How to Become a Dental Hygienist

How to Become a Dental Hygienist

As the demand for quality dental services continues to rise, dentists are relying more and more on skilled dental hygienists to balance their workload and provide dental services — some of which were once provided only by dentists. Dental hygienists occupy an important role in dental offices and help to ensure that patients maintain their oral health.

What does a dental hygienist do?

Dental hygienists educate patients about oral hygiene, explain oral hygiene issues and procedures, clean and polish teeth, perform preventive dental care, take and develop x-rays, administer dental exams and assist dentists with diagnostic testing. Depending on state regulations, some dental hygienists also perform cavity prevention treatments, temporary fillings, suture removal and the administration of some types of anesthetics.

Dental hygienists typically work part-time and often work in more than one dental office. Most dental hygienists work less than 35 total hours per week. (1)

What kind of training does a dental hygienist need?

Dental hygienists must be licensed in the state in which they practice. To be eligible for licensing, prospective dental hygienists need at least a certificate or associate degree from a dental hygiene school accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation, and pass both written and clinical examinations.

Clinical examinations are administered by state or regional agencies, while the American Dental Association’s Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations administers the written dental hygienist certification examination for all states. Some states also require an additional examination focused on laws and legal issues regarding the practice of dental hygiene.

Dental hygienist training results in an associate degree in most cases; however, certificates alone are accepted by some states. Prospective dental hygiene students who wish to go into teaching, research or particular fields of practice will need to obtain a bachelor or master degree. Click to find out how to become a dental hygienist.

What are the prospects for a dental hygienist career?

As people live longer and advancements in dental education and technology decrease the incidence of tooth loss, the need for dental hygienists will expand accordingly. Dentists are expected to employ more dental hygienists to compensate for increasing workloads and to efficiently provide services to growing numbers of patients. Because of this, dental hygienist employment is expected to increase by 30% by 2016, making this occupation one of the fastest growing career opportunities across all industries. (1) Click to get a list of online dental hygienist school programs.

How much do dental hygienists make?

Dental hygienist salary varies depending on their geographical location and experience. The median base salary range for dental hygienists across the United States is $58,000 to $67,600. (2)

A dental hygienist career is an excellent choice for people who enjoy working directly with patients and have flexibility in their schedule. Dental hygienists provide much-needed services in dental offices and will continue to be in high demand for the foreseeable future. Because of the increasing need for dental hygienists and an attractive salary for an entry level position, becoming a dental hygienist is a solid career choice for students considering the medical or dental field. Click to see a list of schools offering online dental hygienist programs.

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