When choosing what career to enter there are many factors to take into consideration:
- Will you be happy in this career for many years to come?
- Is there a market for that career in the area where you want to settle?
- Will this career be able to provide financial security?
- Or are you looking for a career that offers variety and excitement?
It would be wise to learn as much as you can about several professions that you are interested in and job shadow if possible before making a big investment on your education.
Flexibility – Many dental hygienists only work part time. I have worked only 3 days per week for the past 10 years, which has made it easier to balance having a real career and a family. Other dental hygienists in our office also work part time and we are able to trade off and work for each other when we need off without having to use any vacation time. This is one of the great benefits of part time dental hygiene practice.
Schedule – Along with being able to work part time, most dental practices are not open on nights, weekends, or holidays. There are a few dental offices now that are trying extended hours to accommodate patient needs in the way of evening and Saturday hours, but these are few. You will know what hours the practice operates when you are applying for jobs so if working these extended hours is not something you are interested in it should be easy to avoid these offices.
Salary – Dental hygienists still tend to make more than teachers, police officers, social workers and many other careers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the average pay in 2010 for a registered dental hygienist was $70, 700per year (full time), which would equal approximately $33.00 per hour.
Work Environment – For the most part all dental offices are in clean, safe environments. You will be able to work in a comfortable setting and most likely will be provided with the required uniform (scrubs) or a uniform allowance.
Lack of variety in daily tasks – Though every patient is different, you are basically doing to same procedures over and over…and over all day long. If you love routine and dislike change then this is will not be a problem for you. However, many dental hygienists will get burned out and bored by the redundancy of the day.
Hard on the body – Dental hygiene seems like a very low stress field when it comes to manual labor, but the repetitive tasks and being slumped over patients all day with elbows up can really take a toll on your back, neck and shoulders. Carpal tunnel syndrome is also common among dental hygienists. Maintaining a grasp on small instruments all day puts a strain on the hands and wrist. Practicing correct ergonomics from the beginning of practice is extremely important if you want your career to last more than few years.
There will be blood and disease – This is only a con if this type thing bothers you. You will on a daily basis see patients who are very lacking in their home care and have periodontal disease, heavy stain and tarter build up, bleeding gums, bad breath, etc. This is part of the job, if this bothers you or makes you nauseous at all, dental hygiene may not be the career for you.
Lack of Benefits – Really this could fall under PROS as well. Some larger chain practices do offer health insurance, retirement plans, and paid sick leave. This is too costly for many smaller private practices though and many do not offer any benefits. Most do offer paid vacation time that you earn.
Education – Again, this one could be considered a PRO as well. In order to become a dental hygienist you will have to work for it and be accepted into an accredited dental hygiene school. This may be an associates or bachelors program. All programs have a list of prerequisites that must be completed before entry into the program.