The workforce shortage is impacting the dental field as many employers are seeking dental hygienists. A recent survey published in the Journal of Dental Hygiene found that 8% of dental hygienists left the field during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Heather Blair, the co-chair of the Dental Hygiene Program at Vermont Technical College says they hope to recruit more students this fall.

“There is a number that didn’t come back and there is a number that may have just shortened their weeks a little and aren’t working full time anymore,” said Heather Blair, co-Chair of the Dental Hygiene Program at the Vermont Technical College. “Everyone is looking for dental hygienists.”

In May, the school had a graduating class of 16. “I think almost all of them had jobs by March,” said Blair. “Most of them stayed in Vermont.”

The program is changing from three years to two and a half this fall, and the pay for dental hygienists is higher than it’s ever been. “Many of our students this last year are seeing wages that we have never seen before in our field. They are making anywhere from $35 to $45-55 an hour with a three-year degree.”

Blair wants people to know that the job is very different from a dentist. “The dental hygienist in the practice is the one maintaining periodontal disease, gingivitis, educating patients about it, and teaching them about what they can do at home to prevent or maintain the disease if they have it.”

The McClure Foundation partnered with the Vermont Department of Labor to promote “Vermont’s Most Promising Jobs”, one being dental hygienists. “The latest available long-term job projections point to about 450 hygienist openings in Vermont in the coming years,” said Carolyn Weir, Executive Director of the McClure Foundation.

Blair wants people to know this is a career path for people from all different backgrounds. “There is so much good that comes out of the work that dental hygienists do.”

Some scholarships are available for dental hygienists through the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation.