The Evolution of Dental Hygiene Careers in Canada

Dental hygienists are valued members of your oral healthcare team. For over 50 years, theya��ve played a vital role in Canada in the promotion of the oral health and wellbeing of the public.

Dental hygienists can occupy a variety of roles. They can be clinicians, educators, an intra-oral dental assistant, researchers or even administrators. Their work environment may include:

  • private dental practices
  • professional dental hygiene associations
  • universities and community colleges
  • homecare or outreach programs
  • community health centres
  • government offices
  • dental supply companies
  • consultation-based

They possess dental hygienist training, and are educated to provide dental hygiene services and to evaluate the outcomes of dental hygiene care. They know how to collaborate with other healthcare professionals and can assess individual and community needs.

Self-employed vs. employee

Due to changes in the market, a lot of confusion exists today around the different types of employment options for dental hygienists. The difference between self-employment and employee status is subtle, but extremely important. The wording of a contract can determine whether Revenue Canada decides if the hygienist is an employee or an independent contractor.

It’s important for a dental hygienist to understand the difference, as each type of arrangement has different pros and cons. If you are self-employed, for example, you should have the right to offer your services to more than one dentist and to set your own hours of work. You should be paid based on productivity, meaning a percentage of what each patient you’ve helped was charged. Remuneration should not be in reference to time.

The employment contract between the dental hygienist and his or her employer determines whether the hygienist is an employee or self-employed.

The difference often lies in a subtle wording change:

  • A contract of service establishes an employer-employee relationship
  • A contract for services sets up self-employment

The future

If you want to become a Dental Hygienist, you should know that the role of the dental hygienist is currently evolving in order to help meet the changing oral health needs of society. The population demographics and healthcare trends in Canada indicate that the role of the dental hygienist in community health centres or residential care facilities will increase in the coming years. Private practices will also allow dental hygienists to establish different practice settings, helping the public to obtain oral care services from trained professionals when and where they need it. We are already seeing mobile practices bringing dental hygiene services to remote communities and housebound clients, a trend we expect to gain momentum in the next decade.

Dental hygienists will continue to play an important role in meeting the oral health needs of an aging population, as many Canadians today are able to keep their teeth for a lifetime.

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