When choosing a career, everyone wants a job that has a stable income, a better future, and a way to lead a beautiful life. The job of a dental hygienist provides all of these.
The opportunities that dental hygienists now have for education and careers have never been greater. So many people are choosing this profession as a career. If you are interested in this profession then you must be wondering how to become a dental hygienist?
Well, all you need to be a dental hygienist is an associate’s degree in dental hygiene. You can get your degree through a university course or an internship.
Then you need to be licensed as a dental hygienist for your state. Licensing requirements vary by state.
Let’s dig into more details.
How To Become A Dental Hygienist: The Ultimate Answer
To become a dental hygienist you must meet certain education and certification requirements. There are several ways you can earn a degree or a certificate. At present almost all dental institutions offer degrees in this field. It is also available in most community colleges, dental schools, and universities. Many dental hygiene programs are now available online.
All you have to do is pack up all the paperwork and go to the nearest institution or hygiene school to apply for admission.
But before going too deep into these degrees, let’s have a glimpse at what a dental hygienist stands for.
What Is Dental Hygienist?
A dental hygienist is a licensed dental or oral health professional who specializes in the prevention and treatment of oral diseases. A dental hygienist focuses on the prevention and treatment of oral conditions. They work to protect both teeth and gums and to protect the overall health of patients.
They have dental hygienist recognition by obtaining a license after passing a written national board exam. They specialize in treating patients directly. Dental hygienists can also work as academics, administrators, and researchers.
Dental hygienists play a role in maintaining good oral health in patients. They help patients improve their mental and physical health. They can explain to a patient the relationship between diet and oral health.
A dental hygienist also tells patients how to choose a toothbrush and shows them how to brush and floss teeth.
Dental hygienists use a variety of tools. They use their hands most of the time to take care of the patient but sometimes they use heavy tools.
The scope of work of a dental hygienist is very wide. If he wants, he can work with dentists, dental therapists, oral health therapists as well as other dental professionals.
History Of Dental Hygiene
Dental disease prevention methods became popular among dentists and dental hygienists in the late 1800s. At that time, dentists were trained to treat routine prophylaxis in the fight against dental disease.
During that time, Philadelphia D.D. Smith described the prophylactic methods to his colleagues and patience which became acceptable and increasingly popular to everyone.
Dental hygiene began more than a hundred years ago and has continued to change and explore as time goes. Dr. Alfred Fones was the first person to open a school for dental hygienists in 1913. He was the first person to realize the importance of oral care to reduce the bacteria that caused disease.
The School of Dental Hygiene, founded by Dr. Fonsi, still exists, known as the University of the Brigade.
The first person to be trained as a dental hygienist was Irene Newman. He also became the first licensed dental hygenist.
In 1914, members of the first Dental Hygiene graduate class were assigned to a school-based work to highlight the importance of oral care for children.
American Dental Hygienists Association known as ADHA was first established in 1923. After that, the growth of the dental hygienist profession increases significantly. As a result, all the states had licensed dental hygienists by 1952.
As dental hygienist programs spread all over the world, ADHA implemented certain conditions for admission to the program. They first made a high school diploma compulsory for the license.
Until 1940, a course was required to be licensed as a Dental Hygienist. The duration of that course was two years. ADHA then adopted the label “Registered Dental Hygienist” in 1940.
1970 was the turning point in the hygiene industry when ADHA established guidelines for continuing education in dental hygiene. The 1990s were conducive to dental hygiene when dental hygienists registered in fourteen states were allowed to perform local anesthesia.
By 2000, local anesthesia administrations were approved by a registered dental hygienist in more than half of the fifty states.
Dental Hygiene Program
Most institutions or health schools do not require a bachelor’s degree to accomplish a dental hygienist program. First, you have to complete the prerequisites, which usually take you about a year. Once all the prerequisites are done then you can apply for a hygiene degree.
There are hundreds of dental hygiene programs currently approved in the United States. Most dental hygiene programs or courses are two years long.
And in addition to studying dental hygiene, you will earn an associate’s degree in applied science in dental hygiene. An associate’s degree in dental hygiene will teach you how to provide a patient with precautionary hygiene care for teeth and gums, as well as treatment solutions for various oral diseases.
There is also a 4-year program where you get a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene. These programs focus on the deeper subjects than the two-year program. It is developed for dental hygienists who want to study with special care.
Some four-year program topics may contain dental health theory, examination, research, or dental conditions. So It is up to you to decide which degree you want to take.
Dental Hygiene License
After getting a degree in Dental Hygiene, you must get a license as a Dental Hygienist. To get a license, you need to pass an examination called the National Board of Dental Hygiene Exam. If you do not get the pass mark, you will have to take the exam again.
After earning a degree and licensing it, you will be able to work as a qualified dental hygienist. But no matter how educated you are, you need to keep your learning experience going. Because even after you get your degree and license, you must renew that license every 2-3 years. So you must continue studying this subject.
In addition to working in this field, you may want to consider pursuing a bachelor’s or master’s degree in dental hygiene. These degrees can give you a variety of opportunities, including the ability to teach or conduct research.
Once you get a job as a dental hygienist, you should update your resume with newly acquired skills, education, and experience. An easy way to update your resume is to add relevant skills and experience from your old resume to the new resume on the computer.
Role Of A Dental Hygienist
A dental hygienist plays a variety of roles. Just like a dentist, a dental hygienist provides preventive treatment which is important for maintaining oral health. A dental hygienist always greets his patient with a smile and he does his utmost care for his patient.
Dental hygienists do much more than preventive dental treatment. They are trained to answer all questions of their patients and to make actionable recommendations for the improvement of the patient’s oral health.
Dental hygienists play an important role in helping a patient overcome potential dental and gum problems in the future, and in maintaining oral and overall health and well-being.
A dental hygienist has several jobs. These include cleaning teeth and applying dental treatment to check tooth decay, gum examination, adding the patient to the clinic list, and giving him or her knowledge and information about oral health.
As a professional dental hygienist you may need to provide the following service:
- Examine the patient teeth and gums for signs of oral disease.
- Clean and scale patient’s teeth, as well as polish his tooth.
- Apply sealant and fluoride to the patient’s teeth to protect the teeth.
- Take and perform dental x rays
- Remove soft and hard items from the teeth
- Document the treatment plans and patient care
- Advise the dentist on specific dental problems
- Ensure workspaces and tools are clean and maintained
- Educate patients about dental hygiene such as how to take care of teeth.
- Counsel parents about good nutrition in order to maintain good oral health.
A dental hygienist plays other roles such as preparing clinical and laboratory diagnostic tests. However, their main role is to assist the dentist in all the activities of the clinic and to ensure comfortable treatment of the patient.
Educational Requirements and Degrees
To become a dental health professional you need to go through a long educational process.
You need to have some general educational qualifications to apply for a dental hygiene school. The admission for studying dental hygiene varies from college to college. Most of the requirements include the following :
- At least 18 years old
- A high school diploma
- HS course in English, math, chemistry, or biology
- Minimum “C” average grade in high school
- College entrance exam score
Duration Of Associate Degree Programs
Once you get selected for admission, then it will take 2 years to complete a diploma or associate degree in dental hygiene. Some degrees may take up to 4 years to complete, but most of them will probably take two or three years.
The duration of completing a dental hygiene course depends on the syllabus within it.
Dental Hygiene courses include Dental Anatomy, Oral Pathology, Oral Histology, Radiology, Pain Control, and Dental Materials. There are some more courses like Microbiology, Chemistry, Nutrition, and Pharmacology which are also required to meet the requirements of a Dental Hygienist.
Dental Hygiene Course’s lesson
By completing a dental hygiene degree, you will learn a lot about dental hygiene. In a dental hygiene course, you will find the following classes :
- Oral health education
- Clinical procedures
- Cardiac life supports
- Community dental health
- Dental emergencies
- Preventative maintenance
- The practice of ethical dental hygiene
There are some practical classes as well where you can have real experience with patients of all ages. At present, some institutions in the United States offer dental hygienist students the facility to perform free practical oral examinations.
Online Courses And Degrees
Many dental hygiene courses and degrees are now available online. You can study this subject online and get a degree if you want. Online course’s requirements are pretty much the same as normal courses.
Online courses are a great way to study dental hygiene as there are so many resources available. Besides you can save a significant amount of time and travel costs.
However, keep in mind that dental hygiene is a practical task. It has to be learned by hand. So even if you take the course online, you still need to complete the personal clinical experience to prepare yourself for the responsibilities of a dental hygienist.
How To Become A Registered Dental Hygienist
After finishing your study in dental hygiene, you need to go through some other processes to become dental health professional. A dental health professional refers to RDH which means registered dental hygienist. You need to complete the following steps to become a registered dental hygienist :
- completing a regional clinical program.
- getting a High school and college transcript
- passing a national board written test
- passing a state law taste
- paying a fee to get a license
Once you get your license, you need to renew it within two to three years. So you must continue your education to keep your knowledge up to date.
Currently, the American Dental Hygienists Association has defined a more advanced level of dental hygiene, known as a dental therapist. Through a special procedure, you can also go from dental hygienist to dental therapist if you want.
So do you still have doubts about how to become a dental hygienist? Don’t worry. Keep reading. There is much more to know.
Dental Hygiene Schools and College
There are dental hygiene schools in every state in the United States. Various institutions offer degrees in Dental Hygiene as well.
It takes 4 years like in other programs to get a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene. You must have a high school diploma or equivalent to enter the bachelor’s degree program, but many dental hygienists enter the bachelor’s degree program with an associate degree or certificate to help them expand their skills and advance their careers.
Here are some best universities in the United States to complete a Bachelor of Science in Dental hygiene.
University of Pittsburgh – The University of Pittsburgh offers students the opportunity to pursue an associate or bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene. This university has a comfortable and unique environment for dental hygienists.
The multidisciplinary program prepares students to pursue a career as a dental hygienist, and the course allows graduates to pursue a career in art sales, business, public health, or research.
New York University – New York University offers an associate’s degree in dental hygiene, offering students a variety of benefits. For example, all students have the opportunity to stay with clinical specialties in Orthodontics, Pediatric Dentistry, and more before graduation and can also work directly in a hospital clinic.
Ohio State University – Ohio State University is the only public university in the state to have a dental hygiene program, with BSDH and MSDH pathways in dentistry. It is one of the largest public dental schools in the United States.
Through the program, students receive appropriate training and the program combines classroom instruction with laboratory and clinical experience. Besides, the postgraduate degrees that are designed for students are fully available online.
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor – The University of Michigan School of Dentistry offers BSDH and MSDH degrees, and usually attracts the students who want to be future leaders in this field. Basically, the bachelor’s program gives students a comprehensive education on everything.
Students here are not only taught about dental hygiene, they are also taught about social and behavioral sciences. Faculty Researchers believe that this combination of studies is the best way to prepare leaders in this field in the future.
Almost all universities offer Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Dental Hygiene. So it is up to you to choose which college you want to study at to get your degree.
Required Skills To Become A Dental Hygienist
To be a dental hygienist, you must have knowledge and skills in this subject. Knowledge and skills can be acquired through the study and the acquisition of degrees in this field.
However, in addition to technical knowledge and skills, dental hygienists need to have the following skills:
- Strong and adaptive communication skills (Both written and verbal)
- Problem-solving skills
- Ability to behave confidently and friendly
- Critical thinking skills
- Ability to follow guidelines and work efficiently
- Basic computer skills
- Strong personality
- Ability to communicate with children and old patients
- Ability to work for a long time
The above skills are not mandatory for becoming a dental hygienist. But these skills will help you build a good career and make your job easier as a dental hygienist.
Duties And Responsibilities Of Dental Hygienists
When it comes to responsibilities, dental hygienists have more responsibilities than most other professions. Their responsibilities are not limited to just one clinic or one organization. They often have the flexibility to work part-time or full-time in a variety of fields.
They perform various duties and responsibilities in dental hygienists, public health agencies, hospitals, and nursing homes. They use a variety of tools.
They use their hands most of the time to take care of the patient but sometimes they use heavy tools.
The primary responsibility of dental hygienists is to take care of patients’ teeth. In addition to this work, they help in the development of more advanced procedures. The duties and responsibilities of a dental hygienist include:
- Providing dental health education about dental care and diet.
- Helping treat and prevent gum disease.
- Make sure patients feel as comfortable as possible before the test.
- Teaching patients about proper tooth-cleaning techniques.
- Taking X-rays and reviewing them for dental symptoms.
- Identify conditions such as gingivitis, caries, or periodontitis.
- Assisting dentists in selecting appropriate treatments for various ailments.
Work Place And Environment For Dental Hygienists
The scope of work of a dental hygienist is very wide. As a dental hygienist, you can work with dentists, dental therapists, oral health therapists as well as other dental professionals.
Dental hygienists work in a pleasant environment. Their workplace is conducive to health. Most dental hygienists work in the dentist’s office. These offices are generally clean, nice, and well decorated.
Dentists often hire dental hygienists just to work 2 or 3 days a week. So as a dental hygienist, you can hold jobs in multiple dental offices. Aside from the dental office, you will find dental hygienists working in schools, private institutions, nursing homes, research facilities, and health administration.
How Many Hours A Week Do Dental Hygienists Work?
Generally, a Dental hygienist works between thirty to forty hours a week. Part-time jobs are also common in this sector. Dental hygienists working in dentist’s offices can work overtime in the evening and late nights.
Earnings And Salaries
Income varies depending on geographic location, education, and years of experience. Dental hygienists may be paid on an hourly, daily, monthly, or commission basis.
One of the good things about this job is that you can earn a lot of money. The average annual salary of a dental hygienist is $ 77,090 which is higher than many other professions.
Entry-level hygienists may earn less in the dental office, while those in teaching, research, or corporate positions will probably earn more.
Hygienists working for government health agencies get many benefits. They get health insurance and retirement plan as well.
Potential Career Related To Dental Hygiene
By studying dental hygiene, you can also choose other professions related to dental hygiene. If you want, you can switch your profession from dental hygienist to the following profession.
Dental Assistant – The job of a dental assistant is to assist the dentist with dental patients, perform clerical functions and prepare patients for surgery or other procedures.
Dental Office Manager – A dental office manager conducts operations, leads the office staff, and organizes the necessary equipment. His main job is to do the general maintenance of a dental office.
Registered Nurse – Registered nurses provide patient care, educate the public about various health conditions and provides counseling and emotional support to patients and their family members.
Dentist – A dentist diagnoses and treats problems in a patient’s teeth, gums, and related parts of the mouth. He provides advice and guidance on dental and gum care and food choices that affect oral health.
Why You Should Consider A Career As A Dental Hygienist
The career path you choose will affect the rest of your life and so before you choose your career, you must know why you are choosing this career.
As you have already known all the things about how to become a dental hygienist, it is time to know why you should consider a career as a dental hygienist.
There are many reasons to choose a career as a dental hygienist. Some of the many reasons are given below.
The excitement in work – As a dental hygienist, you will never find this job tedious. You get to meet people from all walks of life. Knowing about people can lead to a friendship with many.
Multiple opportunities for improvement – You can continue your education while working as a dental hygienist. By pursuing an advanced degree, you will have the opportunity to enter leadership and educational positions in the hygienic field.
Job Security– Job security is important because stable workers want to keep themselves in a good financial position, and want to be satisfied with their job. A job as a dental hygienist will give you security in all these cases. Currently, almost all dental hygienists are employed. So if you choose dental hygienist as a career, the chances of being unemployed are very low.
Opportunities for self-employment – Being a dental hygienist offers self-employment opportunities. For instance, you can open your own dental hygiene clinic and then go to a community health center to tell people about it, Or elsewhere in your community.
Flexible Schedule – Dentists hire a dental hygienist two to three days a week. So you can work in more than one dental office as a dental hygienist. Moreover, the offices are often open during the day, evening and weekend, from which you can choose whichever shift is most suitable for you.
Being a dental hygienist can be a fulfilling career for those who want to serve people and have a passion for work.
Dental hygienists have jobs that pay a lot more and their working hours are more flexible than almost any other profession.
They also have a job that serves people. If you become a dental hygienist, at the end of the day, you will be much more proud of your work than anything else.
So, have you got the answer to how to become a dental hygienist? I think you know the answer now.
Good luck with your dental hygienist career!
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