
  2. Successfully complete the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination.
  3. Successfully complete a regional or state clinical board examination. 

It’s important to note that since licensing requirements differ from state to state, you should contact the licensing authority in a given state for up-to-date information on requirements and procedures.  

Tips For Succeeding As a Dental Hygienist 

Starting a new job can be both challenging and exciting. You might have concerns about fitting in with the team or retaining the knowledge gained in school. To help ease the transition from school to the workplace, we’ve compiled a list of our best tips to succeed at your first dental hygienist job

  1. Develop communication and listening skills: The average person can only retain about 50% of a conversation. Effective communication and listening skills are essential for success in the dental field. Enhance your interpersonal skills by listening to patients, posing pertinent questions, and delivering treatment explanations.

    As dental hygienists, gathering patient information to provide proper care is important. Here are some questions you can ask your patients:
    • Can we do anything specific to make your dental visit more comfortable?
    • Are there any specific dental concerns or aesthetic improvements you want to address?
    • Have you had any previous dental procedures or treatments?
    • Do you experience dental anxiety or have any concerns about dental treatments?
  1. Find a company that aligns with your values: One of the most important things to do when starting your dental career is to find the right company. It’s important to find one that has a great onboarding process for new dental employees, boasts a strong company culture, and values you as an employee. 
  1. Embrace continuous learning: The field of dentistry is continuously changing and progressing with the advent of new technologies, techniques, and research. Participate in ongoing education courses, seminars, and conferences to stay current. Actively seek opportunities to broaden your knowledge and improve your skills, enabling you to deliver optimal patient care. 
  1. Emphasize the importance of preventative care: An essential part of a dental hygienist’s job is promoting preventive care. It’s vital to educate patients about the value of regular check-ups, proper oral hygiene practices, and the impact of diet on their dental health. Empower them to proactively take charge of their oral hygiene routines to prevent future dental problems.
  1. Build patient rapport: It is crucial to develop trust and build a connection with each dental patient, whether you see them one time or one hundred times. Employ a warm and empathetic demeanor to create a comfortable environment for patients. Dedicate time to educating them about effective oral hygiene practices and preventive care and address any questions or concerns they may have. 
  1. Prioritize self-care: Make self-care a top priority as you navigate the demands of your new job. Ensure you take care of your physical and mental well-being, explore effective strategies to manage stress, establish a healthy work-life balance, and engage in activities that promote relaxation and rejuvenation. 

Different Career Paths for Dental Hygienists 

In today’s landscape, professionals pursuing the path of becoming a dental hygienist have a unique opportunity to align their goals, preferences, and needs with their career choices.

Let’s explore the different career paths for dental hygienists, from positions to settings.

Position Types:

  • Permanent positions: Many individuals find working as a full-time dental hygienist attractive. Although it may involve sacrificing some flexibility, it offers the advantage of a stable and predictable income. This career path is great for someone who likes a set schedule, routine, and stability. Research dental staffing recruiters or local dental office job postings if you’re interested in a permanent position. 
  • Temporary positions: Exploring temp dental jobs is a great way to figure out what you are looking for within a dental practice and gives you the freedom and flexibility to work when and where you want. This career path is great for working parents, recent graduates, or those with full-time jobs who want to make a little extra money. If you’re interested in a temp job, research dental temp agencies in your area. 

Career Settings: 

  • Clinical: Because most dental hygienists spend their careers in direct patient care, there are plenty of opportunities for those looking to grow the care they provide. Within private practice, hygienists can specialize in areas like periodontics or orthodontics. Hygienists can also explore alternative paths by transitioning to government facilities and state prisons without requiring additional licensure or education.
  • Non-clinical: Although non-clinical opportunities for dental hygienists do exist, they require a lot of networking and time. Most hygienists seeking a non-clinical role will move into administrative positions within their dental practice. They can also look into sales, dental hygiene education, and research positions, but these paths typically require advanced degrees.
  • Educational: Most additional opportunities for dental hygienists start with obtaining additional education. While many hygienists start with an associate’s degree to get licensed and work in a clinical setting, working in an educational environment typically requires a bachelor’s or master’s degree. 

As you embark on this fulfilling career, remember to continue seeking growth opportunities, stay updated with industry advancements, and nurture your passion for dental hygiene. 

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