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Pros and cons of being a dental hygienist

Dental hygienists play an indispensable role in every dental practice up and down the country. These integral people are in charge of everything from cleaning patients’ teeth and making nervous people feel more relaxed to taking mouth x-rays and educating patients on at-home dental hygiene. 

And while being such an important part of a team and improving people’s health and lives on a daily basis can be incredibly rewarding, it does have its drawbacks sometimes. If you’re curious about the role and want to learn more, here are the pros and cons of being a dental hygienist.

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Pros of being a dental hygienist

High demand

Dental hygienists, in particular RDHs (registered dental hygienists), are always in high demand. This means they’ll never struggle to find a position in a practice. And if their current placement doesn’t work out, they can switch to a new office relatively easily.

Read: "Struggles of being a dental hygienist" >>

This fact isn’t just great for dental hygienists — it’s good news for dental practice owners, too. In order to meet demand, many people are studying to gain qualifications for the role. So when it comes to hiring new staff, regardless of whether it’s permanent or temporary ones, you’ll have plenty of motivated, qualified professionals to choose from. 

Great salary

Since the need for qualified and experienced dental hygienists is growing, professionals have the privilege of charging a premium for their services and earning a good wage. Being financially stable is fantastic for work morale and ensures that RDHs are motivated and do a great job.

Being able to make a decent hourly wage means dental hygienists are no longer restricted to working in a traditional environment. If they want more flexibility or control in their lives, they have the option of offering their services to various dental practices on a freelance basis by signing up with an online professional matching platform like Cloud Dentistry.

Dental practice owners can take advantage of a platform like this, too, by using it to hire professionals which fit within their budget, even if their resume isn't that extensive yet.

Minimal education

In most cases, an associate’s degree in dental hygiene is enough to qualify for employment in the industry. The majority of people can obtain a degree within two years at community college. Some high schools even give students the option of an advanced placement, meaning they’re guaranteed to enter the field as soon as they’ve earned their diploma. Then all they need to do is qualify for the certification which allows them to work with patients in their state and it’s done — they’re a qualified dental hygienist.

Once they’ve got the proper credentials, dental hygienists are permitted to work anywhere within their state. As a dental practice owner, this means you’ll have an almost never-ending line of qualified professionals to choose from if you need to hire temporary staff to fill in vacation time or if you want to hire permanent staff and expand your business.

Is it hard to become a dental hygienist?

Dental hygienists genuinely help people every single day — a wonderful feeling which is a reward in itself to some. They get to socialize with all types of people of all different ages, from children just learning about dental health to grandparents who want to know how they can keep their own teeth for as long as possible. 

Working so closely with people means RDHs often develop real relationships with patients, learning about their lives and wishes. If they’re just as open as their patients, they can develop a fantastic bond that turns a trip to the dentist from something to dread to something they can almost look forward to.

As a dental practice owner, providing an environment for people to gain such incredible job satisfaction is also rewarding. The more someone loves their job, the better they’re going to be at it and the better experience a patient is going to receive. 

Cons of being a dental hygienist

Lack of variety

Everyone likes a bit of variety in their lives. But, sadly, you don’t get much of that when working as a dental hygienist. While they’re not limited to doing the same single task for every shift, they are stuck with the same handful of tasks. This can quickly become boring and the quality of their work can suffer as a result.

An easy way to combat this is to branch out away from working with full-time staff and embracing working with temporary staff on a freelance basis. This way, although the work remains more or less the same for the dental hygienist, their colleagues, patients and surroundings change regularly, helping to keep their mind and attitude fresh. 

Read: 5 Things to know before becoming a dental hygienist >>

Unpleasant patients

Some people hate going to the dentist so much that they put it off for as long as possible. This means by the time a dental hygienist gets to look inside their mouth, their oral health isn’t in the best shape and working so close to bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease isn’t pleasant. What’s more, if a patient is lying back in the dentist chair mentally calculating the cost of the treatment they need, there’s a good chance they’re going to be grouchy.

That’s why it’s so important that you take the time to find a qualified professional with excellent people skills. A traditional dental hygienist temp agency isn’t overly fussy about who they have on their list. As long as they’re qualified and meet a few other requirements, a normal agency will be happy to list them. 

Unlike a traditional RDH temp agency, Cloud Dentistry lets you communicate directly with your potential temporary staff. This way you can ask as many questions as you like and determine if they’re a people person before you hire them.

Heavy workloads

Some dental practices maintain excessively high productivity levels to boost profit margins. This can mean fitting as many patients as possible into the schedule. Unfortunately, most of the work is the responsibility of the dental hygienist. They’re working as quickly as they can to complete regular teeth cleaning, finalize screenings and fill the occasional cavity before the dentist does a quick once over and the next patient is led into the room.

Working like this can soon lead to burnout, which results in the dental hygienist not doing their best job. This will then be reflected in the satisfaction of patients who aren’t happy they’re paying top dollar for less than stellar service. 

To keep job satisfaction, patient happiness and profits high, it’s important to be realistic about the work one person can physically get through in a single day. If you’re struggling to meet demands, it’s worth looking into the possibility of hiring additional staff — even if you’re only employing them temporarily. This way you can continue to provide the excellent service your practice is known for without running down your staff.

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Physical pain

Working as a dental hygienist can take a toll on someone’s physical wellbeing. Many people in this industry complain of neck, back and wrist problems directly caused by leaning over a dentist chair all day doing dental work. Problems like these can interfere horribly with quality of life and if someone’s personal life suffers too much, they might give up being a dental hygienist altogether.

If you don’t want to lose your best RDH, the solution to this problem is to encourage your staff members to take breaks throughout the day. Just five minutes spent sitting and enjoying a cup of coffee is enough to take some of the load off — and it will do wonders for their mental health, too. 

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