Dental Hygenist jobs(Also known as Oral Health Practitioner, Dental Care Professional ("DCP"))
Dental Hygienists educate patients on best oral hygiene practices and assist dentists in a variety of clinical practices. The role of a dental hygienist is to assist in the prevention of oral health problems. They do not have a role in the surgical elements as a traditional dentist would but are active in other clinical processes. Hygienists will normally work alongside a dentist and there are normally strict rules as to what procedures a hygienist can perform. The role of the hygienist has increased in recent years as dentistry has evolved towards more preventative practices. Hygienists will take an active role in educating patients as to the effects of diet and other life style choices on oral health.
SalaryThere is a pre-prescribed NHS pay scale for dental care staff in the UK, although this system does not apply to dentists, doctors or very senior managers. There are differing entitlements depending upon location and experience; however, you should expect to start on s salary of around £17,732 to £20,170 (data true as of 2009). Inner city London weighting will add a minimum of £3,947 and a maximum of £6,080. Salaries in the private sector can be slightly higher. The NHS working system is standardised and if working in the public sector you will be contracted to:
- a standard working week of 37.5 hours
- holiday entitlement of 27 days per year rising to 33 days after ten years’ service
- a full range of health benefits and defined benefit pension scheme.
ResponsibilitiesAs a practicing hygienist you will be expected to:
- Scale teeth – this refers to the removal of plaque from the tooth and gum line
- Polish teeth
- Apply prophylactic (preventive) and antimicrobial substances
- Take dental X-rays and radiographs
- Perform pulp treatments on baby or milk teeth – this refers to any treatment of the soft ‘’pulp’’ of the teeth which makes up their core
- Perform tooth whitening and bleaching
- Replace crowns
- Apply fluorides and sealants
- Demonstrate flossing and brushing techniques.
QualificationsDental Hygienists and other dental professionals in the UK need to be registered with the General Dental Council (“GDC”) of the UK. More details on registration are available here. You will need to have 5 grade A-C GCSE’s and 2 A-levels or a recognised dental nursing qualification. Post initial studies there is a range of accredited qualifications approved by the GDC but the base qualification you will need is a Diploma in Dental Hygiene. For a full list of all the relevant qualifications click here. The Diploma in Dental Hygiene is a full-time two year course. The approved accreditation is only offered by a small number of institutions. At time of writing these include the:
- Belfast School of Dentistry,
- Birmingham School of Dentistry,
- Bristol School of Dentistry,
- Cardiff University,
- University of Dundee Dental School,
- Glasgow Dental School,
- University of Leeds Dental Institute,
- University of Liverpool School of Dental Sciences,
- Barts and the London School of Dentistry,
- University of Manchester School of Dentistry,
- University of Newcastle School of Dental Sciences
- University of Sheffield School of Clinical Dentistry.
SkillsSupplementary to the qualifications detailed above, Dental Hygienists will need:
- Good eyesight
- Good manual dexterity and a steady hand
- Knowledge of how to use specialist equipment
- Strong communication skills – you will need to communicate information about oral hygiene and treatments to patients in a clear and articulate manner
- Strong interpersonal skills, including an ability to work with anxious and nervous patients.
- The ability to work well as part of a team
Working ConditionsMost dental hygienists will work in general practice. You should expect to work standard office hours of 9-5 in this environment although you may have to assist in emergency procedures out of hours. Jobs are also available in orthodontic practices and hospitals. Hospital work can be more challenging due to the nature of the patients you are seeing. Hospital work may, depending on the hospital, also involve shift work and thus anti-social hours. While the work environment should be clean, sterile, hygienic and well lit there are also risks involved in working in dentistry including infection and bites. There is also a high incidence of back problems associated with the dental profession.
ExperienceObtaining a place on an accredited course is difficult and it is worth speaking to a careers advisor or spending some time on work experience at a dental practice.
EmployersMost hygienists work in a general practice. The NHS Hospital Dental Service accounts for around 10% of all dentistry jobs.
Career ProgressionThere is a range of specialist courses available to Dental Nurses and hygienists looking to progress in their career; it will, however, be difficult to become a full dentist without significant further study. The National Examining Board for Dental Nurses (“NEBDN”) offers a number of post-registration qualifications which may be of interest.
Dina Abdalla, Practising Dentist and former Dental Hygienist