5 skills you need to become a Pediatric Dental Hygienist

Are you thinking about becoming a pediatric dental hygienist, but don’t know where to start or what skills you need?

As a pediatric dental hygienist, it’s your responsibility to help improve the oral health of children and young adults. Teaching your young patients and their guardians about proper dental care and hygiene is one of the many responsibilities. You should also have a passion for working with children and be culturally competent as you work with diverse groups.  

To become a pediatric dental hygienist, you need to follow these three steps.

Note: Dental hygienists can work part-time under the supervision of a licensed dentist.

These steps can help you become a licensed pediatric dental hygienist, but what skills do you need to become a pediatric dental hygienist? Here are five (soft) skills you need to become a pediatric dental hygienist.

Interpersonal communication skills

 As a pediatric dental hygienist,  you’re not only assisting the pediatric dentist in cleaning a pediatric patient’s teeth but communicating with patients and their guardians to create personal oral hygiene plans. Communication is an essential part of working in the dental industry.  Having interpersonal communication skills is critical, especially when working with children and their guardians.

As a pediatric dental hygienist, you’ll assess your patients’ oral health and provide their guardians on ways to prevent specific issues, i.e., cavities. To do this, you must be able to communicate effectively and openly with both patients and guardians.

 Pediatric dental hygienist builds better relationships with patients when they communicate and explain how guardians and patients understand. Proper communication enhances patient awareness and provides patients with a comprehensive understanding situation, allowing them to improve their oral health outcomes. 

Compassion

As a pediatric dental hygienist, you’ll come in contact with patients from diverse backgrounds. You’ll also work with children who love the dentist and are ready to receive their free toothbrush and floss after an exam and others afraid of the dentist. As a pediatric dental hygienist, you may have to comfort patients in your chair who are worried. 

It may be helpful to walk them through the process. Your primary focus should help your young patients understand and feel comfortable with your procedures and the next steps. Having compassion for individuals from diverse backgrounds and children who may be fearful of the dental practice is part of the job. Being able to emphasize with them and helping them will allow them to feel safe. 

 Organized

 Being organized is essential when working as a dental hygienist. A pediatric dental hygienist must be organized when working with young (babies to teens) patients. You need to pay attention to every detail of the patient’s teeth and gums as they grow. Not being organized with your notes or diagnosis can lead to mistreatment.

Responsibilities that require organized skill

  • Reviewing patient charts to check for medical concerns
  • Recording findings of exam accurately in patient records
  • Relaying patient information to the dentist for proper treatment
  • Developing plans to educate patients on brushing and caring for oral health

Problem Solving

As a pediatric dental hygienist, you’ll meet diverse people with different dental needs. Remember that every pediatric patient is unique, and there will be challenges that arise, whether it’s dealing with a patient afraid of dental tools or someone unsatisfied with your treatment. As a problem solver, you make effective decisions quickly, spend your time researching, analyzing, and studying patient charts. You also continue to update the dentists and your patients (or guardians) on issues and critical dental plans or information.


Note: You must work with both the patient and dentist to work through all steps and issues.  That is why studying patient charts and communicating with patients before and during treatment is an essential part of your job.

Manual dexterity

As a dental hygienist, you’ll work with sharp tools to treat and clean your patients’ mouths. Have control of your hands to complete treatment safely and to keep your patient calm.  Many of your responsibility require tools and chemicals, plus having your fingers close to a frightened patient’s mouth.  As a pediatric dental hygienist, you must keep yourself and your patient calm in this situation. 

Additional dental (pediatric) hygienist responsibilities that require calmness and attention to detail

  • Removing deposits from teeth and beneath to help prevent gum disease
  • Accurately taking digital x-rays of patients. 
  • Assisting dentist with procedures, i.e., restorative procedures, fillings, and root canals
    • Applying cavity-preventive agents, such as fluorides and pit and fissure sealants, and administering antimicrobial agents.

Take away

 There are many skills needed to become a pediatric dental hygienist. Being able to communicate with patients, guardians, dental staff, and dentist is essential. Pediatric hygienists must be problem solvers when dealing with different patients and oral health, work together with patients and guardians to communicate plans and need for oral health, and be comfortable using sharp tools and digital equipment. Most importantly, you must feel comfortable and want to work with children of all ages.

  

Want to learn more about Pediatric Dentistry, and if being a pediatric dental hygienist is for you? Check these out.

Are there any skills that surprised you or you’d like to add? Let us know in the comment section.

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About the author

Joycelyn Ghansah

Joycelyn Ghansah is a former Healthcare Organizer with a background public health, include reproductive and sexual health. When she's not freelance writing, she's transcribing interviews and researching ways to strengthen healthcare labor laws.

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