Dental hygienists are a crucial member of the healthcare team and play a major role in maintaining the health of Georgia’s citizens. These professionals work closely with dentists to provide care for patients whose dental hygiene is at risk. Dental hygienists also serve as public health ambassadors, educating their clients about the importance of good oral hygiene. They help patients select toothbrushes, and teach them about proper brushing and flossing techniques. They also instruct their patients on the link between diet and oral health. In addition to these duties, dental hygienists also remove plaque and tartar from teeth and apply dental sealants.
Approximately 5,490 dental hygienists work for dentists in Georgia, with the largest concentration of those working in Atlanta. This is due in part to Atlanta’s robust economy, which pays the state’s highest salaries. However, other cities in Georgia are also well-paying for this career, including Augusta (3,170 hygienists), Savannah (2,280 hygienists) and Macon (2,140 hygienists).
The smallest number of hygienists (140) are employed by the city of Valdosta, where nearly 75 percent of residents live below the poverty line. Many of Georgia’s top-paying hygienists are employed by private dental practices, while the remaining hygienists work in government agencies such as correctional facilities and community clinics.
To become a dental hygienist, aspiring professionals need to earn an associate degree from a state-approved program. This program will include a combination of classroom instruction, skills labs, and clinical practicum. Students will learn basic science concepts such as chemistry, biology, microbiology, and anatomy, and they will take classes specifically focused on the field of dentistry. In addition, they must pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination and a clinical board exam.