How to become a dental hygienist

If you have an interest in healthcare and would like to join a booming industry,  then why not consider becoming a dental hygienist? As more and more people adopt good dental hygiene practices. Thus, keeping their teeth for longer, the need for dental practitioners simply soars and soars. Not to mention, the demand is not solely in Australia, but much of the Western world needs hygienists as well. The role is very satisfying as you help people to maintain the good health of their teeth. You do this by checking their mouths for signs of disease or decay. Then, you give treatment under the supervision of the dentist. You also play an important role educating your patients. Encouraging them to adopt good practices so they can maintain a healthy mouth for many years.

Would you like to work in healthcare helping people to maintain their teeth in the best condition possible? If you have ever had a toothache you will know how important this work is! Well, if the job catches your interest why not keep reading to find out how to become a dental hygienist. As well as all the information you need to find the best course to get you started.

Step one: Choose a course

In order to become a dental hygienist, you will need to study a vocational course. The course will teach you the skills and knowledge to succeed in your chosen profession. The role of a dental hygienist is an entry-level role so expect the course to teach you the foundation of what you need to know. Then, you will learn more on the job once you get started.

Step two: Register with the Dental Hygienists Association Australia (DHAA)

Once you have graduated, (well done you) you will need to register with the DHAA. You must register with them before applying for work. You can find more information and how to go about registering using the resources section on this site. 

Step three: Look for your first job

Now the time has come to look for work. There is a shortage, in Australia, of dental hygienists and experts predict the industry will continue to grow. In fact, this is one of the most in-demand jobs in Australia. When applying for work make sure to tailor your resume and cover letter for each application. Don’t forget to highlight your qualifications, registration with the DHAA, personal strengths, and experience you may have.

Step four: Consider a specialisation

As an entry-level role, dental hygienists have a wealth of opportunities in terms of career progression. After gaining experience you may want to take another course to develop your skills further. Then you increase your opportunities for progression. Here are three possible specialisations to consider.

Dental Assistant

Working alongside the dentist, dental assistants help with all aspects of patient consultation and treatment. You prepare treatment rooms, sterilise equipment, handing tools to the dentist while he works, retrieving files, documenting the appointments and more. A busy rewarding role in which you do important tasks to help the dentist.

Researcher

In this specialisation, you focus your skills towards research in an academic environment. In this role, you focus on dental procedures and products and research how effective they are. You play a direct role in the developments of the dental industry and help to make a difference improving dental products and procedures.

Consumer Advocate

If you would like to take on a rewarding specialisation which focuses on education and working directly with the public. Then, you may enjoy working as a consumer advocate. You focus on various oral related ailments which affect the population and try to educate people on preventative steps they can take. Then, they understand how they can reduce their risk of these health problems. 

What do Dental Hygienists Do?

Every day is usually a busy one for the dental hygienist. Usually, you spend the day seeing patients working under the supervision of the dentist. You may examine patients for gum disease or other mouth and teeth problems. Then, if appropriate you give advice to your patients about good teeth care. You may offer guidance on how to better clean their teeth or information about what more they can do, such as using a mouthwash. When appropriate you might encourage people to give up smoking.

Tasks

  • Assisting the dentist with tooth cleaning
  • Charting patients teeth
  • Applying post-surgical dressings
  • Removing sutures
  • Polishing teeth
  • Advising patients on good oral care techniques

Skills for Success

To look forward to success as a dental hygienist, firstly, you will need to have a good work ethic and a professional caring manner with your patients. Secondly, you need to complete your qualifications and know how to operate the specialised dental equipment. Thirdly, working as a dental hygienist can mean long hours, much of those spent on your feet. Fourthly, because you are working on people’s mouths you will inevitably get up close and personal at times. This means you should have good personal hygiene. You should have good communications skills so you can relate to your patients, building up a rapport while maintaining your professionalism. Lastly, you need to pay exceptionally good attention to detail, work quickly and follow instructions. 

Skills and attributes

  • Efficient
  • Good hand-eye coordination skills
  • Excellent personal hygiene
  • Ability to follow instructions
  • Good communication skills
  • Pay exceptionally close attention to detail

What is the Dental Hygienist Salary in Australia?

In Australia, dental hygienists earn a median wage of $60,679 per year. This varies according to a number of factors and is intended as a reference only, from Payscale 05/’18.

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