Dental hygienists have never had as many educational and employment options as they have now. There are more possibilities than ever for establishing your career, with training available both in person and online, as well as employment settings that go beyond the traditional clinic. Read on to find out how to become a qualified dental hygienist if you’re interested in joining this fast increasing sector.
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Duties of a Dental Hygienist
Dental hygienists’ specific work tasks include:
- Use Scrapers and polishers to remove tartar, plaque, and stains.
- Use fluoride and sealants as preventative treatments
- Carry out and develop X-rays of the mouth
- Keep track of what happens during cleanings and report back to the dentist
- Assist the dentist with activities such as giving anesthetic and removing stitches during operations.
Education Requirements for Dental Hygienists
Dental hygienists must be licensed in every state, though the standards differ. In any state, however, an associate’s degree is the minimal need for obtaining a license. You may choose to pursue a bachelor’s or master’s degree depending on your job ambitions.
To become a licensed hygienist, you must complete a program that has been approved by the Commission on Dental Accreditation, regardless of the degree you pursue (CODA). Accredited dental hygiene programs have proved that they satisfy the highest educational standards, ensuring patient safety in the future.
Degrees for Dental Hygienists
A dental hygienist must have at least an associate’s degree, while bachelor’s and master’s degrees are also available for individuals who desire to advance in the field. The time it takes to finish your education is determined by the degree you choose. Two to four years is a normal time frame.
Associate’s Degree in Dental Hygiene Associate’s degrees offer you with the requisite level of study to be licensed as a dental hygienist. These degrees usually take two years to complete and are obtained in community colleges or technical schools.
Over the course of your degree, you’ll conduct supervised clinical practice in addition to classroom education that covers the areas listed by CODA. You should get between 8 and 12 hours of hands-on practice every week in your first year when you start offering clinical services. In your second year, this should increase to between 12 and 16 hours of dental hygiene practice.
Dentist/Dental Hygienist Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
Bachelor’s degree programs are meant for dental hygienists interested in more specialized treatment, such as practicing or designing programs in public health or school settings, albeit they are less prevalent. You’ll study dental hygiene in the classroom and in supervised clinical practice, as well as obtain a liberal arts education.
Bachelor’s degrees normally take four years to complete, while an associate’s degree in dental hygiene can be earned in less time. Degree-completion programs are for students who already have their dental hygiene license and wish to improve their leadership abilities or expand their understanding of theory and research. Clinical experience may not be required because you will have obtained hands-on experience during your associate’s program. Indeed, you might be able to finish your degree totally online. A degree completion program should take between 15 and 18 months to complete.
You’ll almost certainly need to complete prerequisites and have a GPA of at least 2.5. High school graduates should have taken the same courses as those required for entry into an associate’s program, and those with an associate’s degree should be familiar with anatomy, radiography, and dental lab supplies.
How to Obtain a Dental Hygiene Certificate
Dental hygienists are required to be licensed by the state in which they practice. You must take and pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination after graduating from an authorized institution. The test is made up of 350 multiple-choice questions divided into two sections: discipline-based and case-based. The test is graded on a range of 49–99, with a minimum passing score of 75.
Each state also has its own clinical exam that assesses your understanding of basic hygiene, anesthetic, and restorative treatments. Additionally, it’s typical to be needed to take a drug and legal exam that covers your state’s specific rules and regulations. If you pass all of the required examinations, you will be able to obtain your license as a registered dental hygienist (RDH).
What Does a Dental Hygienist Get Paid?
Hygienists can earn a respectable salary of $78,050 per year after receiving training in the fundamentals of oral hygiene, evaluating oral health, and advising clients on dental health maintenance. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average wage for all occupations is $56,310.
However, there are some places in the country where dental hygienists are in high demand, so you could earn more, and many people opt to work part-time as dental hygienists because of the high hourly income (nearly $37 per hour on average).
Dental Hygienist Associate’s Degree Tuition
An associate degree in dental hygiene can cost up to $22,692, according to the American Dental Education Association (ADEA). To start working, you usually only need an associate’s degree, and federal aid is frequently available to help with educational expenditures. Learn more about what it takes to work as a dental hygienist.
A licensure exam is also required in most states, however the costs vary. Otherwise, your dental office will usually give you the products and equipment you require.
Why Should You Become a Dental Hygienist?
Take advantage of a work schedule that is flexible.
As a dental hygienist, you can likely find any type of work schedule you desire. Dental hygienists can work full-time or part-time, and many of them only work a few days per week4. You may also work in a floating role, where you rotate between several workplaces during the week. You may typically tailor your schedule to match your particular demands and maintain a healthy work-life balance in this field.
Earn a High-Paying Salary
What does a dental hygienist earn? This is one of the most often asked questions regarding any career you’re considering. Fortunately for you, dental hygienists typically earn more than health technologists and technicians on average. In reality, the median dental hygienist wage in the United States is $74,820 per year, or about $36 per hour5. The national median provides you a good sense of the competitive pay dental hygienists can make. Your actual compensation will depend on elements like where you live and how much experience you have, but the national median gives you a good idea of the competitive salary dental hygienists can earn.
Pursue a role that is in high demand.
The need for dental hygienists is rapidly increasing. Increased dental care is required as the population ages and people keep more of their natural teeth than previous generations. Demand for dental treatments is also being driven by a greater understanding of the benefits of preventative dental care. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for dental hygienists will be particularly strong in rural areas where dental care is scarce6.
Take the quickest route to becoming a professional.
A dentist requires years of training and numerous degrees, but a dental hygienist typically only needs an associate’s degree. Many dental hygienist associate programs take less than two years to finish. Investing in your education and getting a dental hygienist degree could pay off soon, given the attractive salary in this sector.
Working in a Fun and Relaxed Environment
Dentists aim to provide a relaxing and welcoming environment for their patients. These efforts usually result in dental offices being a pleasant and fun place to work. Working as a dental hygienist in this type of setting allows you to deal with people of all ages and backgrounds on a daily basis, easing their worries and ensuring that their visits go successfully. You can even develop relationships with your repeat patients over time.
Assist others in bettering their health
Oral hygiene is important for more than just a pleasant smile. Poor dental health, according to the Mayo Clinic7, can lead to major diseases and other problems with your general health, such as cardiovascular disease, pregnancy troubles, and more. Dental hygienists play a critical role in assisting patients in not just feeling better about their smiles and dental health, but also in leading healthier lifestyles.
Work with your hands
Many jobs require employees to sit at a desk all day, staring at a computer screen. For dental hygienists, however, this is not the case. You’ll be up and moving around the office all day in this job, dealing with both coworkers and patients. You can enjoy the gratification that comes from using both your hands and your brains as a dental hygienist.
Every day is unique.
Every day, dental hygienists see a large number of patients. Even though you’re doing the same duties, each patient will have their own set of requirements, worries, and obstacles. Every patient will require unique interactions, oral care, and dental health education, therefore you’ll need to alter your communication style and approaches accordingly. There are no two days that are the same, and you never know what the day ahead will bring!
Take Advantage of Your Employer’s Potential Benefits
Employers may provide a variety of perks to dental hygienists, including paid vacations, sick leave, insurance coverage, professional membership dues, and tuition assistance for continuing education. The scope of your benefits is frequently determined by your employer and whether you work full-time or part-time.
Wherever you live, you can find job security.
Despite the fact that the world around us is continuously changing, the reality remains that individuals all around the world require someone to properly care for their teeth. Dental offices will almost certainly require dental hygienists no matter where you go. A dental hygienist has always been and will continue to be an important part of dental treatment. Furthermore, since people live longer, there is an ever-increasing pool of patients.
Build a Career as a Dental Hygienist for the Rest of Your Life
Dental hygienists who are fresh out of college can quickly advance into a fulfilling career. Best of all, it’s a job where you can vary your hours to meet your lifestyle and needs as they change over time. Being a dental hygienist provides you with incredible flexibility and benefits throughout your life, from parenthood to empty nesting and even a soft retirement.
Learn about opportunities for advancement in the dental field.
A lot of people who want to be dentists start out as dental hygienists. Earning your associate’s degree will prepare you for a career as a dental hygienist, where you will receive essential experience in the field of dentistry. You can then go on to get your bachelor’s and master’s degrees in dentistry. You can also get advanced degrees in dental hygiene to pursue research, teaching, or other specialized responsibilities in the field. Some firms even provide tuition aid to employees who wish to further their education.
Universities offering Dental Hygienist Associate’s Degree Programs
Central Carolina Community College is a public community college in the state of North
A five-semester AAS degree program in dental hygiene is available at Central Carolina Community College. Students will learn how to gather patient histories, observe anomalies, plan care, teach oral hygiene, clean teeth, take x-rays, and execute other dental hygiene responsibilities and procedures. The program’s graduates will be prepared to take both national and state licensure exams. $6,100 in tuition
Southeastern Technical College (STC) is a technical college
After completing an 86-credit program at Southeastern Technical College, students can achieve an AAS in dental hygiene. The program is structured as a series of courses that educate students for careers in dentistry. The program’s goal is to help students get the academic, technical, and professional knowledge and skills they’ll need to get a job, keep a job, and grow. The curriculum is designed to be completed in six semesters, and new students are accepted each summer. $4,581 in tuition
Central Georgia Technical College is a technical college in central Georgia.
One of the most affordable associate’s degrees in dental hygiene is offered by Central Georgia Technical College. The 83-credit occupational program teaches pupils the knowledge and abilities they’ll need to work as a dental hygienist. The principles of dental hygiene are taught to graduates. Students will also be well-prepared for licensure, employment, and career advancement in the field. $2,446 in tuition
Shawnee State University is a public university in Shawnee, Oklahoma.
The AAS in dental hygiene degree at Shawnee State University is a five-semester curriculum that integrates classroom, laboratory, and clinical training. The 74-credit program is intended to teach and educate competent dental healthcare professionals in oral care services and treatment, as well as dental health education, home care instructions, and food and nutritional counseling. Graduates can sit for the National Board Dental Hygiene examination.
Northern Wyoming Community College is a public community college in northern Wyoming.
Northern Wyoming Community College has one of the best dental hygiene programs in the Rocky Mountain region. Students benefit from the school’s cutting-edge technology and cutting-edge equipment, which give current didactic and clinical experiences. The competitive program accepts 24 students per year and collaborates with the University of Wyoming to provide the option of earning a bachelor’s degree while attending. Rotations to many off-campus clinics are included in the program, as well as a comprehensive on-campus dental hygiene clinic. $8,642 in tuition.
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