Everything you need to know about becoming a dental hygienist in Australia – Part 1

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A dentistry work experience student observing her mentor performing a routine procedure. Job description

Dental hygienists are primary healthcare professionals who provide highly skilled preventive dental services to individuals across all age groups. These professionals work within a team environment to assure best practice in providing safe and suitable dental healthcare. While they usually work in collaboration with dentists to determine therapeutic treatment for each individual patient, they work independently in delivering dental services.

As a dental hygienist, you would make use of preventive, therapeutic and educational methods to control oral diseases and to help individual patients and groups achieve and maintain good oral health. Training to be a dental hygienist involves learning to do specific clinical procedures that aim to prevent dental diseases rather than treat them.  

Some of the dental hygiene services provided by a dental hygienist may include:

 

  • Performing oral health assessments, which include recording health history, taking vital signs such as pulse, blood glucose levels and blood pressure, dental charting, saliva testing and screening for oral cancer.
  • Removing plaque, soft and hard deposits of calculus and stain from below and above the gum line.
  • Teaching patients oral hygiene techniques to help them maintain healthy teeth and gums.
  • Applying decay preventive agents such as sealants, fluorides and varnishes.
  • Exposing, processing and interpreting dental X-rays.
  • Polishing teeth and dental restorations.
  • Photographing interior and exterior oral structures to profile the different stages of the treatment and their outcomes.
  • Making impressions of the teeth.
  • Administering anaesthetic injections to numb the teeth and gums before any invasive procedure.
  • Performing root planning for non-surgical periodontal therapy.
  • Placing and removing post-surgical dressings.
  • Removing sutures.
  • Selecting and sizing orthodontic bands, preparing teeth for placement of braces and removing wires and fixed orthodontic appliances.
  • Counsel patients on plaque control, good nutrition, smoking cessation and systemic health.

 

A dental hygienist career is an excellent dentistry position for you if you are efficient with good time management skills, possess good eye-hand coordination and manual dexterity and apply attention to detail and precision. In addition, if you are good listener with sensitivity to the needs of others personally rewarding, you have some of the qualities that make you well suited to a career as a dental hygienist.

In your role as a dental hygienist you would use your academic knowledge and clinical skills to provide dental hygiene care and your interpersonal and communication skills to motivate patients and teach them about the importance of maintaining oral health and preventing oral disease.

 

Job outlook for dental hygienists in Australia

Currently there is a strong demand for dental hygienists in the private sector as well as the public sector in regional and rural locations in most states of Australia. In addition, economists predict tremendous job growth for clinical dental hygienists in the coming years with greater emphasis on oral health promotion and the introduction of new and advanced dental treatments. The need to provide therapeutic and preventive services that assist people in maintaining natural, healthy teeth throughout their lifetime puts a dental hygiene career in high demand now and in the foreseeable future.

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