Career-Pivot Opportunities for Dental Hygienists

| 8 min read

Career pivoting has a certain appeal. These days the career opportunities for dental hygienists have a role in our expanding pivot-culture.

Your current career track as a dental hygienist has been somewhat predictable. But the COVID-19 pandemic and changes within care protocols - such as virtual and mobile dentistry - are opening new venues.

Dental hygienists are taking initiative to redefine their role outside of the traditional practice environment.

  • Supporting and leading within new care initiatives (e.g. teledentistry, mobile dentistry, virtual care protocols, etc).
  • Managing teams
  • Advising on policy
  • Helping bridge the relationship between medical care and dental care
  • Coaching, consulting, and training

Pivot-potential for the curious and innovative dental hygienist

No doubt, 2020 rocked the routines for many dental hygienists. In fact, a percentage has yet to return to their role according to the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA).

In February, the ADHA released studies showing that COVID-19 pushed about 8% of hygienists out of the workforce and warned that a shortage of these team members would likely exist until the pandemic was over. Concerns about being exposed to the novel coronavirus and the infection control measures being taken at dental practices, as well as a lack of childcare due to remote or hybrid learning at schools, led hygienists to leave the profession, the researchers found.” [1]

While some are taking a break, others are using this reset period as an opportunity to expand their horizons as a dental hygienist. The career path has widened to include a broader use of your skills as a trained hygienist.


An Independent (Mobile) or Direct Access Dental Hygienist

The appeal of independence with collaborative support suits some dental hygiene professionals. The ADHA defines this emerging role as:

…the ability of a dental hygienist to initiate treatment based on their assessment of a patient’s needs without the specific authorization of a dentist, treat the patient without the presence of a dentist, and maintain a provider-patient relationship.” [2]

Currently, 42 states allow you as a dental hygienist to practice without being supervised or authorized by a dentist. There are appealing opportunities for the independent dental hygienist with collaborative agreements in place.

These resources will provide guidance about the scope of opportunity for being an independent dental hygienist:

Becoming an Independent Hygienist Part 1

Becoming an Independent Hygienist Part 2

Connect with a Mobile Dentistry Clinic

Direct access dentistry (as just noted) expands the care delivery potential for hygienists. Improving access to preventive care creates opportunity in underserved rural and urban communities, among the elderly, in schools, and in corporate settings.

For example, California based dental hygienists are able to provide dental care as an RDHAP (Registered Dental Hygienist in Alternative Practice). A designated license opens dentistry to the patient demographics such as those just mentioned.

Here’s how the California RDHAP licensing works for an independent hygienist in a mobile dentistry setting:

  • Provide care in a residence, an assisted living facility or other care facility, in schools, or on-site corporate campuses.
  • Provide services that include: oral cancer screenings, periodontal assessments, general oral health assessments, preventive care, periodontal therapy, fluoride, consultations with dentists and physicians, and more.

The ADHA is a good resource for helping you meet the necessary requirements or obtain more information.

Check out these related resources for more information about mobile dentistry opportunities as a dental hygienist:

How to Become an Independent Hygienist Using Teledentistry and Mobile Dentistry Services

Ramping Up Mobile Dentistry with Floss Bar’s Innovative Delivery Model


Train, Coach, Consult

There are many out-of-the-box opportunities to share your dental hygiene experience, skills, and influence. New and veteran hygienists could benefit from your wisdom and patient care journey.

  • Develop an online platform where you can share your knowledge and skills (e.g. a blog, podcast, YouTube channel, social media page, etc)
  • Create a course that highlights core skill-sets for patient care, patient relationships, team relationships, etc.
  • Take-your-show on the road. The dental conference and training space has tons of opportunity for you to share your expertise as a presenter.
  • Write content for dental publishers, online dental influencers, and dental companies.

As an experienced dental hygiene professional you can create your own influential platform among colleagues, networking groups, or the dental industry at large.

The online capabilities are undeniable. These resources will give you insight into how a digital (like teledentistry) platform can help you make those career building connections:

Virtual (and Secure) Solutions are Transforming Dental CE, Study Groups, and Collaboration

Could Teledentistry Technology Provide a Secure Social Media Platform for Healthcare Professionals?

The perfect career “pivot” using teledentistry

The mobile dentistry related solutions within a dedicated teledentistry platform enables you to fully maximize your decision to become an independent and/or mobile hygienist.

Teledentix is an innovative, turn-key teledentistry solution created by Virtual Dental Care. The all-in-one platform will enable you to adapt teledentistry to your patient care and extend your services beyond the walls of your dental practice…and improve your patient engagement in the process.

LEARN MORE about the Teledentix platform.



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