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Dental Hygiene

CareersTypes of Dental Hygiene Careers Most people first meet dental hygienists in private dental offices where dental hygienists perform many critical services that detect, prevent and treat diseases of the mouth. But a career in dental hygiene offers multiple opportunities in multiple settings

Hygienists can work in a health maintenance organization (HMO) or long-term care facility; on a military base or in a school system; for a dental supply company, university, or research center; in a veterinary office; for a government agency; or in another country. Dental hygienists must have multiple and complex abilities to provide comprehensive dental hygiene care in all these settings and new ones that are emerging every day.

Labor statistics project Dental Hygiene as one of the fastest growing professions well into the new millennium. In the New York Metropolitan area, the demand for Dental Hygienists far exceeds the supply.

Clinician

  • Perform oral health assessments.
  • Provide nutritional counseling and self-care programs to prevent disease.
  • Examine head, neck, and oral regions for disease.
  • Take and process x-rays and perform other diagnostic tests.
  • Provide services that help patients prevent gum diseases and cavities; for example, remove deposits from teeth and apply sealants and fluoride to prevent decay.
  • Perform oral cancer and blood pressure screenings.
  • Provide oral health instructions.
  • Place and remove temporary fillings and periodontal dressings.
  • Remove suture

Note: In some states, with additional education, a dental hygienist may also provide other services such as administering local anesthetics and nitrous oxide/oxygen analgesia,placing and carving of filling materials, and additional periodontal procedures.

Administrator/Manager

  • Consult for dental product companies and/or insurance companies.
  • Hold administrative positions in education, public health, hospitals, or professional associations.
  • Sell dental products and supplies.
  • Manage or own dental personnel placement services.
  • Evaluate and facilitate processing of dental insurance claims.
  • Initiate and evaluate community dental health programs and resources.

Educator

  • Teach in dental hygiene and dental school programs.
  • Present continuing education seminars.
  • Write/edit educational materials.
  • Act as educational consultants to dental companies.

Researcher

  • Write grant proposals.
  • Develop research methodology.
  • Collect and analyze data.
  • Conduct clinical research.
  • Conduct research surveys.
  • Write articles and scientific papers for professional publications.

Consumer Advocate

  • Help consumer groups obtain access to care.
  • Develop networking systems to match existing resources with health care needs.
  • Advise consumers on insurance policies, commercial products and political issues affecting oral health.

Change Agent

  • Influence business and government agencies to support health care efforts.
  • Advocate oral health programs for individuals, families or communities.
  • Act as lobbyist.
  • Serve as law consultants (malpractice review, expert witness).

Public Health Dental Hygiene
Public health is a growing new field. Dental hygienists can pursue graduate public health education at both schools of public health and dental schools. The competency objectives for public health specialists are:

  • Health policy and program management and administration.
  • Research methods in dental public health.
  • Oral health promotion and disease prevention.
  • Oral health services delivery systems.

Where do public health dental hygienists work?

  • Federal Health and Human Services Department programs -The United States Public Health Service (PHS) commissions bachelor-degree-level dental hygienists as PHS officers. The agency also provides services for federal prisons, the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Merchant Marines.
  • The Office of Human Development Services (HDS) - oversees the Head Start Program.
  • With Maternal and Child Health Grants for Oral Health Projects for Children--implemented through state health agencies.
  • Migrant Centers Program--services for migrant workers.
  • Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT)--implemented through state agencies and funded by Medicaid.
  • Veterans Administration Hospitals.
  • State Health Departments.
  • State Boards of Education.
  • University Public Health Programs.

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