Dental Hygienist

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You may be interested in a career as a Dental Hygienist if you're the sort of person who:

  • Enjoys interacting with a wide range of people
  • Has an interest in providing attentive care to others
  • Possesses excellent time management skills
  • Is able to work as part of a team
  • possesses great hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity

As a dental practitioner working as a part of a dental team, your role will primarily encompass prevention of dental disease and the promotion of your patients’ oral health.

In consultation with a dentist you'll play a critical role in the delivery of a therapeutic course of action for each patient, one designed to promote the health of their teeth, gums and hence, overall wellbeing.
 


A typical day

Given the varied nature of your role, you will undertake a wide selection of activities on any given day including;
 
  • Assessing the state of a person's oral health and advising ways to treat gum diseases such as Gingivitis
  • Removing tartar, plaque and stains from teeth, as well as polishing them
  • Educating people on the best ways to prevent the build-up of plaque and cavities
  • Providing nutritional tips to aid in good oral health
  • Applying fluoride treatments, gum dressings, dental mouth sheets and professional tooth whitening agents
  • Administering and interpreting dental X-rays
  • Use plaster models of the mouth to create customised mouthguards
  • This non-exhaustive list, which includes a diverse range of activities, ensures no two days are ever quite the same.
 

The places you can work

There are a diverse number of fields in which you can practise the profession.

Many dental hygienists work in private, and to a lesser extent, specialist practices, but hygienists are able to work in hospitals, aged care facilities, community health centres and regional clinics, as well as the Armed Forces, private companies selling dental products, and centres of learning.

 

Obtaining the necessary qualifications

To gain entry to this profession, you have the choice of either completing a 2 year Advanced Diploma of Oral Health (Dental Hygiene), or a three year Bachelor degree, available at a number of universities around the country.

Entry to these courses of study is highly competitive and one of the reasons there is a shortage of trained dental hygienists in the country.

For a full list of courses please check with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.

Your professional association is the Dental Hygienists’ Association of Australia.

 

Regulatory requirements

To practice as a dental hygienist, you will need to be registered with the Dental Board of Australia.

In line with all other dental practitioners, you will need to complete a minimum of 60 hours of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) activities over a three year period (if you register at any time throughout this period, you will have to complete a pro rata number of hours).

You will also be expected to comply with the codes and guidelines issued by the Dental Board of Australia which stipulate, among other requirements, that you may only practise the profession for which you are educated and trained under the structured supervision of a dentist. Other professional requirements such as the need for indemnity insurance and the holding of the appropriate radiation licenses in your state also must be observed.

For further information on job prospects, earning, vacancies and training, consult Job Outlook.

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