Are you a self-employed dental hygienist or thinking of becoming one? Most of us feel, for better or worse, we’re familiar with the role. Hygienists of course, are the people who look after our teeth in between dentists appointments.  It’s partly thanks to hygienists we are all more informed about oral care.

If you have trained or are training to be a dental hygienist you will have studied for two or three years taking one or two of the General Dental Council (GDC) approved courses.  After qualification, CPD is mandatory.  As well as removing plaque and cleaning and polishing, dental hygienists have an important role in educating patients and demonstrating good oral hygiene.

The availability of dental hygiene services varies a great deal between practices. However, once you research job opportunities you’ll find working hours alone are not sufficient to determine whether you will be self-employed or not.  HMRC has some guidance on this which is useful if you are weighing up your options. For example, some dental hygienists only work at one practice, either full or part time. Typically in such a role you receive benefits including holiday entitlement, maternity pay and sick leave.  As an employed hygienist you pay income tax and Class 1 National Insurance Contributions. From a career development point of view you may have less variety in your work, but have the certainty of income and benefits paid by your employer.

There are obvious benefits to a dental practice of having self-employed hygienists. From your point of view, if you go this route, the tax position of being self-employed is more attractive but that’s only part of the picture. It is certainly more risky being self-employed since you have to find your own work. You also have to deal with your own NIC and tax affairs for which it’s worth hiring an accountant before you start working.  Other costs may include your own instruments and some self-employment insurance is essential.

Insurance is a big deal for medical professionals. As a self-employed dental hygienist, you need liability insurance as a minimum but can also consider cover for when you’re unable to work. As an employee, you may be entitled to a range of benefits beyond statutory provision including sick pay. The same is not true if you’re self-employed.  A number of different types of policy give you some level of cover. These include income protection insurance which pays out when you can’t work and keeps paying out until you’re back at work.