Should I Become a Dental Hygienist or Nurse?

Are you exploring careers possibilities in dental?

Do you want to become a dental hygienist, but are wondering if nursing is a better choice? Are you trying to choose between becoming a nurse or a dental hygienist?
Both careers are excellent choices. Both pay well. Both require you to enjoy helping others. However there are some differences that may hep you decide.

Dental hygienists usually work daytime hours. Some nurses work overnight shifts.

Nurses are needed 24 hours a day. Depending on the location, many nurses out of nursing school will end up working graveyard or evening shifts. In some areas, they may not have much of a choice. However, since dental clinics are usually only opened 8 to 5, the staff works normal hours. Some dental clinics are open in the evenings, but usually not past 7 PM.

Therefore, one of the advantages of becoming a dental hygienist over a nurse is that you will have a normal work schedule. However, some nurses of course, can work in clinics and doctor’s offices with daytime hours.

Nurses have a wider selection of working environments to choose from

Most dental hygienists have the same job responsibilities. They clean teeth and educate people on dental care. There is not much of a difference except maybe age of patients (some work in pediatric clinics) and clinic location.

Nurses, on the other hand, have a wide variety of jobs to choose from. They can work with infants in the NICU, or with cancer patients on an oncology ward. Some will frequently administer shots and IVs. Other nurses (such as in a gynecology office) rarely have to give shots. Some nurses can do home health care, others can work in a mental health treatment center.

If nurses get burned out from one situation, they can usually transfer to a different environment if necessary. However, dental hygienists don’t have that luxury. Typically the only other option for dental hygienists (other than cleaning teeth), is to teach in a dental hygiene school.

Nurses might have an easier time finding a job

Both nurses and dental hygienists are in demand. However, it might take more time for a dental hygienist to find a job. If you decide to become a dental hygienist, you might have to be flexible with where you live. If you never want to move from the small town you grew up in, a career in nursing might be a better choice.

Dental hygienists do not deal with very serious, stressful situations

Typically dental hygienists face less stress. Nurses treat patients in life threatening situations, whereas dental hygienists will usually see healthy patients. For the most part, the most stress that dental hygienists face is coping with rude patients, or a child who bites. However, some nurses will sadly see patients die.

Dental hygienists do very repetitive work

If you cannot stand doing the same thing over and over, then a career as a dental hygienist might not be for you. Nurses have more variety in their day, while dental hygienists do similar tasks all day long.

Nurses have more opportunity for career advancement

Registered nurses can eventually become nurse practitioners. These means more responsibility and more pay. They also have the opportunity to become charge nurses, and nurses with supervisory roles. Dental hygienists usually do not have much opportunity for career progression.

Nurses can choose travel nursing

If you want to travel around the country, or work on a cruise ship, nursing is the better choice. There are some travel dental hygiene jobs available, but not as many as RN’s or LVN’s.

These are just a few things to consider before choosing to apply to nursing or dental hygiene school. It can be very beneficial to find a job shadow opportunity. This will allow you to observe both nurses and dental hygienists, ask questions, and compare the jobs on your own.