Have you had thoughts of Becoming a Dental Hygienist? Or wondered How to Become a Dental Hygienist?
Most of your time spent in a dentist’s office will be with the dental hygienist. Either having your teeth cleaned or examined for any signs of damages or oral infections. But, have you ever paused to wonder on how you actually become a dental hygienist? What training and education requirements are involved in this part of oral health?
What might surprise you is that becoming a dental hygienist is far more involved than you might imagine. It requires specific personal and academic skills that includes: attention to detail and a high degree of empathy with the patients you’ll be working on. Here’s a quick overview of what you’ll need to become a fully qualified dental hygienist.
You can begin your preparation for working in this field of oral healthcare as early as high school, especially if you’ve already decided that you want to work in dental hygiene when you graduate from high school. The main subjects you can and should focus on are biology, chemistry, mathematics and English, while also working to maintain a high grade average too. Having a solid understanding of chemistry and biology, for example, will give you a head start in the academic area of this career as most colleges have selection criteria based on your GPA in general science subjects.
If you want to become a dental hygienist there are strict academic requirements which must be met before you can start working as a dental hygienist in any dentist’s office. The first thing you’ll need is an associate degree in dental hygiene from an accredited dental hygiene school or college. In some cases a certificate in dental hygiene may be acceptable, but you’ll find that the vast majority of practices will require a minimum of an associate degree before you’re permitted to work directly with dental patients.
You’ll need to commit to at least a 2 years of education to get your associate degree, after which time you can also continue your education as a dental hygienist to either bachelor or master’s level if you wish.
Check out this post to find out the difference between an associate degree vs a bachelors for a dental hygienist.
Check out this post for more information on requirements on becoming a dental hygienist.
In addition to the academic requirements for becoming a dental hygienist there are some personal skills and characteristics which are also important to having successful career in this field of oral healthcare. For example you’ll typically be dealing with between 8 to 10 patients each day so you’ll need to enjoy working in a fast-paced environment. You will also need to be capable of high levels of manual dexterity because typically you’ll be working with very small dental instruments in and around a patient’s mouth. In fact many accredited colleges will require you to pass a dexterity test as part of your degree program.
One of the most critical skills is attention to detail and being able to work within strict medical protocols as part of that – remember that your role is as much about preventing future dental and dental-related health problems as it is remedying the patient’s existing dental issues.
It’s also worth remembering that you’ll be working with patients who may be distressed for a number of reasons, including the basic childhood fear of being at the dentist, so part of your everyday role will be to keep patients calm. This means that having a solid foundation in interpersonal and communication skills is also very, very important in your role.
Once you’ve successfully completed your associate’s degree in dental hygiene from an accredited college you’ll then need to be licensed by the American Dental Association. The licensing process itself varies from state to state but you will need to show proof of your degree and also pass a clinical and written exam before your license is granted. The American Dental Association website can provide you with more information on the specifics of becoming licensed in the state you intend practicing in.
Fortunately dental hygiene is one of those areas of medicine which is never going to decline simply because people will always have teeth which need to be cleaned and thoroughly examined. In fact dental hygiene is becoming more popular than ever based on the fact that people now have a better understanding of how their dental health is related to their health overall. The field of dental hygiene is predicted to grow by almost 40% between now and 2018, so career prospects for dental hygienists look very bright from now until 2020 and beyond.
How much you can actually earn as a dental hygienist will all depend on the dental practice you’re actually working. However the average salary earned by a dental hygienist in the United States is around $70,7000, but it can be as much as $93,000 per year. Even at the very low end of the salary scale you can expect to be paid well over $40,000 for working in this role.
There can also be other benefits outside of the base salary including vacation, sick leave and other financial bonuses, again all depending on the practice you’re working with.
Hopefully we’ve been able to answer most, if not all, of the questions you had on how to become a dental hygienist. It’s a fascinating and rewarding career for anyone with the right mix of interpersonal and academic ability.