A dental hygienist works with a dentist in taking care of patients’ dental needs. The path to becoming one is less rigorous than that of becoming a dentist. In this article, we will give you a roadmap on how to become a licensed dental hygienist.
What does a dental hygienist do?
A dental hygienist is a trained oral health professional, who will help a dentist in his practice. He may conduct patient’s initial assessments, oral exams, clean teeth and even teach patients how to take care of their teeth. They can either work in private dental practices or in hospitals and other healthcare institutions. They may even help with taking X-rays and assist the dentist during procedures.
How do I become one?
Although the requirements vary state to state, on average, you will need an Associate degree in Dental Hygiene. This will take about two years, including hands-on clinical experience. After completion, you will need to get a license. Studying in an accredited school is very important for earning your licence. To get the license, you will have to pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination conducted by the American Dental Association, and you may also have to clear a regional clinical exam.
If you wish to advance in this field, you may want to pick up a bachelor or a master’s degree. Developing a good interpersonal skill is very important for this profession along with the technical competencies. The Dental school will teach you about the physiology, the tools and procedures to follow. The lab and clinical duty will help you apply your skills in the real world.
The mean annual salary of a dental hygienist is about $72,720, depending on where you work, etc. The profession has a few significant challenges. Since you are not a dentist, you will always have to work with one. Your hours will not be like that of a doctor. So, get used to shifts and rotations. The awkward positioning needed during cleaning, etc could take a toll on your body. So it is important to learn good body mechanics and stay in shape from the beginning to ensure a pain-free profession.
If you want to move up in your career and work beyond being a hygienist, consider a master’s degree. This education is geared at leadership and advocacy positions rather than staying as an assistant to a dentist. Though it may look very narrow in the beginning, there are lots of opportunities for advancement.