There are many careers one can pursue within the medical field that is can be rewarding and fulfilling as well if it is your desire to help save human lives or improve the quality of healthcare provided to people living in the community around you.
One such career that could be considered is that of the dental hygienist. The role of a dental hygienist is quite beneficial and crucial to the handling of patients who require the services of the dentist when visiting the hospital.
I would be giving you the necessary information you need to understand the processes involved in studying to become a dental hygienist in South Africa.
How to Become a Dental Hygienist in South Africa
A dental hygienist is a professional who performs the necessary procedure needed to evaluate the state of the oral cavity of patients with the intent of giving relevant information to the dentist that would be monitoring the case assigned.
They are important members of the dentist’s medical team because they work closely with dentists during different dental procedures including surgery and also they educate patients on different ways to maintain oral hygiene. Some of their daily responsibilities include:
- Removing plaque and polishing patients’ teeth
- Providing patients with adequate information to improve dental health
- Monitor and update each patient’s dental history
- Perform routine checkups during patients appointments and report findings to the dentist
Dental hygienists work in community health centers, private health centers, schools, and government establishments depending on their qualifications and years of experience working in such areas.
Asides from working with the dentist in caring for patients, you might be sometimes required to schedule appointments, organize patient files, and inform the doctor of the patient’s presence in the absence of a dental hygienist.
Now that you have an idea of what a dental hygienist does here are some steps you should take in realizing your dreams of becoming a dental hygienist.
Take Relevant Courses for NSE
It’s good to know you would like to pursue a career in becoming a dental hygienist which should be backed up by taking relevant courses during your national senior certificate examination (NSE) to avoid one being considered ineligible by universities you intend to apply to.
You should take course work in biology, chemistry, physics, English, and mathematics to give you foundational knowledge before taking courses at the university.
Get a Degree from an Accredited Dental School
Many healthcare facilities that provide dental services to their patients employ dental hygienists with at least a diploma from an accredited medical or dental school either in South Africa or outside the country.
The duration for most programs across South Africa is three years but could be 2 years in other countries giving a diploma in dental hygiene. During this time students would be taught anatomy, physiology, immunology, tooth morphology, pain management, and towards the end of their program be required to undergo training or internships for practical experience of their courses.
Obtain a License to Practise
Most professions dealing with human lives require a license to practice either in the state or country where they are willing to settle and work. In South Africa for example, you would be required to register with the Medical and Dental Council of South Africa before being allowed to practice in the state.
I would recommend you get your license a few weeks to your graduation or immediately after graduating as employers would require your license as one of the documents for submission during interviews and documentation stages in the recruitment process.
Get Additional Qualifications
The first three steps I have talked about gives you an entry-level opportunity, with time as you begin to have more financial responsibilities you would want more financial liberation by earning more.
One way to ensure you keep earning as a dental hygienist is either to get certifications which shows you are a specialist in dental hygiene research, public health, or pediatrics dental hygiene. In other cases getting a degree in dentistry or a master’s degree in some of the areas of concern in dental hygiene might be a good move to consider as well.
Would I make a Good dental Hygienist?
There is no specific answer to this question but if you are one who likes to render services to people with the hope of improving their health status, you like to work with dental types of equipment and enjoy working within a team then you would be a good fit for this position.