We as Dental Professionals know how important oral health is to our overall health. Unfortunately, the greater percentage of medical professionals don’t recognize the treatment of dental disease as having anything to do with the remainder of the human body. As the need for dental providers increases, dentistry has expanded the function of the Dental Hygienist’s job to keep up with the demand.
When dentistry does become more recognized as an arm of medicine (and I believe it will, just not in my time), there will undoubtedly be an increased need for Dental Hygienists to fill Dental Hygiene jobs. Further, as the need to fill Dental Hygiene jobs increases, Dental Hygienists will need to expand their skills to appropriately fill those jobs.
In 1974 when I graduated from Dental Hygiene, I had been trained to clean teeth. Period. And knowing what I know today, I wasn’t very good at it. It was a repetitive, thankless job. Today, the job of Dental Hygiene is vastly expanding to include the administration of anesthesia, writing prescriptions, disease assessment, filling teeth prepped by the Doctor and (depending on the state in which you practice) even restoring teeth including the preparation and placing of filling material.
I worked in a private practice where the four Dental Hygienists had the job of anesthetizing all the patients for two dentists. This allowed each of us to see two extra patients a day, adding significant dollars to our bottom line. Imagine the possibilities if the job of the Dental Hygienist was to come in and fill a prepped tooth, allowing the dentist to move on to their next patient, who was already anesthetized.
Or, if an emergency presented and the dentist could diagnose the problem and the Dental Hygienist’s job was to take over, administer a long-acting anesthesia and write the appropriate prescription to treat infection and pain. Imagine the number of patients that could be treated in a practice offering a job to a Dental Hygienist trained to do these skills.
I have worked in a military facility, preparing soldiers for deployment. On the days we treated disease, the dentists were to prep the teeth and the expanded function dental assistant filled the teeth. The number of soldiers we could treat in a day was astounding. Although this was the military facility utilizing assistants, it was very successful in a setting that needed to provide care for volumes of patients.
If you’re interested in acquiring a job as a Dental Hygienist, you’ll need to be prepared for some very intense training. Once you complete your studies and pass your boards, you’ll need to get out there and gain some experience. Although administration of anesthesia is now a skill trained in all Dental Hygiene schools, expanded skills such as prescription writing, disease assessment and simple fillings requires study beyond the usual curriculum of the Dental Hygienist.
In world where there is so much dental disease in need of treatment, today’s Dental Hygiene job is a rewarding and exciting career than can add exponential value to any dental setting. And imagine a time when dentistry and medicine work together…even under one roof. Where the Dental Hygiene job is on the same level in dentistry as the job of the nurse practitioner is in medicine. I believe it’s just a matter of time.
“The future depends on what you do today.”
Dr. Deborah Marynak is the owner of DentalStaffing.org, a dentist with over 30 years experience, and is committed to helping Dental Professionals find the right fit for both employees and employers. She also works with Dental Offices to help them streamline their clinical systems and teach Dental Teams how to effectively document to avoid risk.