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What can we do about the over abundance of hygienists?

Any thoughts on schools pumping out so many hygienists? Used to be you could demand more money. Dentists knew there was always another dentist who would love to have you. Now with so many hygienists its rough. The dentist I work for is great but has pretty much said no hourly raise just raises in the form of higher bonuses due to fees being raised once every year or two. But what can I do there is dozens of hygienists waiting on my job if I were to quit/get let go.



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12 Answers

An abundance of hygienists graduating from school is definitely making it more difficult to find jobs, and even when a job is found pay rates are lower in some areas than they have been in the past. There are many articles out there that consistently say dental hygiene is one of the top 10 professions of the future, but from my personal experience, and the experiences I have heard from others, this just isn’t the case. It is like people are recycling the same article over and over from 10 years ago! A big part of the problem is that new dental hygiene schools are popping up at a faster rate than the growth of the dental industry in many areas. This is causing an excess supply of hygienists looking for work. My advice to you is to try not to get discouraged. Become the best hygienist you can be in a technical sense, but also go above and beyond in your duties around the office. Make an effort to constantly improve your “soft skills” such as interpersonal communication. Going above and beyond will not just make you liked and respected among your co-workers, it will also make you a favorite with your patients. I wish there was a simple way to improve the economics of the dental hygiene profession, but it can be tough out there. The good news is that starting back in January of this year, hygiene programs can only be opened if their is a deemed community need. Hopefully this helps the problem, although I’m not so sure.

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I would like to see more stringent requirements for the hygiene programs, like making a bachelors degree the minimum requirement. Or at least the pay scale reflecting your degree. It was always frustrating to me to have a bachelors degree and be paid the same wage as an associate or two year certificate hygienist. We are probably the only profession that where this occurs!

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The lack of stable jobs in South Florida is what has driven me back to school for dentistry. I don’t agree with that having a bachelor’s degree should be paid more. I went to school for 4 years too. 2 years of prerequisites and 2 years in the hygiene program. I chose not to do the bachelor’s program because of the increased costs with no tangible gain. Sadly, if I had it to do again I would definitely be a nurse. So many more opportunities!

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I agree with the majority of the replies thus far. Let us take it even further, remove the Associates Degree portion as well. Did we really need to have the training on Anatomy and Physiology? Disease recognition education is another “add on” course that is not needed, the Dentist can surely handle this. Colleges should reduce the program to a one-year program that teaches how to clean teeth and nothing more.

Obviously I do not really want this to happen. It is common sense that the value of experience increases exponentially over time. There are hundreds of studies that can back this statement. To think for one second that a higher level of education does not increase experience and ability is ignorant at best. Just remember the basic rules of degree programs: Associates degree is to perform, Bachelors degree is to problem solve, Masters degree is to research and find the very problems that need solving.

We live in a world where every kid out of college is looking to get their foot in the door in whatever career they choose. With that said there will always be people that will work for pennies in an attempt to move up the ranks. There is and will always be a hierarchy of care. An office that is focused on nothing but up-sales rather than quality care will always hire the person that will work for the cheapest amount while meeting their bare minimum qualifications. Conversely, the office that values quality patient care over the thirty-minute prophy with upselling will desire to have the higher educated, more experienced staff, and yes they will pay for it.

We as human beings have grown to believe that mediocrity is all we need to strive for. Why go above and beyond to become great when the bare minimum will do. The fact that there are so many people commenting on why they do not want to achieve higher education and help grow this profession is an example of the stagnancy in the hygiene profession. Accepting mediocrity is the quickest way to fall behind, leading to obsolete qualifications. Higher education is the natural progression of all professional careers.

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The only reason I would agree with the comment about having a bachelor’s degree is because if you have an associates degree you did go to go to school for about 4 yrs. The first 2 yrs were general education classes in which we received a pre-dental hygiene certificate. I have looked into the bachelor’s degree progams and they do not receive anymore education in dental hygiene than associate degree progams. The state I live in does not have a bachelors in dental hygiene program. I do NOT feel like someone with a bachelor’s degree would be a better dental hygienist than a dental hygienist with and associates degree and should not be paid more. We would be doing the same job.

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I don’t agree win the bachelors degree….however I do agree with marketing yourself to a “speciality” or not being a princess hygienist and have your hands on everything…front desk, insurance, marketing. I have had jobs where I was highly paid but I also worked my butt off for it. I can’t tell you how many “seasoned” hygienists say that “they just want to clean teeth and get paid what they deserve.” Yes it’s true that’s what we want to do, HOWEVER this day and age we need to go above and beyond bc the economy blows and healthcare is pretty sucky right now. So I know a lot of practices are auffering so I feel the hygienist bring so much knowledge and power to practices, we just need to start using it in other ways “besides cleaning teeth!”

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I don’t agree with the comment from one gal who says she thinks bachelor degrees should be a minimum requirement for hygienist. And that we are the only profession to do so.. You can be a nurse with an associates degree… I myself have an associates degree in dental hygiene and I feel that I am an excellent hygienist, I LOVE what I do and I’m continually reading new research all the time… Just because you didn’t spend 2 years on core classes doesn’t make you worth less pay or less of hygienist… Please have respect for others before you speak…

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Those accelerated hygiene programs are the exact reason bachelor degrees should be entry level. I don’t think the previous poster is belittling Associate degree hygienist. Many Associate degree hygienists completed 4 years of school anyway. (I am AAS hygienist who went back to obtain a bachelors). I read an article once that said that we complete enough training to receive a Masters degree.

By raising the requirement to enter the field, saturation could be slowed down. Pharmacy did something similar several years back. They went from bachelor being entry level to PhD. Those pharmacists who were already in the field are still relevant due to their training and experience.

A higher requirement for entry into the field makes it a more valuable profession to the DDS that we work for and to our patients who sometimes think we are just assistants who do a little extra.

Furthermore, when I see hygiene programs in my area advertised on commercials at trade schools it makes me sad. I think about how tough my program was and how proud I was when I finished. When it’s advertised on TV like any Tom, Dick or Harry can pay their money to become a RDH, it makes me wonder where my profession is headed…

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I think in order to be as marketable as possible, CE classes on a particular subject, be the RDH who “specializes” in something specific, and market yourself to that…ie special needs adults, geriatrics, etc…

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Oddly I have been practicing 28 years and never had an issue with employment…I have always picked up jobs within a day or two of looking…I will say however full time with benefits is harder to find…offices seem to go toward part time with no benefits…this suits me fine now but I imagine its harder for the young and single…coverage sure cuts into salary then!…I have never used temps but instead have blanketed an area via mail with my resumě…its always gotten me calls for part time which I piece together for a full week…every time one of those part time offers up more hours and I have just always had many options….whats the difference? Perhaps location?….I’ve never worked in the city but I always have lived and worked in the burbs…I went from Boston area to Chicago area with no issues in employment or pay…I would love to know what areas you all are feeling are too saturated?…its gotta be location….

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To the girl with the Bachelors Degree-that really gets under my skin as with almost every other hygienist with an Associates. I personally got a Bachelors degree in another field and then went to hygiene school. No matter a bachelors or an associates, the hygiene curriculum is 2 years and you learn the exact same material and take the exact same tests to get your license. The only difference is you took more hours of prerequisites none of which contained dental hygiene material. Extra science, math, speech, English, etc… So having a bachelors degree does not make you a better hygienist who deserves more money. I am proud of my associates and my school and the education I received. I live in a metroplex that is flooded with dental hygienists, I know almost no one with a full time job at one office. There are also new accelerated programs popping up placing more of us in the job market. Also the pay I stays close to what the “temp” agencies pay, the employer knows there are new eager graduates wanting to work and will take less. I love my job and hope to stay in the market for a long time but eventually I might try nursing school, no benefits are a huge downside to hygiene. All these articles about our job being so great and making lots of money do not mention no benefits, overpopulation etc… And I refuse to work at these pop-up dental offices that are not focused on patient care but making money and getting as much money from insurance companies as possible

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As a hygienist with a bachelor’s degree, I don’t think that I am better at my job than someone with an associate’s, but I do think I should be more marketable in a competitive environment. My hygiene program was 3 years long with 1 year of prerequisites, not 2 and 2. And I can think of little we studied in that extra year that I don’t use regularly. Yes, we do take the same exam to become hygienists, but I have always wondered if associates’ programs teach only what is on that exam because that’s all they have time for. In other fields, degrees pay off more… RN’s with a bachelor’s do tend to get paid more than LPN’s with less schooling.

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