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How to become a dental hygienist in Australia: careers in dentistry

Dental hygienists assist dental practitioners in oral care check-ups and teeth cleaning services. They use a variety of tools to remove plaque, tartar and stains from teeth, administer fluoride treatments and assist with x-raying patients’ mouths. Dental hygienists may also educate patients and advise on brushing techniques and preventative care such as flossing as well as general oral hygiene.
Pathways

Being a dental hygienist: daily duties

Working under the supervision of qualified dentists, dental hygienists work closely with patients of all ages. They are trained to perform specific clinical procedures aimed at preventing dental disease. They educate and counsel patients about oral hygiene and nutrition and instruct them on how to look after their teeth after an operation. They also remove deposits and stains from teeth, provide fluoride treatments and polish tooth restorations. Dental hygienists also expose and process dental x-rays.

Tasks:

  • Assist with tooth cleaning
  • Dental charting
  • Applying post-surgical dressing and removing sutures
  • Polishing teeth
  • Advising on preventative oral care
Skills

Being a dental hygienist: skills for success

In addition to the successful completion of relevant qualifications, dental hygienists need a solid work ethic, a professional but caring bedside manner, confidence in the operation of dental equipment and the willingness to work long hours while standing. Impeccable personal hygiene and good communication skills are necessary as the role requires close physical contact with patients. A good attention to detail and the ability to quickly and efficiently follow instructions are also essential.
Skills/attributes
  • Good hand-eye coordination
  • Ability to follow instructions
  • Outstanding communication skills
  • Caring bedside manner
  • Attention to detail
Specs

Specialised roles within dentistry

Dental hygiene is considered to be an entry level position in the dentistry field. With further studies and training, dental hygienists can transition from this role to pursue other opportunities within their industry.
  • Dental assistant
    Dental assistants are pivotal to the smooth running of dental practices. They prepare treatment rooms, sterilise instruments, hand instruments to the dentist during procedures and ensure examinations and procedures are carried out in compliance with the Dental Practice Act. They greet patients, seat them in the chair and document treatments and dental charts.
  • Researcher
    Researchers in this field carry out evidence-based research into dental hygiene products and procedures. They study the effects of developments on the oral health care industry. This could be conducted as part of post-graduate studies and may take place in dental clinics, training programs, laboratories or universities.
  • Consumer advocate
    An advocacy career generally involves working with specific oral health issues such as fluorides, childhood tooth decay, diabetes, sleep apnoea and more. Advocates must be up-to-date with research and developments and use a variety of mediums to inform and educate the public about the issues. They may also find work as advisors to government health departments.
Pathways

Educational pathways for dental hygienist

There are a multitude of opportunities for employment in dental hygiene at many levels, from entry level positions requiring vocational training through to specialised study for those pursuing high-level roles in dentistry.
  • Start your career
    Join the dental profession in an entry-level role by undertaking one of these vocational courses.
  • Strengthen your skills
    Advance your career by pursuing a specialisation or qualifying as a dental nurse.
  • Build your resume
    Gain an extensive qualification or specialise in a particular field to enable you to pursue high-level employment options.
  • Industry requirements
    Following successful completion of relevant tertiary qualifications, Australian dental hygienists must register with the Dental Hygienists’ Association of Australia.
  • Finding Work
    Put your training to good use and get the best professional head start in your dentistry career. Emphasise your personal strengths and achievements in your resume and target your cover letter to the job description listed.
  • Employment Prospects
    Government economists have predicted that dental hygiene is one of the fastest growing occupations. Australia is currently experiencing a shortage of qualified dental hygienists, so employment prospects in this field are great.

Resources for Dental hygienist

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