If you would like to pursue a career in health sciences but are unsure about which path to take, learn more about one of the lesser known health professions right here.
What is an Oral Hygienist?
You might be wondering what an oral hygienist is? They are licensed primary health care providers, who contribute to better oral health. Oral or dental hygienists clean teeth, examine patients for signs of oral diseases such as gingivitis and provide other preventive dental care. They also educate patients on ways to improve and maintain good oral health. It is all about preventative oral care.
Where to Study?
You can obtain a Bachelor of oral hygiene degree, which is a 3 year degree, and is offered in Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, University of Pretoria, Witswaterand University and the University of Western Cape.
There are numerous employment opportunities for an oral hygienist in areas, such as academia, military health services, government dental hospitals or clinics, private practice, and independent practice.
I, for example, am a qualified oral hygienist who, in 2016, graduated from Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University. I then got an opportunity to work with a dentist in a modern dental practice called Dr. Kgomotso Sepeng in Pretoria Karenpark for 2 years. Then I got another job in academia at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University in 2018 as a junior lecturer in the Community Dentistry Department Oral Hygiene Section. I also work at Dr BA Motlhake Inc, an upmarket dental practice in Constantia park Pretoria East as a part-time oral hygienist. I am a member of a steering committee of the POHF (Pulbic Oral Health Forum). Also, I am furthering my studies as I have recently completed my Postgraduate Advanced Diploma in Community Dentistry with Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University and am enrolled for Master of Public Health with UNISA.
Being an oral hygienist has made me realise the essential role I have to play within the primary health care and preventative dentistry sector, within South Africa. It may not be the greatest field but is surely a great field to pursue a life rewarding purpose and passion for serving the nation. I am Itumeleng Maleka, and I am a proud oral hygienist.
While being an oral hygienist is not the top career choice for most students, it is a noble profession. Much like nursing, oral hygienists are needed by both dentists and patients. Everyone needs to maintain good oral health in order to live a happy and fruitful life.