How to Become a Dental Hygienist

Are you interested in pursuing a career as a dental hygienist? You’re at the right place, as you’ll learn the step-by-step guide on how to become a dental hygienist in the United States, the skills and education requirements, and the average salary for a dental hygienist.

How to Become a Dental Hygienist

Furthermore, you’ll also learn the duties and responsibilities of a dental hygienist. Also, to practice as a dental hygienist, you’ll need to obtain a degree and meet the licensing requirements for your state of practice.

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Who is a Dental Hygienist?

A dental hygienist is a licensed dental professional whose aim is to prevent and treat oral diseases both to protect teeth and gums and ensure total oral hygiene of patients. They also provide teeth scaling and root planing expertise, administer anesthesia, take x-rays and provide oral hygiene instruction to patients.

Dental hygienists are usually graduates of accredited dental hygiene education programs in colleges and universities and must have written the national board examination and a clinical examination before being licensed to practice.

What Does a Dental Hygienist Do?

A licensed dental hygienist is saddled with numerous responsibilities including:

  • Performing oral health care assessments that include the review of patient’s health
    history, dental charting, oral cancer screening, and evaluation of gum disease /
    health.
  • Exposing, processing, and interpreting dental radiographs.
  • Removing plaque and calculus using dental instruments.
  • Applying cavity-preventive agents such as fluorides and sealants to the teeth.
  • Administering local anesthetic and/or nitrous oxide analgesia.
  • Educating patients on proper oral hygiene techniques to maintain healthy teeth and
    gums.
  • Counseling patients about plaque control and developing individualized at-home oral hygiene programs;
  • Administering smoking cessation programs
  • Counseling patients on good nutrition for maintaining optimal oral health.

Where Can I Work as a Dental Hygienist?

A dental hygienist can work in a wide variety of workplace settings, including:

  • Public health clinics
  • Private dental offices
  • Hospitals
  • Manages care organizations
  • Correctional institutions
  • Nursing home
  • Academia

How to Become A Dental Hygienist in the United States

Below is a step-by-step guide on how to become a dental hygienist.

Obtain a Degree

In your pursuit of becoming a dental hygienist, you must, first of all, obtain an associate degree in dental hygiene or a bachelor’s degree. Although Master’s degree programs in dental hygiene are available, there are relatively uncommon.

For individuals who which to go into research, you’ll need to obtain both a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in dental hygiene.

You can enroll in a dental hygiene program in community colleges, technical schools, and universities. Most of these schools and programs are accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation, part of the American Dental Association.

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Obtain RDH Licensure

In order to become a dental hygienist, you’ll need to be licensed by the state in which you intend to work. However, the requirements for licensure differ from state to state. The general minimum requirement is an associate’s degree from an accredited program. Also earning a bachelor’s degree or advanced degree can be of added advantage as it can earn you a higher salary.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Dental Hygienist?

After high school, it takes about 3 years to complete a dental hygiene program. Important areas of study include anatomy, medical ethics, and periodontics, which is the study of gum disease.

Also, high school students who intend to pursue a career as dental hygienists should take courses in biology, chemistry, and mathematics. Most dental hygiene programs also require applicants to complete prerequisites, which often include college-level courses.

Average Salary of a Dental Hygienist

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary of a dental hygienist is $77,810. The salary range of a dental hygienist in the United States is between $60,100, and over $100,200.

Also, the salary of a dental hygienist may vary depending on the industry. Furthermore, dental hygienists are also entitled to several benefits such as vacation, sick leave, and retirement contributions.

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