What is a Dental Hygienist?
A dental hygienist is a licensed health care professional, oral health educator, and clinician who, as a co-therapist with the dentist, provide preventive, educational, and therapeutic services supporting total health for the control of oral diseases and the promotion of oral health. A registered dental hygienist has graduated from a minimum two-year college program that includes classroom studies and extensive supervised clinical experience. A dental hygienist also must pass a national written exam and a comprehensive state clinical exam to earn the RDH license.
Generally, the dental hygienist may work in general and specialty oral health practices. Other areas of employment include programs for research, professional education, and community health; hospital and institutional care of disabled persons; federal programs, such as the armed services; or other health service locations as specified in statue or as authorized by the state board of dentistry. More information about the careers available to dental hygienists is available at http://www.adha.org/careerinfo.htm.
How Much Money do Dental Hygienists Make and What Are the Job Prospects?
Dental hygiene salaries can vary widely depending on factors including but not limited to type and location of practice, whether the work is full or part-time, and the hygienist's experience level. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for a dental hygienist in the United States was $71,530 in 2013 and the mean hourly wage was 34.39 (http://stats.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292021.htm)
Employment of dental hygienists is projected to grow 33 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. Ongoing research linking oral health and general health will continue to spur demand for preventative dental services, which dental hygienists often provide. New and increasingly accurate technologies to help diagnose oral health problems are also expected to increase demand. Job prospects are expected to be favorable in most areas, but will vary by geographic location. Because graduates are permitted to practice in the state in which they are licensed, hygienists wishing to practice in areas that have an abundance of dental hygiene programs may experience strong competition for jobs.