When it comes to job opportunities, many industries will ebb and flow. However, dentistry is a field that’s constantly in-demand. As long as we have teeth, there will always be a need for dental care. This is especially true today, as more Americans are prioritizing their oral health.
If you are considering becoming a dental hygienist, you may be wondering what the opportunities will be like after graduation. You may be asking, “Are dental hygienists in high demand?” and “Is there job stability in this line of work?” These are important questions to ask before breaking into any profession.
Prospective dental hygienists can smile brightly at the promise of this field. The dental hygienist job outlook is high, with dental hygienists needed in dental offices, outpatient care clinics, and more.
The Projected Job Outlook for Dental Hygienists
Dental hygienists examine patients’ oral health and provide preventative dental services, such as cleaning teeth. These services are critical, since oral disease can contribute to cardiovascular problems, cancers, diabetes, and other health conditions. Therefore, dental hygienists are in high demand.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of dental hygienists is projected to grow 9 percent between 2021 and 2031. Each year, roughly 16,300 dental hygiene job openings will become available throughout this decade. Some of these positions will be newly added to the field, while others will need to be filled as more hygienists retire.
The employment outlook for dental hygienists may vary by state. For example, in Connecticut, dental hygienists were listed as one of the most in-demand occupations, expecting almost 18 percent growth by 2026. No matter where you live, however, you can expect there to be a steady or increasing need for dental hygienists, since more and more people are requiring oral health care.
Why are Dental Hygienists in High Demand?
As noted above, more Americans are requiring dental health care than ever. And dental hygienists are needed to step up to the plate. The increasing job outlook is due to a variety of factors, including:
An Aging Baby Boomer Population
The Baby Boomer population is now reaching retirement age. And as we know, older adults tend to require more healthcare services than the general population. But here’s some new information: According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), older Americans are keeping more of their teeth than previous generations. On top of this, the number of 50+ adults experiencing complete tooth loss has declined in recent years.
One author of the study. Bruce Dye, DDS, MPH, says this will have an impact on dental professionals: “Retention of natural teeth also means that dental care may need to evolve to meet the challenges that an older population presents.”
More dental hygienists will be needed to meet the new, evolving demands of older adults requiring preventive oral care.
More Awareness of Oral Health Care
In recent years, more studies have been released linking oral health to general health. We’ve learned that dental diseases and bacteria in the mouth can multiply and enter the bloodstream, ultimately contributing to other health issues like heart disease, diabetes, and even Alzheimer’s disease or birth defects. Tooth decay can also lead to issues like decreased focus and depression.
What this means is that we now have an increased awareness of the importance of oral health. More Americans recognize the value in regular dental cleanings, and therefore more Americans will require the services of a dental hygienist.
Improved Access to Dental Services
In addition to greater awareness, more Americans are now able to access dental health care services. This is increasing the demand for dental professionals at all levels, from dentists to dental hygienists and assistants.
Between 2010 and 2018, dental coverage increased by almost 19 percentage points in states that provide dental benefits through Medicaid. This is due to the Affordable Care Act Medicaid Expansion on Dental Coverage, according to a recent article from Health Affairs.
On top of the growing demand for dental services, the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that dental hygienist employment is expected to increase as state laws advance the scope of work for dental hygienists, allowing them to work at the top of their training.
What are the Growth Opportunities for Dental Hygienists?
In a typical dental office, hygienists are responsible for cleaning teeth, taking x-rays, applying sealants and fluorides, examining patients’ oral health, and keeping patients comfortable. However, there is room to grow your scope of services—if you’re up for it.
In a few states, dental hygienists can receive additional training to provide some restorative services, such as extracting primary teeth and placing temporary crowns. Dental hygienists may also advance their education and grow into research or teaching roles. Some might enter clinical practice in public or school health programs, with additional training.
The more years you gain experience as a dental hygienist, the more room for growth you can expect in your salary. On average, dental hygienists earn a mean wage of $81,360 annually in the United States. However, the upper 75th percentile earns more than $98,000 per year, with potential to earn six figures. With just an associate degree being the standard requirement for dental hygienists, this means you can earn an incredible salary with just a few years invested in school.
Become a Dental Hygienist Today!
The 2023 U.S. News job rankings list dental hygienists the #2 healthcare support career, and among the top 35 best jobs overall. This is because dental hygienists earn a good salary, have an extremely high work-life balance, and can expect future growth and a booming job market in the years to come. There are many perks to becoming a dental hygienist, so why wait to get started?
With the demand for dental hygienists only continuing to increase, now is the time to get started on this career path. Unlike many medical and dentistry careers, becoming a dental hygienist only takes a few years in school. At Goodwin University, you can complete your associate degree in Dental Hygiene and get started in the workforce in just 2-3 years.
Ready to get started? Learn more about becoming a dental hygienist by downloading our free eBook: “Your Guide to Becoming a Dental Hygienist.”
You can also request more information about Goodwin’s dental hygiene program, here.