Current state of dental hygiene economy reveals potential risks

November 12th, 2013


Software for dental hygiene schools can go a long way toward allowing educators to fully prepare today's students for future challenges in the health care industry. According to a recent report from RDH Village, an industry publication, many oral health professionals anticipate major problems for people who plan to enter the workforce in the coming decades.

Over the last several years, dental hygiene has become an increasingly popular area of study. In fact, the RDH Village salary report, which measured the annual income of oral hygienists in 15 major urban areas throughout the U.S., said there are currently more people seeking work than there are jobs available. As a result, competition is fierce for students to differentiate themselves and impress employers who often have plenty of candidates to choose from every year. One of the main reasons the dental hygiene profession is so popular is because it pays well in most parts of the country. The RDH Village report said the average hourly rate in large metropolitan areas is $40 per hour, while in small towns or rural areas, the average is $10 lower.

Future risks
Despite the popularity of dental hygiene, many older professionals who have been in the workforce for several decades warn how continued competition may ultimately degrade the quality of oral health care patients receive in the future. A surplus of workers may lead to diminishing salaries and unemployment.

"It's not the job of Generation Xers, millennials, etc., to prove to baby boomers that they will take oral health care to the next level," Mark Hadley wrote on DentistryIQ, an industry publishing network. "More than likely, they will arise to the task of ensuring that oral care services remain at optimal levels. But how long can they pursue careers with diminishing hours, wages and benefits, in a market where it's tough to even start a career?"

Academic institutions in the oral health care field have a unique responsibility to ensure current students receive a quality education that translates directly to a successful career down the road. By investing in tools such as dental hygiene school software, educators can equip individuals with the knowledge and experience necessary to take on meaningful leadership roles in the future.

How does technology influence the quality of education dental hygienists receive?

Technological fluency
The tools people use to communicate with one another have changed drastically in recent years. Whether in the public or private sectors, large organizations often benefit from investing in enterprise software programs that enable multichannel communication and improve operations at a relatively low overhead cost. Dental hygiene universities are no different. According to a study published recently in the Journal of Dental Education, educators are using social media more than ever before to communicate with students. In fact, a survey of 221 faculty members at five U.S. academic institutions found roughly half utilize Facebook for classroom purposes in some way. The more tools professors use throughout the educational process, the more necessary it becomes to invest in comprehensive and user-friendly dental academic software programs. 

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