Insiders Guide To Dental Hygiene Careers

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Insiders Guide To Dental Hygiene Careers

Dental hygienists have a multitude of opportunities.  Our career has reached a pivotal role in society allowing us to branch out into a variety of different areas. The following are the top 5 paths hygienists are taking.

  1. Orofacial Myofunctional Therapist

“The American Dental Hygienists’ Association acknowledges that the scope of dental hygiene practice includes the assessment and evaluation of orofacial myofunctional dysfunction; and further advocates that dental hygienists complete advanced clinical and didactic continuing education prior to providing treatment.” (ADHA)  (see page16 of the policy manual)

Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy is a therapeutic regimen that is used for the correction of abnormal swallowing patterns and orofacial muscular imbalances. It does not exist as its own separate entity, rather it is used as an adjunctive therapy for a variety of dental and medical treatments including speech therapy.

A Myofunctional Therapist works with the muscles involved in swallowing, speech, chewing, and airway to name a few. We work with fun tools such as buttons, small weights, and strings in order to help patients establish a proper lip seal, correct oral resting posture, correct swallowing, and breathing patterns.

A dental hygienist choosing to go down this path does not need to work under the supervision of a dentist and has the ability to do virtual visits, making the start-up cost very low. If choosing this path, the dental hygienist must take a postgraduate course on Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy.  Currently, there are several organizations, independent practitioners, and commercial entities that offer this postgraduate course. It is also recommended that in addition to this introductory postgraduate course, the myofunctional therapist continues to further their knowledge in breathing re-education, frenum screenings, TMD, and airway to name a few. In the United States, a hygienist must also look into their state laws and regulations for the practice of the therapy. For more information about Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy see the introductory video below:

  1. Education

Hygienists can choose to take the educational route and further contribute to the profession, by continuing to spread their knowledge.  There are many different avenues you can take as an educator such as:

  • Dental hygiene educator- hygienists choosing to go down this path can have the opportunity to work one on one with students in either a clinical or didactic setting, or both. Being an educator has many rewards attached to it. You get to continuously share your knowledge while staying up to date on the latest research and watch your students grow.
  • Health Science educator- hygienists that choose this route get to work in a high school setting teaching about the body connection and offer certifications to students in health science.  This type of setting can be a lot of fun if you enjoy being interactive while molding young minds for a better future in healthcare. Usually an associate’s degree in dental hygiene is required and on the job teaching methodology training may often be offered, but either a bachelor’s or a master’s is preferred.
  • Other educational opportunities include: offering continuing educational courses either virtually or face to face. A few good platforms to check out include teachable.com and UDEMY.com
  1. Entrepreneur- if choosing to undergo this path, there’s a plethora of opportunities available depending on how big you want to grow. Hygienists who have taken this path have had the ability to:
  • build their own product and market it,
  • develop a consulting business,
  • develop a continuing education online business
  • Create a non-profit organization
  • Reach underserved populations through the development of a mobile clinic and more…
  1. Public health hygienist- this path offers the dental hygienist a variety of opportunities in the field of public health. Those interested in pursuing this career path can have the opportunity to provide access to care for those underserved communities. Hygienists in this field have the ability to:
  • develop their own head start program, 
  • community sealant programs,
  • and work for a local health department to name a few.
  1. Clinician- most dental hygienists tend to gravitate towards the clinical aspect of dental hygiene. Being a clinician can be very rewarding on so many different levels.  Hygienists choosing this path have the ability to work on patients in a variety of different clinical settings; and are able to assess, diagnose, plan, implement, evaluate, and document treatment for prevention. (ADHA)

It can be very rewarding being a dental hygienist. Sky’s the limit. As dental professionals we have the ability to work together with medical and dental professionals and help bridge the gap between medicine and dentistry.  Let your imagination take you to where your heart is.  Comment below if you have any other suggestions or career paths hygienists can take and I will make sure to include them in future articles.

References:

  1. American Dental Hygienist Association. https://www.adha.org/professional-roles
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