Hygienists report working for multiple offices, dentists

Although most dental hygienists still practice in one dental office, working closely with a single dentist, the changing demographics for the profession continue to indicate varied work situations, including 10% who work with five or more dentists during the course of a month.

Dentistofficeexterior

Dentistofficeexterior

Dental hygiene profile survey points work to more dental hygienists
working in multiple offices and for multiple doctors

Although most dental hygienists still practice in one dental office, working closely with a single dentist, the changing demographics for the profession continue to indicate varied work situations, including 10% who work with five or more dentists during the course of a month.

“I enjoy my profession and do not regret going into it. It is rewarding to serve others in improving their oral health. As a single parent, it has given me a good income to support my family,” noted one hygienist in the 51 to 60 age range. “Unfortunately, the economy has affected my profession. Instead of working full time, I am working part time.”

The statistics below were reported as part of a “profile survey” about dental hygienists. Overall, 870 dental hygienists participated in the survey.

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One survey question simply asked for the number of dental offices where a dental hygienist is employed. Nationally, 63% work in just one office.

  • 24% work in two offices
  • 5% work in three offices
  • 1% work in four offices
  • 1% work in five offices

A hygienist in the 41 to 50 age range said, “I like the one office I work for. The other two offices are ‘insurance offices’ and very demanding. They don't care about our patients or us. They are very stressful situations where none of the employees are happy.”

A hygienist in the 51 to 60 age range added, “I work in three different offices to make a full-time job, without any health insurance, retirement, holiday, or vacation pay. I still love hygiene, making a difference in patients’ oral health for overall health.”

(6% answered “zero,” suggesting unemployment, although the survey did not specifically follow up with these answers. The survey also had an “other” option, allowing hygienists to indicate they also work in “offices” as an educator or public health volunteer, for example.)

“I like being a dental hygienist, and the money is OK too,” said a hygienist in the 20 to 30 age range. “But I do not get my 40 hours a week. I have been a registered dental hygienist for three years, and in 2013 I finally landed a permanent job at two offices, but I do not have enough hours … I do not have benefits, not enough income, and I am planning on going back to school in September 2014 to change careers.”

By age, dental hygienists work in multiple offices as follows:

  • Hygienists 20 to 30 years old: 57% work in one office. 34% work in two offices. 3% work in three or more offices.
  • Hygienists 31 to 40 years old: 64% work in one office. 25% work in two offices. 8% work in three or more offices.
  • Hygienists 41 to 50 years old: 66% work in one office. 21% work in two offices. 9% work in three or more offices.
  • Hygienists 51 years old and older: 62% work in one office. 23% work in two offices. 6% work in three or more offices.

The number of doctors who hygienists work with in a dental setting (single or multiple) did not present a majority. Nationally, 34% work with one doctor during “the course of a month.”

  • 24% work with two doctors
  • 18% work with three doctors
  • 9% work with four doctors
  • 10% work with five or more doctors

(5% indicated that they do not work with any doctors, again suggesting unemployment or a unique practice situation.)

One hygienist added, “So, at almost 56 years of age, [I am] stuck in an office with one doctor who is miserable and wants to retire, one who has no interaction with the staff and the day-to-day operations. The third is just an associate and is also miserable. Obviously, the morale is low, but the staff works together and gives the patients the best care we can.”

By age, dental hygienists work with a single or multiple-doctor practice during the course of a month as follows:

  • Hygienists 20 to 30 years old: 23% work with just one doctor. 31% work with two doctors over the course of a month. 18% work with three doctors. 12% work with four doctors, and 12% work with five or more doctors during a month.
  • Hygienists 31 to 40 years old: 38% work with just one doctor. 21% work with two doctors over the course of a month. 17% work with three doctors. 14% work with four doctors, and 8% work with five or more doctors during a month.
  • Hygienists 41 to 50 years old: 37% work with just one doctor. 25% work with two doctors over the course of a month. 18% work with three doctors. 6% work with four doctors, and 12% work with five or more doctors during a month.
  • Hygienists 51 years old and older: 34% work with just one doctor. 24% work with two doctors over the course of a month. 17% work with three doctors. 8% work with four doctors, and 9% work with five or more doctors during a month.

A hygienist commented, “I love being a hygienist. It's a career, not just a job. When I graduated from hygiene school in 2003, there were many job options and my college had a 100% placement rate. The pay, hours, and benefits were great, but things have changed a lot, and it's really scary! Sometimes I wish I had gone to nursing school, but I think all careers are suffering these days.”

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