How to become a dental hygienist: Australian careers in dentistry

Dental hygienists are key to any successful dental practice, working in a team to assist dentists with teeth cleaning and oral care. Similarly to a dental assistant, they give patients advice relating to hygiene, such as flossing, brushing techniques or other preventative measures. They are trained to use dental equipment to remove built up plaque, tartar and/or stains from the teeth and return them to a healthy state where possible – often by administering fluoride treatments.

  • Task Career in focus: what a dental hygienist does

    Dental hygienists examine patients, looking out for gum disease and other issues relating to dental hygiene. They may have to complete surgical procedures and work in an advisory role, educating patients on the best ways to prevent, treat and even recover from gum disease and tooth decay.

    Tasks:

    • Cleaning teeth
    • Dental charting
    • Pre and post surgical procedures
    • Polishing teeth
    • Educating patients on dental care
  • Skills Core qualities: skills to succeed as a dental hygienist

    As with anyone in the dental field, dental hygienists must be able to be professional whilst simultaneously making their patients feel comfortable. Many people dread going to the dentist, so any good dental hygienist should aim to help put their patient’s mind at ease. This requires confidence, excellent communication skills and strong knowledge in their area of expertise. Being able to handle dental equipment with ease and explaining procedures and dental issues to people in a basic manner will instantly give them some relief. A dental hygienist should also have exceptional personal hygiene so as to give patients something to idealise and something that will motivate them to maintain their everyday dental care.

    Skills/attributes
    • Efficiency
    • Hand-eye co-ordination
    • Exceptional personal hygiene
    • Ability to follow detailed instructions
    • Communication skills
  • Specialisations The field: Specialisations within dentistry

    Dental hygiene may be the end-goal, or the first stop in a long career in dentistry. Aspiring dental hygienists should adjust their study to suit their plans – if you wish to progress further in your field, you will need to undertake more study in either generalised dentistry and/or a specialised dentistry field. There are many options for those wishing to work in or around the dentistry industry. 

    Dental Assistant

    Dental assistants work with dentists, dental hygienists and other dental workers to ensure dental practices (and dental treatments) run smoothly. They assist dentists with their workload by preparing rooms for treatment, sterilisation, providing assistance during the procedure, greeting patients and organising paperwork.

    Researcher

    Without researchers, we would never learn anything new about dentistry. Researchers study the effects of dental hygiene procedures and products, with the results impacting future developments in the industry. Research is usually conducted as part of post-graduate studies in various dental settings.

    Consumer Advocate

    Consumer advocates often work specific oral health issues. They must keep up to date with research and any developments in the field, and use their knowledge to inform, educate and advise the public. Consumer advocates can also represent consumers in a government or other significant setting.

  • Pathways The right track: Study options for becoming a dental hygienist

    In dentistry there are many ways to reach your career goals – you can you’re your way up or go straight for a high level position. However, for any job in dentistry you will have to be qualified. The roles you want to pursue will determine what you will need to study.

    Starting Out

    Doing an entry-level course will allow you to join the dental profession in an entry-level role.

    Building Skills

    Study more to improve your chances at advancing in your career. Qualify as a dental nurse or pursue a career specialisation. Find a course that suits your dentistry interests.

    Developing Your Resume

    Gain an extensive qualification or specialise in a particular field to enable you to pursue high-level employment options.

    Industry Recognition

    Australian dental hygienists must register with Dental Hygienists' Association of Australia (DHAA) after completing their course to be able to practice in Australia.

    Entering the workforce

    Getting a job after graduation requires persistence and a well-written application. Target your cover letter and emphasise your qualifications to put your best foot forward when you apply for dentistry jobs.

    Job Prospects in Dentistry: Working life as a dental hygienist

    There is currently a shortage of dental hygienist in Australia, so the field is expecting a large amount of growth as the industry adjusts to the large demand for dental work.

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