My dental hygienist adventures goes to Switzerland

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I chose the country of Switzerland for my dental hygienist’s quest out of pure curiousity. ( No, really!  I work  in the transportation industry, where most of the clientele, whom are bankers, travels to Switzerland at least 3-5 times a year.) This destationation has always been an interesting and intriguing country to me.

When I think about Switzerland, many things come to mind. The decadent and variety of chocolates for export or for consumption, the cheeses that stink so good in gooey fondues, a St. Bernard rescuing a man in a lederhosen playing the world’s longest alphorn… Oh and the Victorinox Swiss Army® watch my mom regrets have given me as a child.

I really never think of the dental or healthcare in Switzerland because it is so close in relation to the USA. The USA and Switzerland are very similar in some areas. They are running neck and neck in the world’s richest country based  on Gross Domestic product (GDP), per capita. One of the other important but common denominator is both countries have universal healthcare. Although, Switzerland Universal healthcare (with similar Insurance Mandate type of Universal health care) started in 1994 ( 20 years prior to US Affordable Care Act 2014), their system does not cover children up to age of 21. Even in elementary schools in Switzerland, parents are responsible to pay out of pocket for cavities, decay, etc. This is a major difference than what the US government promotes.

The dental care therefore, lack of children makes it real evident how young, the dental hygiene profession is. Dental hygiene is only about about 40 years old in Switzerland, starting approximately around 1975. There are currently 4 schools in this country. There’s 2 schools is Zurich, 1 in Bern and 1 in Geneva.  All 4 schools graduate about 70- 80 students per year, total. The program takes 3 years, where the student would then receive a Diploma. The salary earned currently is between $ 28-$32 per hour or $61,152- $69,888 annually.The work week is  about 42 hours with a mandated 1 hour lunch.( In, Switzerland most businesses close between 12PM and 1PM for lunch.)  Overall, there are about 1800 Dental Hygienist in the whole entire country.  Out of the 1800 DH in this country, 95% work in private practice, which means only 5% of dental hygienist practice in a public setting, mainly the school system.

The tasks performed as a Dental Hygienist in Switzerland are: nonsurgical periodontal therapy, removal of supra and subgingival calculus, removal of overhanging margins of restorations, polishing fillings, dental and periodontal charting, tooth vitality testing, radiography, oral health education, anesthesia, office and home bleaching of vital teeth, smoking cessation interventions and nutrition recommendations. The differences are US Dental Hygienist place sealants, provide fluoride treatments and examines & screens oral cavity for cancers.  Lastly, but biggest difference in our tasks is taking medical history. Over the years, the US has realized the oral cavity is a part of the body and links certain systemic diseases to certain diseases of the periodontium.

Today, there are currently opportunities to work as a dental hygienist is Switzerland. You will need a Visa and work permit from the office this is responsible for you.  I would love to travel over there to practice as a clinician and educator( And, of course chocolate!) . Maybe, even work as an advocate to promote dental health care for the children of Switzerland.

Resources:

Switzerland. (n.d.). Retrieved May 15, 2016, from http://www.ifdh.org/wk_abroad/switzerland.html

Global Finance Magazine – The Richest Countries in the World. (n.d.). Retrieved May 15, 2016, from https://www.gfmag.com/global-data/economic-data/richest-countries-in-the-world

List of Countries with Universal Healthcare. (2009). Retrieved May 15, 2016, from https://truecostblog.com/2009/08/09/countries-with-universal-healthcare-by-date/

Working in Switzerland. (n.d.). Retrieved May 15, 2016, from http://www.dentalhygienists.ch/fr/profession/working-in-switzerland.html

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