How To Find A GOOD Dental Hygiene Job & Opportunities

dental hygienist lookin in patients mouth

I Just Graduated, Now What!?

Now that you’re fully licensed and have a state document in your hands saying that you’re able to start practicing, you’re ready to start finding dental hygiene jobs. In fact, it’s ok to start “courting” potential employers while you wait on your State and National board exam scores to come back, as long as they know you won’t be able to start working until your license is in hand.

Although most people go into traditional clinical practice straight out of school, there are multiple dental hygiene career opportunities available. How to find a dental hygiene job starts with knowing where to look and what to look for. It’s not just about who offers you a job first or finding the office that pays the most. There are multiple factors to consider (aside from if you want to relocate) when it comes to where you’ll be spending the majority of your time in the not-so-distant future. No pressure, but there are some important things to consider before signing on with a practice, dentist, and supervisor, especially if there are contracts involved.[1]

What To Look For In An Office

Aside from “just earning a paycheck” there are things you want to look into before starting a new job. The setup, management, operations, and reputation of a business will play a direct role in your work atmosphere and stress level. Although you will more than likely be seeing patients on your own, you’ll still have other staff to communicate with, policies to abide by, and facility issues you will want to make sure that you can feel confident about. Asking the right questions prior to your interview and as you sort through job postings can help you land the perfect gig.

Working interviews are a great way to get a genuine taste for what an office atmosphere and patient flow is like. If possible, find out if you can work 1-2 days before a final hiring decision is made. It’s a win-win for both you and the hiring practice.

Here are some specific things to look for:

1) Infection Control:

Finding a dental hygiene job may seem easy until you start to inspect the infection control protocols of the different offices who are trying to hire. As a hygienist, you’re particularly in tune with sanitation measures, cross-contamination, disinfection protocols, and proper use of PPE. Depending on the office, the people running the practice may not hold those same standards. They could even be sub-par. It’s easier to maintain a proper infection control policy than to hope that you – as a new staff member – can change a long history of bad habits.  Sadly, finding dental hygiene jobs where infection control is a priority is easier said than done.

On your search for dental hygiene career opportunities, consider requesting a tour of the practice or brief conversation with their infection control coordinator (every office should have one) to see whether their everyday practices reflect what you want – or don’t want – to uphold when it comes to a safe work environment.  Take a good look at what the sterilization area looks like, how instruments are processed, and office disinfection between patients.

2) Staff

Find out what the average turnover rate is like. How long have their current staff members been with the practice? Finding dental hygiene jobs is easy when offices are unable to maintain high quality staff, because everyone is always quitting their job. You want a team that’s stable, where each member supports the other.

Is there a practice manager? Ask about their experience and what they have in mind for their hygiene department. Understanding management’s expectations and the personality of the office administrator can help you decide whether the office is a good “fit” for you as an individual.

3) Physical Characteristics

Is the office located close to where you plan on living? Are you comfortable with relocating? Think about what the daily commute will look like. Are they planning on expanding their location or hours of operations anytime in the future?

During a tour of the practice (or an over-the-phone interview) be sure to find out what type of equipment and instruments are available for the hygienists to use. How often are they maintained and/or updated? Is the operatory set up for appropriate ergonomics? If it feels cramped or outdated during your initial interview, work out your needs prior to saying “yes” to the job.

Applying For Jobs

Stand Out From The Crowd

Finding dental hygiene career opportunities can be difficult for new graduates, due to the influx of people looking for jobs at the same time. Fortunately, it’s possible. The key is to find a practice that shares your vision for patient care, has a healthy staff atmosphere, and you’re doing what you can to stand out from “the competition.”

Nail your RDH Interview with these questions & tips!  

One of the things that hiring managers and dentists look for the most is a professional who will promptly reply to messages and show up for scheduled interviews. Believe it or not, we live during an era where “ghosting” is common even among people looking for dental hygiene career opportunities. If you genuinely want the job, remember the old saying “To be early is to be on time. To be on time is to be late.” You’ll cut out 75% of your competition.

Dental Hygiene Job Opportunities

More Than Just Scaling

Being a hygienist is more than just cleaning teeth all day long.[2] It’s about relationships, quality of care, bettering the lives of others, and finding an office that you call “home” each day. The people you work with will become your friends and family. Have a list of questions for the hiring dentist/manager prior to your interview. What do you really want to know? Ask about things like office training days, new technology they’re hoping to invest in, what their patient retention is like, and even what the rest of the staff like to do when they’re home on the weekends.

Aside from working in a traditional private practice, there are other industries that hygienists frequently work in. These careers may be paths they take later on in their professional journeys, or it could be an opportunity that presents itself when you’re straight out of dental hygiene school.

Aside from working with a temp agency, other examples of dental hygienist jobs include:

Corporate Dentistry

  • Dental Marketing/Advertising
  • Pharmaceutical Sales
  • Dental Supplies Sales
  • Dental Office Manager
  • Corporate Educator
  • Dental Insurance Officer
  • Consultant

Education

  • Classroom Instructor
  • Clinical or Didactic Instructor
  • Laboratory Instructor
  • Educational Researcher
  • Dental Hygiene Program Director

Public Health

  • Local/State Dental Public Health Officer
  • Community Clinic Administrator
  • National Health Service Corps Member

Finding A GOOD Job

If you’re flexible, hard-working, friendly, and show up on time, then it’s possible to make finding a dental hygiene job a fairly straightforward process. Beginning a new career straight out of college will also bring changes in your lifestyle, work habits, social networks, and way of thinking about dentistry. Finding a practice (or other setting) that allows you to provide quality services in a healthy atmosphere is possible. Depending on what interests you – be it traditional clinical care, research, marketing, or public health – there are a dozen different directions you can take as you begin your new journey.

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