How To Become A Dental Hygienist: A Simple Step-by-Step Guide

Not everyone relishes the thought of a dental visit due to the potential costs, intimidating procedures, and the invasive nature of dental treatments.table basse belvedere soigner tennis elbow naturellement cravatta fai da te amazon orologio chiusura a scatto porta fonendoscopio littmann crema per occhiaie nere amazon tuyau tireuse sedia viso puma suede pink satin north face zenith herren herren adidas derby vulc herren sneaker weiss blau rot maglione natale amazon dreirad toys amazon short eau teppich auslegware günstig online kaufen amazon

However, within the confines of a dental office, there exists a group of seasoned professionals adept at easing patients’ concerns, minimizing discomfort, and fostering a more positive experience—these professionals are dental hygienists.

An effective dental hygienist possesses a reassuring demeanor and a steady hand. They communicate with patients using empathy and respect, elucidating intricate procedures and their significance.

A genuine passion for oral health and a commitment to aiding patients in leading healthier lives are essential qualities for dental hygienists.

For those who thrive in collaborative environments, relish challenges, and aspire to make a meaningful impact, the path to becoming a dental hygienist holds promise.

This profession is not only in high demand but also offers substantial remuneration. Moreover, dental hygienists have the unique opportunity to positively influence the well-being of each patient who walks through their office doors.

Continue reading to discover the steps to embark on a fulfilling journey as a dental hygienist.

What Does a Dental Hygienist Do?

Simply put, dental hygienists are healthcare professionals who have completed a recognized dental hygiene program and hold a state license to provide oral healthcare.

Their main job involves carrying out various preventive care methods for patients and evaluating their oral health. Dental hygienists collaborate closely with dentists, and depending on the state regulations, they might perform tasks independently.

The specific duties of a dental hygienist are typically determined by the overseeing dentist, and this can vary based on the state and the workplace.

Dental hygienists have opportunities for career growth, such as pursuing bachelor’s or master’s degrees. In some states, there’s even the option to undergo additional training to become dental therapists.

As of 2022, about 93% of the roughly 219,400 dental hygienists in the U.S. were employed in dental offices, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Others worked in physician offices or for the government. Many dental hygienists opt for part-time work, and some may even work at multiple dental offices.

Daily Responsibilities

Typical tasks involve getting rid of tartar, stains, and plaque from teeth; putting on sealant and fluoride; and capturing X-rays. Sometimes, hygienists do things like pulling out baby teeth and replacing crowns.

Dental hygienists spend a good chunk of their day hands-on, cleaning teeth using a mix of manual and powered tools. They also utilize ultrasonic gadgets and, in certain cases, lasers.

An air-polishing device, which sprays a blend of water, air, and baking soda, is a common tool for stain removal. To guard against infectious diseases, they use safety glasses, surgical masks, and gloves, which are all part of their essential tools.

Essential Skills

Effective communication is a key aspect of being a hygienist. When talking to dentists, hygienists need to clearly convey a patient’s oral health status. With patients, they must provide guidance on maintaining healthy teeth and gums, offering education on proper brushing, flossing, and selecting oral care tools.

Dealing with patients in pain or apprehensive about dental treatment requires a gentle approach. Empathy is crucial, as hygienists may need to counsel patients on lifestyle choices and the connection between diet and oral health.

In addition to interpersonal skills, dental hygienists should be meticulous and well-versed in industry best practices, aiding dentists in assessing and treating patients. Strong problem-solving and critical thinking skills are also essential. Given their hands-on work in confined spaces, dental hygienists must possess good manual dexterity and fine motor skills.

Where do dental hygienists typically work?

Dental hygienists primarily work in dental offices, maintaining a schedule that varies from part-time to full-time employment. However, some dental hygienists choose to work in diverse health care settings, expanding beyond the traditional dental office environment. These alternative settings include schools, public health clinics, hospitals, managed care organizations, and nursing homes or long-term care facilities.

For those pursuing advanced degrees and additional training, the horizon broadens even further. Opportunities may arise in teaching at postsecondary schools, engaging in sales and marketing of dental equipment, overseeing public health programs, and managing dental offices and health care clinics. This diversity of options allows dental hygienists to explore varied and rewarding career paths based on their interests and aspirations.

How to become a dental hygienist

Requirements for becoming a dental hygienist can vary by state, but in most cases, you’ll need at least an associate degree, have to pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, and obtain a state-issued license for the specific location where you plan to work. If you’ve got your eyes set on this career early on, consider taking high school courses in chemistry, biology, and math.

Here’s a breakdown of the steps you should take to pursue a career in dental hygiene:

1. Get an associate degree.

An associate degree is a must for starting a career as a dental hygienist. While there are bachelor’s and master’s degree options, they are less common and typically needed only for roles in teaching or research.

You can find numerous associate degree programs in dental hygiene at community colleges, vocational schools, technical schools, and some universities. The American Dental Association reports over 300 accredited programs in the United States.

Typically taking about three years to complete, these programs include a mix of lectures, lab work, and clinical practice. Subjects covered range from anatomy and medical ethics to periodontics, nutrition, pathology, radiology, and patient management. Depending on your career goals, you may also delve into topics like public health or marketing.

2. Ace the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination.

After wrapping up your associate degree, it’s time to tackle the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, administered by the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations (JCNDE). This 350-question test is split into two parts, covering both discipline-based and case-based items.

3. Fulfill State Licensing Requirements.

Once you conquer the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, delve into the specific licensing needed in the state where you plan to work. The requirements can differ, so it’s crucial to know what’s expected. Typically, completing an accredited dental hygiene program, passing the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, and succeeding in a state or regional clinical board examination are prerequisites for obtaining a license.

4. Hone Crucial Workplace Skills.

Being a dental hygienist means daily interaction with patients, dentists, dental assistants, and office staff. To shine in this role, you’ll need to develop strong people skills. Some days may involve comforting nervous patients, while others require seamless collaboration with fellow dental professionals to ensure top-notch patient care. Key Workplace Skills:

  • Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving: Every patient’s oral situation is unique, demanding a tailored plan of action.
  • Communication Skills: Your daily conversations will span patients, dentists, office staff, dental assistants, and even patients’ families.
  • Detail-Oriented: Crafting a diagnosis or action plan requires a keen eye for the specifics of each patient’s case.
  • Dexterity: Much of your role involves hands-on work, demanding precision and adept handling of dental instruments in tight spaces.

5. Explore Further Training.

Beyond the basics, many dental hygienists opt for additional training.

With a bachelor’s degree, avenues open up in education, various clinical settings, school health programs, or public health initiatives. Pursuing a master’s degree broadens possibilities to include roles in education, research, health care administration, advanced clinical positions, and public health.

Continuous education is often a requirement, ensuring you stay abreast of the latest practices and discoveries in dental hygiene. These courses, whether mandatory or optional, contribute to your ongoing professional development.

Average Salary Of A Dental Hygienist

As per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the typical yearly income for a dental hygienist is around $77,810. The salary spectrum for dental hygienists in the United States spans from $60,100 to over $100,200.

Keep in mind that the salary of a dental hygienist can differ based on the industry they work in. Additionally, dental hygienists receive various benefits, including vacation time, sick leave, and contributions towards retirement.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Dental Hygienist

How long does it take to become a dental hygienist?

Becoming a dental hygienist usually takes about two years, and nearly every state mandates graduating from an American Dental Association-accredited dental hygiene program.

For a full-time student, completing the requirements for an associate degree in dental hygiene typically takes around two years, while a part-time student may finish in about three years.

In contrast, earning a bachelor’s degree requires 4-5 years, depending on whether you’re a full-time or part-time student.

Is being a dental hygienist a good job?

Absolutely. Dental hygienists play a crucial role in helping people and communities. Moreover, the Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates the creation of approximately 19,000 new dental hygienist positions from 2021 to 2031.

What’s even more enticing is the earning potential. In May 2021, the top 10% of hygienists brought in over $100,200, with 90% of professionals earning more than $60,100.

What’s the difference between a dental hygienist vs. a dental assistant?

Dental hygienists team up with licensed dentists to clean teeth and spot dental issues. Meanwhile, dental assistants aid dentists during cleanings and fillings by managing tools like mirrors and suction tubes. They also take care of administrative duties such as scheduling appointments, billing patients, and keeping supplies in order.

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