Are you wondering if you have what it takes to be a dental hygienist? Dental hygiene professionals need a mix of soft and hard skills to succeed. Soft skills are hard-to-quantity skills that can be applied to many careers. Hard skills refer to the technical skill set you need to succeed in a certain career.
Here are five soft skills and five hard skills you’ll need to do well as a dental hygienist.
1. Oral Communication
To treat patients, you’ll need to talk to them. You’ll need to take patient histories, talk to patients about their oral care routines, and explain what you’re doing during treatments. If you’re not a strong communicator, or if you’re not confident in your communication skills, you could struggle with these tasks.
2. Attention to Detail
Being detail-oriented is another important trait for dental hygienists. To complete treatments, you’ll need to carefully pay attention to what you’re doing. You’ll need to be able to focus on small details of patients’ teeth or gums.
Missing small details can mean patients don’t get the right treatments. Or, you could even harm patients. If you’re not particularly detail-oriented, dental hygiene may not be for you.
As many as 75 percent of people are at least a little scared of going to the dentist. Ten to 15 percent of people have significant fear. When you work in dental hygiene, you’ll encounter these people all the time. When patients start crying in the dental chair because they’re terrified of dentists, you’ll have to be a compassionate person to comfort them.
4. Problem Solving
Every patient is different. You’ll encounter unique challenges with each patient, and you’ll need to be a good problem solver to handle these challenges. For example, if you have very scared patients, you’ll need to figure out how to complete their treatments. If you have patients who can’t open their mouths very wide, you’ll need to figure out how to clean their teeth.
5. Manual Dexterity
When you work in dental hygiene, you’ll need to work with sharp tools inside patients’ mouths. You’ll need to have very good control of your hands to complete treatments safely. If you’re a naturally clumsy person and tend to drop things, dental hygiene may not be for you.
On the other hand, if you’ve always had naturally steady hands, you may have no issues in this area.
6. Conducting Initial Dental Assessments
One of the hard skills you’ll need as a dental hygienist is completing initial dental assessments. You’ll examine patients’ mouths first, and then the dentist will provide necessary treatments.
7. Removing Deposits from Teeth
Cleaning patients’ teeth is an important part of the dental hygienist’s job. Dental hygiene professionals use tools to carefully remove plaque, tartar, and food particles from patients’ teeth. They also clean beneath the gum line to help prevent gum disease.
8. Applying Fluoride Treatments
Fluoride is a mineral that’s used to help prevent cavities. Some patients need to receive fluoride treatments in the dental office to keep their teeth healthy. You’ll need to know how to perform professional fluoride treatments to work in dental hygiene. Applying treatments can include brushing fluoride onto patients’ teeth or supervising them while they do fluoride rinses.
9. Taking X-Rays
Dental hygiene professionals are responsible for taking x-rays of patients. Since x-rays use radiation, you’ll need training to know how to perform them properly. You’ll need to know how to use protective equipment, like thyroid collars, to keep patients safe. You also need to know how to position the x-ray machine to get the images the dentist needs.
10. Assisting with Restorative Procedures
Dental hygiene professionals may also help dentists with restorative procedures. Restorative procedures include fillings, root canals, or crowns. You’ll need to know how these procedures are performed to be a useful assistant for dentists.