Are you interested in oral health, helping people treat their oral issues while working in a healthcare setting? If yes, a career as a Dental Hygienist could be ideal for you.
Dental Hygienists are registered dental practitioners who perform preventative dental procedures under the supervision of a Dentist. They provide highly skilled, safe, and suitable dental healthcare services, including preventive services and treatment to all age groups.
To work as a registered dental hygienist, you must study accredited dental hygiene courses, such as an advanced diploma or bachelor’s degree in oral health and receive state-level registration with the Dental Board of Australia. Employers value previous experience in this field.
This blog discusses the dental hygienist's responsibilities, the required qualifications and skills, average salary, job outlook, career pathways, and the steps to becoming one in Australia.
1. What Are Dental Hygienists?
Dental hygienists are registered dental practitioners who treat and prevent various oral diseases and advise people on oral health and dental hygiene.
They work in a dental clinic alongside dental assistants, dentists, and dental nurses, offering tooth cleaning, plaque control, and whitening services and strategies.
Dental hygienists use educational, therapeutic, and preventive methods to control oral diseases and assist patients and families achieve and maintaining oral health.
2. Duties Of A Dental Hygienist In Australia
Dental hygienists perform specific clinical procedures to prevent dental issues as part of the dental team.
Some of them include:
Provide dental care for all age groups
Perform dental charting and oral health examination
Review the medical history of the patient
Examine and record the type and extent of periodontal conditions
Use various tools to remove stains, plaque, and tartar from teeth, manage fluoride treatments, polish tooth restorations, root debridement, and take and process dental x-rays
Educate patients on brushing techniques, preventative care like flossing and general oral hygiene, and nutrition to help them achieve and maintain the best possible oral health.
Counsel patients and instruct them on how to look after their teeth after an operation.
Use plaster impressions to make customized mouthguards.
Apply professional tooth whitening agents and fluorides and sealants to prevent tooth decay.
Plan non-invasive dental treatment for patients to avoid or administer periodontal diseases
Treat gum diseases like Gingivitis.
Manage appointment schedules
Remove sutures and apply a post-surgical dressing.
3. Desirable Skills For Dental Hygienists
If you want to become a dental hygienist in Australia, you should have the following qualities:
Enjoy public interaction
A genuine interest in healthcare and delivering attentive care to people
Excellent interpersonal and communication skills
Able to multitask
Physical fitness to do light lifting
Attention to detail
Great hand-eye coordination
Good organizational and time management skills
Enjoy working in a team environment
Comfortable working in a routine job
Able to perform detailed and precise work independently
Good listening skills with sensitivity to the needs of others
Comfortable working long hours while standing
Impeccable personal hygiene
Able to confidently operate dental equipment
Able to efficiently follow instructions
Like motivating people toward healthy goals
Able to prepare, comprehend and act on letters, summaries, and reports
4. How To Qualify As A Dental Hygienist In Australia?
To become a registered Dental Hygienist in Australia, you must complete an ADC-approved VET qualification in oral health (dental hygiene) or a degree in oral health/therapy and register with the Dental Board of Australia.
Here is the list of steps to qualify for this role:
Obtain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education in one or more prerequisite subjects such as English, biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, speech, and health
Complete an Australian Dental Council accredited dental hygienist course, such as an Advanced Diploma of Oral Health (Dental Hygiene) (10926NAT) or a Bachelor of Oral Health.
Register with the Dental Board of Australia via the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency before practising as a dental hygienist in any Australian state or territory.
Obtain a First Aid Certificate, National Police Certificate, Indemnity insurance, appropriate radiation licenses, and Working with Children Check, and meet vaccination requirements to work as a dental hygienist.
Build work experience in a community dental clinic or a dental practice
Demonstrate compulsory continuing professional development, professional indemnity insurance, and recency of practice to renew your registration each year.
5. How To Become A Dental Hygienist In Australia?
After learning the job responsibilities and skills for the role, follow the below steps to pursue a career as a registered Dental Hygienist in Australia.
Step 1: Get Qualified
There are two learning pathways to entering this profession. You can complete a 2-year Advanced Diploma of Oral Health (Dental Hygiene) or a 3-year Bachelor’s degree in Oral health.
If you are unsure of pursuing this career, you can consider taking a Certificate III in or IV Dental Assisting (Pathway). It is an introductory course in oral health that gives you an overview of a career in oral health.
After completing the course, you may qualify to work as a dental hygienist and get a feel for the work before committing to a specialized study.
In the Advanced Diploma of Oral Health (Dental Hygiene), you learn all about dental hygiene, professional techniques, and ways to apply your knowledge to benefit your future patients. The course allows you to fulfil AHPRA’s training requirements.
A Bachelor’s degree in Dental Hygiene equips you with an ability to recognize dental illnesses or abnormalities of the mouth, teeth, and associated structures and provide patient-centred oral health care.
The course curriculum and supervised clinical practice aim at educating students in all facets of dental hygiene practice within an inter-professional dental clinic.
Here is a list of universities offering dental hygienist courses in Australia:
Dental Hygienist Courses TAFE - VET
Undergraduate Degree Courses In Oral Health
Step 2: Register With AHPRA
Graduates of the Bachelor of Dental Hygiene are eligible to apply for registration with the Dental Board of Australia through the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency.
Undertake continuing education, complete at least 60 hours of Continuing Professional Development activities over three years, and renew your membership annually to keep your AHPRA registration up to date.
Once you have the required qualification and licence, you are ready to apply for local Dental Hygienist jobs in Australia.
National Resources for Dental Hygienists:
6. How Much Does A Dental Hygienist Make In Australia?
The dental hygienist’s salary depends on work experience, work location, and the nature of employment (working for a company or self-employed).
According to PayScale, the average dental hygienist’s salary in Australia is AU$76,548 per year, equivalent to AU$46.80 per hour.
Average Salary based on Experience:
Entry-level Dental Hygienist (< 1 year experience): AU$38.60 per year
Early career Dental Hygienist (1-4 years of experience): AU$43.56 per year
Mid-career Dental Hygienist (5-9 years of experience): AU$49.43 per year
Experienced Dental Hygienist (10-19 years of experience): AU$52.32 per year
Average Salary based on Location:
Sydney: $101,638 per year
Perth: $106,289 per year
Canberra: $103,812 per year
Brisbane: $98,932 per year
Melbourne: $98,352 per year
Geelong: $94,097 per year
Townsville: $94,042 per year
Gold Coast: $93,293 per year
7. Job Outlook For Dental Hygienists In Australia
ANZSCO Occupation Group: 411211 Dental Hygienists
Many Aussies are emphasizing oral health and considering new and advanced dental treatments to maintain healthy natural teeth throughout their lifetime.
The need to provide preventive and therapeutic services that assist people puts the dental hygiene profession in high demand both now and in the future.
Dental hygiene is one of the faster-growing occupations with enormous job growth and employment opportunities across the country. Clinical dental hygienists command rewarding work experiences and good pay, even right out of school.
To help combat the national shortage of oral health professionals, Government economists foresee strong job growth for clinical dental hygienists in the next five years.
Around 33% of employed Dental Hygienists work full-time for an average of 40 hours per week. (All jobs average: 44 hours per week). It indicates many opportunities to work part-time and allows for a good work/life balance.
Major Industries For Employment
Around 96.9% of dental hygienists work in the health care and social assistance industry. Some opportunities are also present in:
Financial And Insurance Services: 0.9%
Public Administration And Safety: 0.5%
Education And Training: 0.5%
Other Industries: 0.5%
Employment Percentage across Australia
Western Australia and South Australia are the two states with the largest share of employment.
New South Wales: 28.5%
South Australia: 17.5%
Western Australia: 17.8%
Northern Territory: 0.7%
Australian Capital Territory: 3.0%
Worker’s Age And Gender Profile
The average age of employed Dental Hygienists is 37 years, with most working in the age band of 25 to 34. (All jobs average is 40 years)
Females make up 96% of the total employed workforce. (All jobs average is 48%)
8. Working Conditions For Dental Hygienists
Dental hygienists work with people of varying age groups, including children, adults, and old patients, in various public and private work settings.
Dental hygienists work in a team of dental professionals at a dental practice with other dental hygienists, dentists, and dental assistants to prevent dental disease and promote oral health.
The job may be monotonous, as it involves repeating the same tasks working in people’s mouths daily. Dental hygienists have to be careful when operating on patients.
They must wear hand gloves, face masks, and implement best hygiene practices to protect them against the by-products of dirty mouths such as tooth decay, bad breath, and bleeding gums.
9. Where Do Dental Hygienists Work?
The profession of a Dental Hygienist offers plenty of work opportunities in a diverse array of healthcare settings that include:
Community health centres
Regional and rural dental clinics
Education or research in medical schools and universities
Aged care facilities
Australian defence forces (Army, Navy, or Air Force)
Private companies sell their dental products
Supported residential facilities.
Experienced dental hygienists even choose to run their private or specialist dental practices individually or in groups in consultation with Dentists.
10. Employment Opportunities For Dental Hygienists In Australia
A dental hygiene profession offers various career options and outstanding opportunities to advance the career.
Qualified dental hygienists can choose to work in the following roles such as:
Sales and marketing managers
Most dental hygienists start their careers as trainee dental assistants and move to higher roles like senior dental assistants. Due to the limited availability of training places, aspiring dental hygienists can face competition when securing an entry-level profession.
Most dental hygienists work as clinicians in the private sector. There is a strong demand for these professionals in private and public rural and regional dental clinics in most states of Australia.
11. Specialized Roles For Dental Hygienists
“Dental hygienist” is considered to be an entry-level position in the dentistry field.
With further studies and training, professionals working in this role can transition to pursue other career opportunities within the industry. Some of the specialist roles to consider are:
12. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can A Dental Hygienist Become A Dentist In Australia?
To perform more advanced dental procedures and earn a higher salary, many dental hygienists choose to make a transition in their career to become a dentist.
There are a couple of things that support this move. Firstly, the education and clinical training needed to work as a dental hygienist can serve as a solid base for becoming a dentist.
Secondly, as dentists and dental hygienists work in similar settings, the familiarity of the work environment makes it easier for a dental hygienist to work as a dentist.
So, after gaining experience as a dental hygienist, follow the below steps to pursue a dentist career:
Step 1: Earn a bachelor's degree with a major in biology, biochemistry, biological science, or physiological science to build skills to succeed in the medical field.
Step 2: Pass the Dental Admission Test to get entry into a dental school to earn a Doctor of Medicine in dentistry degree or a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree
Step 3: Once qualified, you need a dental license to practice as a dentist. Most licensing programs require candidates to hold a D.D.S or D.M.D degree and receive a passing grade on the state or regional clinical exam to earn a license and work as a dentist in that state.
What Are The Career Paths For Dental Hygienists In Australia?
Dental hygienists are an integral part of the dental team, providing preventative services to patients of all age groups in the public and private sectors.
Below are some of the areas you can consider to advance your career:
School and community dental services
Residential care settings
Specialist private practice
General private practice
Oral health promotion
How To Become A Dental Hygienist In Australia After BDS?
BDS (Bachelor of Dentistry) graduates can start their practice as dental hygienists by completing a relevant post-graduate qualification in dental hygiene, like a Graduate Certificate in Oral Health Science, and registering with the Dental Board of Australia.
How To Become A Dental Hygienist In NSW?
Dental hygiene presents a great career opportunity for high school graduates and individuals wishing to change careers or re-enter this profession.
To become a qualified dental hygienist, you can consider undertaking any of the following dental hygienist courses in NSW:
Entry score: 83 ATAR
Duration: 3 years full-time
Location: Camperdown/Darlington University of Sydney And Westmead, Sydney, Westmead Health Precinct
Study mode: Face to face
Professional Accreditation: This course is accredited by the Australian Dental Council and approved by the Dental Board of Australia.
Study mode: On campus
Campus locations: Holmesglen, Wagga Wagga
Admission information: ATAR/SR: 70.00
Duration: Full-time: 3.0 years (or part-time equivalent)
Professional recognition: The course is accredited by the Australian Dental Council.
Graduates from the above courses can register with the Dental Board of Australia via the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency to begin their dental hygienist career.
How To Become A Dental Hygienist In Melbourne?
RMIT University and the University of Melbourne offer undergraduate and postgraduate dental hygienist courses in Melbourne.
After completing the Bachelor’s program, you will gain the theoretical, scientific, and clinical skills to practice oral health therapy - as a dental hygienist and dental therapist.
Graduates can apply for registration as dental hygienists with the Dental Board of Australia to legally practice as dental hygienists in Australia.
What Are The Rewarding And Challenging Parts of Being A Dental Hygienist?
Like any other career, the profession of a dental hygienist has pros and cons. Understanding them will help you decide whether it is worth pursuing.
The profession allows you to make a valuable contribution to society by increasing awareness about good oral health.
Ability to work independently and run your dental practice
Flexible work schedule
You work with new people from all walks of life every day
Great future demand and growth outlook
Bending over patients’ mouths for several hours over the day may make the job physically laborious. Working without an assistant may make it hard to perform the duties.
As the core tasks of a dental hygienist remain the same throughout the career, you may find the job repetitive and monotonous.
The limited scope of practice.
Dental hygienists contribute to community health by promoting oral health and overall well-being. Building trusting relationships with patients and providing valuable health care services gives peace, joy, and happiness that few jobs offer.
Furthermore, flexible work schedules make it easier to achieve a work-life balance. Like any other long-term commitment, you need dedicated and consistent efforts for a successful long-term career within this field.
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