Dentist offices offer opportunity in nearly every city. Responsible for everything from cleaning teeth to taking X-rays, dental hygienists are the smiling face of these offices. Hygienists understand how to wear the many hats of dental care and know that a smile is a strong qualification. Check out the pros and cons of pursuing a career as a dental hygienist to see if it is the right fit for you:
PRO: Growing employment
The field of dental hygiene is displaying a projection of rapid growth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that employment of dental hygienists is projected to increase by 20 percent between 2016-2026—much faster than average.¹
CON: Lacking 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: The salary
Dental hygienists are in demand and integral to every dentist office, and often earn a decent wage. According to the BLS, the national median annual wage for this career in May 2017 was $74,070 or $35.61 per hour.² This varies depending upon location, experience, and whether you are a full-time or part-time employee.
CON: Can be monotonous
Seeing that this career path has limited opportunities (as mentioned in the previous con), performing the same tasks every day can be repetitive. And while each day you will see different patients and different teeth, you will still be operating the same exercises.
PRO: Schooling is minimal
A dental hygienist career requires minimal schooling; those with an associate degree in Dental Hygiene can qualify. This means that you can usually enter the career field quickly. Once you have gained the licensure for the state in which you plan to be employed,³ you can begin your path of employment in dental offices, community dental clinics, and public health agencies.
CON: Occasional unpleasant patients
You may expect an occasional, perhaps disagreeable, encounter. Since the job requires contact with a person’s hygiene, you may run into a patient with bad breath, tooth decay, etc.
PRO: Flexible scheduling
Often, dental hygienists have the option for full-time or part-time work. The BLS reports that about half of dental hygienists worked part time in 2016.4 So, your schedule may be pliable if your employer allows it.
1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, ‘Dental Hygienists, Job Outlook,’ March 1, 2019 – https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dental-hygienists.htm#tab-6
2 Bureau of Labor Statistics, ‘Dental Hygienists, Pay’ March 1, 2019 – https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dental-hygienists.htm#tab-5
³ American Dental Hygienists’ Association, ‘Licensure,’ 2019 – https://www.adha.org/licensure
4 Bureau of Labor Statistics, ‘Dental Hygienists, Work Environment,’ March 1, 2019 – https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dental-hygienists.htm#tab-3