A dental hygienist works as an assistant to a dentist, performing various procedures on the patient to prepare them for an operation, or to take care of them after an operation has been conducted. The duties of a dental hygienist include removing stains and other deposits from teeth, flattening the surface of teeth for the application of dentures and other fixtures, and they also perform some diagnostic procedures on patients, such as taking x-ray pictures and measuring their vital signs. Apart from that, the dental hygienist may be tasked with some office-related duties, such as scheduling appointments and communicating with patients.
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There’s a specific course of education for dental hygienists, undertaken at dental hygiene schools. The requirements for entering such a school are usually exhausted with a high school diploma, and the specific course of education isn’t that strict and stressful as well – generally, attaining a license for operating as a dental hygienist takes only two years, as opposed to the 6-8 required to become a fully licensed dentist.
A dental hygienist can earn noticeably more than a dental assistant, despite having similar functions (without anything particularly more demanding in their duties). The median salary for 2009 was $59,000, and the general range in which salaries for the job fall is $57,000 – $73,000. The job holds many opportunities for further development, and it becomes very easy for experienced dental hygienists to attain complete dentist’s education after several years of work – though they still need to undergo the standard education, of course.