Earning your online associate degree in dental hygiene seems to limit your job opportunities, doesn’t it? One would think that you are locked into just that…becoming a dental hygienist. Well, for the most part, you are; however, there are different capacities in which you may choose to serve. The dental hygienist is an extraordinary and caring person. You must have the ability to be helpful and sympathetic to your patient’s needs and willing to go the extra mile to make them feel comfortable. Let’s face it, most often, going to the dentist is a choice (unless you have an urgent, debilitating problem), so, therefore, your kind and gentle touch will keep them coming back to those dreaded routine check-ups.
Although your degree in dental hygiene will allow you to serve all ages, you may wish to specialize in a specific age group…or animal species.
First, we will start with the general population of all adult ages. Your online associate degree in dental hygiene will allow you to clean the teeth and perform general exams on your patient’s mouth and instruct them on the best way to maintain good oral health. For the most part, these procedures are performed in the private sector owned by a dentist or group of dentists; however, occasionally, dental hygienists are employed by hospitals or outpatient clinics. Most patients of privately owned clinics typically range from age 18 to the elderly. The median salary of a dental hygienist ranges from between $53,130 – $76,220 annually, depending on education and experience. The highest 10% earned upwards of $103,340 per year.
A pediatric dental hygienist, of course, has the same duties and responsibilities as any other hygienist; however, their patient’s mouth is a bit smaller since dental check-ups are recommended beginning at the age of one or within six months of getting their first baby teeth. A career in pediatric dentistry can be a rewarding but challenging opportunity. Although most teenagers think they are too old to go to a pediatric dentist, those crucial teen years are when their mouths are going through growth changes and are particularly in need of good oral healthcare. Most pediatric dental hygienist sees their patients up until at least age 18. The average salary is the same as other hygienists; however, the median salary with experience can be upwards of $76,510 annually.
The orthodontics dental hygienist has an essential role in the patient’s oral healthcare, mainly when braces are involved. They are required to educate, assess, and provide supportive therapies during a patient’s orthodontic management, as well as issues with grinding and clenching of teeth, speech difficulty, and issues with chewing, among other things. The salary for this position ranges from between $32 – $51 per hour, depending on experience.
Some colleges also offer associate degrees for a career as a dental laboratory technician. Although a degree in this field is not required, it is helpful; however, there are also programs available where a certificate in dental laboratory technology is given through the Commission on Dental Accreditation of the American Dental Association. Dental lab technicians are responsible for operating dental equipment to create dental fixtures such as bridges, dentures, crowns, and orthopedic appliances. As of 2019, the median salary for this position was $37,370 annually.
Now, perhaps you are interested in dental hygiene but also love animals. Why not combine the two? The need for veterinary dental technicians is on the rise due to the growing awareness among pet owners who realize the importance of good oral hygiene…even for their pooch. To begin, you will need to become a licensed veterinary technician and then add special certification related to animal oral hygiene. The average salary of an animal dental hygienist is $45,000 per year.
Oh, and don’t forget our elderly in nursing homes. Often, dental hygiene within this environment is neglected, but much needed. If your calling is to help the elderly, check in your community for dentists that allow home dental check-ups or nursing homes that employ on-site dental hygienist.
If you are interested in pursuing a career as a dental hygienist, check out our picks for the Top Online School Programs in this field.