The choice of a medical career requires not only adequate professional training but also a reasonable assessment of a specific industry, and I personally intend to develop my skills in the field of dental hygiene. This sphere is promising due to patients’ constant demand for the services of qualified specialists in the treatment of oral cavity problems. A dental hygienist is an employee who performs screening procedures, treats such common problems as plaque and calculus, and prescribes referrals for targeted patients for further examinations. In addition, this position is accompanied by regular participation in surgical interventions since preventive assistance is not always sufficient to effectively eliminate patient problems. The career of a dental hygienist is my deliberate choice, and despite a large flow of patients and frequent paperwork, I consider this profession relevant in view of the constantly rising prices for such specialists’ services. Therefore, I am always engaged in self-education due to numerous specifics of this profession, and I believe that I fit into this career due to my diligence, advanced communication skills, and desire for regular self-improvement.
Building a career in the field of dental hygiene is a phased way that cannot be realized in a short time. According to Hand, this is crucial to start with an appropriate medical education in the field of dentistry (7). Understanding the basic principles of working in the relevant industry is a significant factor and a prerequisite for acquiring deeper qualifications to develop within the framework of the chosen career. Further, as Hand remarks, the future dental hygienist should take workload into account as a critical aspect (9). The list of requirements for a specialist in this profile is wide, and in addition to regular employment, participation in additional educational sessions and programs is mandatory. Working in this industry involves constant communication with the target audience, and a dental hygienist should have developed interaction attainments to retain loyal customers and prove one’s professionalism daily. Therefore, this career is characterized by special features to take into account.
The Main Responsibilities and Qualifications Required
Due to the narrow specifics of this work, the position of a dental hygienist is associated with a number of responsibilities and requirements necessary for productive practice. Nathe notes that a specialist in this profile has to be aware of all the existing legislative standards and regulations to understand the key criteria for assessing the quality of one’s work (47). Without such training, an employee cannot navigate various nuances, which, in turn, may cause conflicts with patients and lead to disagreements on certain aspects, for instance, insurance policy. In addition, according to Nathe, a dental hygienist should be aware of the current prospects for the development of the industry and know the main trends in this field (191). Specific skills include performing screening procedures, effective treatment, and oral care, and delegating authority to refer patients to other professionals of an adjacent profile. To be successful in this career, in addition to professional attainments, communication, patience, and diligence have to be developed to maintain a high level of interaction and prevent professional burnout.
The Challenges Involved
In addition to performing the immediate duties of providing medical care to patients, some other nuances are part of the dental hygienist profession. Nathe mentions the existing standards and regulations that define employees’ responsibilities and reporting principles (52). As such, paperwork can be challenging because it takes not only time but also effort due to the need to fill out all documents in accordance with clearly established standards. With regard to the challenges associated with professional responsibilities, Darby mentions a wide range of interventions based on specific patient characteristics, for instance, the aspects of anesthesia or the treatment process (517). Experience and ongoing learning are the crucial components of practice, which allow supplementing the current knowledge with useful information. The field of dental hygiene is not static, and new methods of care and treatment appear regularly due to the updating of the technological base, which explains the need for continuous training. Thus, to achieve success in this career, overcoming constant difficulties is a natural process of professional development.
To be successful as a dental hygienist, at least initially, finding a job is inevitable since, to practice as an individual, experience and a client base are imperative conditions. Shally-Jensen analyzes different jobs in the medical field and notes that there is always a demand for dental hygienist services (47). At the same time, since this position is narrow, there are few vacancies in many reputable clinics. Working in small healthcare settings, however, is an added incentive to hone one’s skills and earn credibility as a professional. However, as Shally-Jensen argues, in dentistry, competition can be high due to potentially high career prospects (49). To find the optimal place of work, establishing contact with potential employers should begin at the stage of education. Otherwise, there is a risk of not getting a job in any of the specialized clinics. After some time, an individual medical practice can be started, which is not associated with any restraints and rests solely on demand.
Workload and Potential Salary
The position of a dental hygienist involves working a standard eight-hour shift, which, despite a limited list of activities, is stressful. The Institute for Career Research offers a description of responsibilities and burdens by mentioning not only direct work with patients but also additional tasks, for instance, vocational guidance activities (9). Moreover, outside of working hours, frequent seminars and conferences are held, which also takes time and effort to prepare. A standard working day includes examining patients, performing the necessary medical procedures, and participating in surgeries as a mandatory aspect of work. The position of a dental hygienist involves constant physical activity (The Institute for Career Research 4). The need to spend a long time in an upright position puts stress on the back and requires appropriate preparation. In terms of salary, if a patient flow is steady, the prospects for earnings are good, and in the case of private practice, the potential income increases significantly due to higher prices for services and personal benefits.
Career Growth Possibilities and the Reasons for Pursuing a Career
Despite the potentially high income in dental hygiene, in terms of career opportunities, there are few options for self-development. One of the successful prospects is starting a private business, which requires sufficient experience and prior work in this industry to prove one’s qualifications. Endsley views this career as a series of steps to take to achieve high results, including both educational and practical measures (27). For instance, in the case of receiving high academic degrees, the prospects for administrative work open up, which allows for combining immediate practical activities with managerial practice. By demonstrating professional outcomes, specialists can be invited to reputable clinics and even abroad. As Endsley notes, pursuing a career in dental hygiene involves continual education to successfully compete in the workplace (30). High abilities complemented by diligence and patience are key to successful professional advancement. Therefore, despite a wide range of responsibilities, dental hygienists’ career opportunities tend to focus on individual recognition. For me, pursuing this career is an old dream since I consider dental hygienists in-demand specialists. A narrow specialty and an opportunity to self-develop constantly are significant reasons for me to achieve success in this industry.
As a rule, an associate’s degree is compulsory to get started in the dental hygiene field. According to Endsley, higher degrees, such as Bachelor’s and Master’s, are optional (21). At the same time, to hone skills and count on better career prospects, raising an individual academic rating is a worthwhile decision. Professionals with high degrees can also carry out teaching activities, which is one of the objectives of continuing education (Endsley 31). Research and advanced clinical practice require an adequate academic background. Therefore, the higher the educational level of a dental hygienist, the more chances he or she has for successful professional advancement.
The conducted research about the specifics of a dental hygienist career has allowed me to learn about different aspects of this area of medical practice and the conditions that are necessary for successful advancement. In particular, educational requirements, workload, and other assessment criteria are valuable data to take into account to pursue appropriate professional objectives. Since I devote time to self-education and honing the necessary skills, for instance, communication and diligence, I believe that I fit into this career and can fulfill my ambitions successfully. Analyzing pitfalls, for example, daily challenges is an additional incentive to better prepare for the work ahead and do everything possible to prove my professional suitability.
The book Dental Hygiene: Theory and Practice (3rd ed.) by Darby and Walsh is a relevant and necessary guide for dental hygienists. In this source, both theoretical and practical aspects of work are described, and specific recommendations are offered, which may be useful to both beginners and experienced employees, for instance, cross-cultural approaches and management nuances. I intend to use this book as a guide that can help highlight the features of dental hygienists’ work from communication and behavioral perspectives.
The book by Endsley called Dental Assistants and Hygienists: A Practical Career Guide belongs to the vocational guidance genre and is a manual that has collected valuable practical recommendations. Particular attention is paid to the career of a dental hygienist as a path that requires highlighting clear professional objectives and goals. For my research, this resource is a valuable tool to obtain an objective look at the features of moving up the career ladder in the chosen direction.
For a basic understanding of the specifics of a dental hygienist career, the book Jump-Starting a Career in Dentistry by Hand is a helpful resource. This manual is classified as juvenile literature and is intended not for experienced healthcare professionals but for adolescents interested in pursuing a career in this field. Nevertheless, the book can be used as a source in which the key features of the profession of a dental hygienist are described simply, and the main career aspects are presented accessibly.
The guideline called Your Career as a Dental Hygienist and published by the Institute for Career Research is a book in which the key aspects of the profession in question are collected concisely and accurately. Written in the genre of a recommendation manual, the resource includes the latest findings in the field of dental hygiene and offers clear reasoning on the topic of honing skills in this profession. I will use this book as a source of modern career development approaches and a resource where the experiences of many specialists are compiled.
The book Dental Public Health and Research (4th ed.) by Nathe is an updated edition of the renowned dental hygienist guideline. This collection covers a wide range of topics related to the field in question and belongs to the group of manuals for specialists. This source includes valuable epidemiological findings and includes professional recommendations. I intend to refer to this book as a resource that contains helpful information on planning work in this area and useful examples from the practice of experts worldwide.
The anthology Careers in Healthcare edited by Shally-Jensen is a collection that includes the descriptions of the specifics of work in various medical fields. This vocational guidance discusses the basic requirements for the qualifications of employees of different profiles. For my research, this resource is useful since it contains concise data on the profession and career of a dental hygienist, which, in turn, are the main subjects of my analysis.
Darby, Michele Leonardi, and Margaret M. Walsh. Dental Hygiene: Theory and Practice. 3rd ed., Saunders, 2010.
Endsley, Kezia. Dental Assistants and Hygienists: A Practical Career Guide. Rowman & Littlefield, 2019.
Hand, Carol. Jump-Starting a Career in Dentistry. Rosen YA, 2019.
Institute for Career Research. Your Career as a Dental Hygienist. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016.
Nathe, Christine N. Dental Public Health and Research. 4th ed., Pearson, 2017.
Shally-Jensen, Michael, editor. Careers in Healthcare. Salem Press, 2014.