Best Jobs

Canada’s Best Jobs 2014: Dental Hygienist

Way more than just cleaning and flossing

Dental Hygienist working on a young patient

(Boston Globe/Getty)

Median Salary: $70,637
Change in salary (2007–2013): -0.1%
Total employees: 22,600

If you fancy working in the dental health profession but can’t see yourself enduring or affording all those years of dental school, starting a career as a dental hygienist might be a good option with a good income and a positive employment outlook.

How to Qualify: All dental hygienists in Canada require a college diploma in dental hygiene, after which they must write the National Dental Hygiene Certification Board exam (Quebec’s dental hygienists are exempt, however). You must also register with the governing body that oversees the dental hygiene profession in your province. It’s important to note that some provinces allow dental hygienists to administer anaesthesia, while others do not—generally the training in these provinces mimics whether or not those in the profession are able to perform this task. So, if you’re moving to a province where dental hygienists handle anaesthetics but didn’t receive training, you may need to get this extra qualification before starting work.

Money: According to the Canadian Dental Hygienists Association, which conducts salary surveys for the profession (the last one was completed in 2013), the average hourly rate for dental hygienists across Canada is about $40.18. Salaries differ according to experience and location as well. Respondents to the CDHA survey who were under the age of 30 had an average hourly rate of $36.57, while more experienced dental hygienists made an average of $42.96 per hour. Alberta is a promising place for the profession right now, and those willing to move to less populated areas of the country might also have better luck in finding a job.

Outlook: Employment and Social Development Canada categorizes “dental hygienist” as a “technical occupation in health care,” and measures the employment outlook for this job alongside dental technologists, lab bench workers, denturists and dental therapists. Employment in this category decreased between 2008 and 2010, but fortunately the number of job seekers and job openings is expected to be even into 2020.

What it’s Like: The daily work of a dental hygienist is never boring, says Simone d’Entremont, a registered DH who works in an orthodontic practice in Yarmouth, N.S. From assisting with braces and dentures, to cleanings and cavity detection, “every new client that comes in is someone totally different with different needs,” she says. One of the biggest misconceptions about dental hygienists, adds d’Entremont, is that they are simply there to act as assistants for dentists. Certainly, dentists need to confirm the diagnosis of cavities and other issues and play an integral role in the health of their patients, but they are helped greatly by the 30 or 45 minutes that a dental hygienist spends assessing someone’s oral hygiene. “It’s more than just cleanings,” says d’Entremont. “It’s up to the hygienist to find [things] that can be really serious sometimes, if not treated.”