Did you have a fascination with the tooth fairy as a child? Or always looked forward to going to the dentist? Then perhaps a career as a dental hygienist is right for you. Dental hygienists play an integral role in every dentist’s office, and are responsible for everything from cleaning teeth to taking x-rays and helping patients feel at ease. Check out the pros and cons of pursuing this profession:
PRO: Growing employment
The field of dental hygiene is growing rapidly. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of dental hygienists is expected to increase by 38 percent between 2010 and 2020 – considerably faster than average.1 Plus, dental hygienists will always be in demand because people will always need their teeth to be cleaned!
CON: Not much career variety
While some degrees lend themselves to multiple career paths, a job as a dental hygienist is pretty much the same no matter where you decide to live or work. This consistency can be great, particularly if you love what you do, but if you’re looking for more variety, dental hygiene may not be right for you.
PRO: Great salary
Because dental hygienists are in such demand, you can earn a relatively good salary right away. The median annual pay for dental hygienists is $68,250 – or $32.81 per hour – according to BLS, and it can vary based upon experience and whether you are a full- or part-time employee.
CON: Can be repetitive
Dental hygienists have a specific role to play in dentist’s offices, and they will essentially be repeating the same tasks in the same environment every day. While your work may vary slightly between patients, you’ll mostly be cleaning teeth all day.
PRO: Minimal schooling
All you need to become a dental hygienist is an associate degree or certificate, so you can enter this in-demand career relatively quickly! Once you earn your licensure in the state in which you plan to work, you’ll be ready to begin your career as a dental hygienist.2
CON: Occasionally unpleasant patients
As you may expect, much of a dental hygienist’s job requires working with people’s mouths, and it’s possible that you will come into contact with the occasional patient who has bad breath, swollen gums or tooth decay.
Dental hygienists have the option of working full-or part-time, so your schedule may have some flexibility to it. Unlike some other careers, dental hygienists also generally don’t have to work nights, weekends or holidays.
1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, ‘Dental Hygienists,’ March 29, 2012 - http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dental-hygienists.htm
2 American Dental Hygienists’ Association, ‘Licensure,’ 2012 - https://www.adha.org/licensure