Dental Hygienist Careers
Dental hygienists are licensed, oral healthcare providers who work with dentists to prevent and treat oral disease and promote good oral health. Becoming a dental hygienist is a great choice for a secure, well paying job in healthcare without requiring a four-year degree. Dental hygienists are the dental workers who clean and polish your teeth before the dentist examines them. They clean the soft and hard deposits from your teeth, look over your teeth and gums for any abnormalities, take dental x-rays, and also teach you how to take care of your teeth and clean them properly. In some states, hygienists are legally allowed to perform more advanced duties, such as administering anesthetics, to placing and carving fillings, removing sutures, or preparing diagnostic tests for the dentist to examine. They all must follow strict guidelines, such as observing proper safeguards when taking dental x-rays, as well as wearing safety goggles, surgical masks, and gloves.
Become a Dental Hygienist…
- Career Plan: How to Become a Dental Hygienist
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Dental Hygienist Education
In order to become a dental hygienist, you will have to earn at least an associate degree from an accredited dental hygiene program. The Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), which is part of the American Dental Association (ADA), is responsible for accrediting schools. According to the American Dental Hygienists’ Association, there are 323 accredited entry-level programs as of 2010. Most of these offer associate degrees, but 51 of them offer bachelor degrees. In these programs, your course work will cover many sciences, such as chemistry, microbiology, pharmacology, physiology, anatomy, and nutrition. You will also study periodontology, which is the study of gum disease, dental materials, nutrition, and pathology. Additionally, coursework will cover topics like patient management, oral health education, and medical and dental emergencies.
Additional Dental Hygienist Requirements
Passing the licensure examination is the final step toward this career. The American Dental Association’s (ADA) Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations gives this written exam. Passing the exam is required in all states except for Alabama, which administers its own state licensing exam. Once you have earned your degree and passed your licensing exam, you can work in a dentist’s private practice. There is room for advancement as well with the appropriate experience and additional education. With a bachelor’s or master’s degree, you could advance beyond working in a private practice and explore research, teaching, or working in public health.
Salary for a Dental Hygienist
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 50% of dental hygienists work part-time, so this is a great career choice if you require a career with part-time options or flexibility. The outlook for this professions is very good, as dental hygienist jobs are projected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to grow at a rate of 36% in the period from 2008 to 2018, which is much faster than average. The median annual salary was $67,340 in 2009, with the top 10% of earners making over $92,000, and the top quarter of earners making nearly $80,000. Not all hygienists receive benefits such as paid vacation or sick pay, but this can vary based on your employer and whether or not you are employed full-time. This growth is in part due to a growing aging population who will need more dental care, as well as a greater understanding that good dental health is an important influence on overall health. Additionally, just like nurses, dental hygienists are often performing tasks that dentists would have performed in the past, as it is more cost-effective. All of these reasons contribute to this promising growth of this profession.