Dental Health Topics

My Teen is Considering a Career as a Dental Hygienist. Is That a Good Idea?

Can’t Seem to Stick to that Diet? Stop Blaming Yourself — It Might Not Be Your Fault.

Is your child considering a career as a dental hygienist? If so, we’ve gotta’ say, we can’t think
of a more honorable profession! After all, what other career offers one the ability to help people maintain and improve their health, while boosting their self-esteem at the same time? Of course, there is a lot of decision-making that goes into any career choice, and there are both good and bad aspects to any job. Let’s go over a few of the biggies in dental hygiene to see if this career path matches with your child’s life-long goals and objectives. 

The Good

  • Salary: Careers in dental hygiene pay rather well – especially considering that many hygienists do not work a full time schedule. US News & World Report places the median salary for a hygienist at $70,210, with the highest earners bringing in just over $96,000, and the lowest earning around $46,500. California appears to be the state with the highest paid hygienists; but it’s also one of the most expensive states in which to live.
  • Rewarding work: Recognizing the role hygienists play in supporting and influencing good health is a large component of what drives people to want to be a part of the dental team. Most teens have no idea what a hygienist makes, and even if they did, the numbers discussed above would be largely unquantifiable for them. It’s the “helping” that really matters, and that interest in the career is what drives hygienists already in the role as well. Here’s an interactive quiz that can help your child discover if the field is truly for them.
  • Career portability: Although licensure is issued at both state and national levels, this is one career where proximity to a large metropolitan area is hardly a requirement for success. Hygienists can take their experience with them across state lines as long as they re-certify at the state level – an excellent opportunity for hygienists on the move, or for those in relationships with people who need to relocate from time to time.

The Bad

Fluctuating market saturation: Speaking of relocating, dental hygiene is one of those careers that experiences cyclical swings in demand. Boom and bust markets are commonplace, and markets experiencing an oversaturation of hygienists can make finding a job difficult. To stay ahead of this, have your teen enquire with hygienists around town as to what they think about the market, or have them call outside your market if they wish to work elsewhere. The important thing is to ask these questions of people working in the city or town in which they want to work.

Also, it’s wise to call placement offices of hygiene schools to ask for data on job placement for hygienists who graduated from their program. Ask for numbers that cover the last five years, and compare those numbers to the corresponding period’s enrollment numbers.

A word of caution on the above: remember that schools are inclined to provide information that makes them look good, and that above all, they are in business to increase enrollment. So, ask tough questions and temper those answers with the answers you get from people already in the field.

Lastly, many career advisors will direct you to review the Department of Labor (DOL) job forecast statistics when helping your teen plan a career. The trouble is, those numbers are believed by many to be notoriously inaccurate, outdated the moment they’re printed, and serve to artificially drive interest in careers before demand is realized, or worse, after it’s already passed. Generally speaking, it’s wise to never rely solely on DOL data when making a career decision.

Is Your Teen Still Ready to Take the Plunge?

Find a school: Once your child knows where they want to work, finding a school is the next adventure. Here’s one way to request info from schools and narrow down a few options.

Beat the down market blues with good planning: The Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts offer some of the best life advice we’ll ever get in the motto of “Be Prepared.” Respected hygienist Trish De Rios also offers up great advice for aspiring hygienists – most of which centers on how to network effectively to help ride-out bad markets. You can read the article together with your teen at DentistryIQ magazine.