How to Become a Dental Hygienist?
The dental hygienist profession is a significant one focusing mainly on disease prevention and oral health promotion.
You would notice that most dental diseases have solutions and dental hygienists can help prevent any such conditions.
Do you also want to know how to become a dental hygienist so that you can help people with their dental issues? If so, you would need efficient knowledge of how to become one.
The profession of a dental hygienist is a promising and well-rewarding career in the dental career field.
With the ever-increasing dental market of 37 billion US dollars by 2021, the value of dental hygienists and other dental professionals is also increasing.
Let’s have a closer look at the specific requirements, steps, and processes of how to become a dental hygienist and get into this profession, and qualify for the position.
Dental Hygienist- The Responsibilities
Dental hygienists provide optimal care of patient’s oral health by carrying out different inspections and cleaning procedures.
When needed, assist dentists in maintaining the patients’ good oral health by educating them on proper oral hygiene.
It requires an associate degree in dental hygiene plus state licensure. Suppose you consider this field and want detailed information on how to become a dental hygienist.
We are here to help you proceed and advance in your career.
In that case, you must obtain a bachelor’s or preferably a master’s degree in dental hygiene to reach positions beyond dental hygiene to teaching and research.
Patience, detail orientation, positivity, and strong interpersonal and decision-making skills are also essential for you as your duties require you to stand for prolonged hours.
As a dental hygienist, your responsibilities include
- Plaque, tartar, and stain removal from a patient’s tooth by cleaning
- Perform dental X-rays
- Assist a dentist as needed
- Administer local anesthetics before their procedures
- Apply fluorides and sealants on teeth
- Documentation of overall treatment
- Educate patients on oral hygiene
- Use a variety of tools to perform their duties
Choosing A Dental Hygiene School
When you want to become a dental hygienist, you have to look for a school that provides proper programs for the profession of a dental hygienist.
- It should employ quality instructors, be properly accredited, and should offer hands-on, informative classes and curriculum.
- Furthermore, you should also check if the school you are selecting fits into your budget or not. You can go to the fees section of the school and check the tuition and fees required. You can compare the fees of different schools and choose the one that fulfills your requirements.
- The programs should be sufficient enough to allow you to prepare effectively for the licensure exams, as it’s critical to become a dental hygienist.
CODA Standards for Dental Hygiene Programs
When you want to become a dental hygienist, you should also adhere to the CODA (Commission on Dental Accreditation) standards of interest for hygienic dental programs.
CODA is a programmatic accreditation agency in the USA for dental or dental-related education programs that you will notice during the post-secondary level.
Let’s get an overview of some of the CODA standards for dental hygiene education programs for your understanding.
It will allow you to understand what you should be able to do along with your dental studies.
- The ability to adequately collect patient data for the identification of oral or physical health status
- Provide patient-based treatment and evidence-based optimal care to minimize oral health risks.
- Competent in communication and interpersonal skills to interact with diverse patients
- Competent in different problem-solving strategies to manage and help patients with their dental problems
Getting knowledge about these standards will allow you to become a better dental hygienist. You can enhance the skills that are mentioned in the above-mentioned points along with your dental studies.
Choosing a Dental Hygiene Program
An appropriate dental hygiene program can ensure candidates become prospective dental hygienists by selecting an accredited dental hygienist school. Consider these before choosing a dental hygienist program:
DH Degrees Types
An associate’s degree is the lowest for a dental hygienist. Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees are the higher ones. The duration to complete your education depends on what you choose- from 2 to 4 years.
Associate In DH.
The Associate’s degree, as we have discussed, is the minimum must-have qualification for licensing earned at community colleges or technical schools, taking about two years to obtain.
It covers both classroom coursework outlined by CODA and supervised clinical experience. In the first year, you spend 8 and 12 hours on hands-on practice per week, increasing up to 12 to 16 hours of dental hygiene practice in the second year.
Admission in any dental hygiene program requires the completion of prerequisites with a GPA of 2.5 or higher, including subjects like Anatomy, Biology, Chemistry, Sociology, etc.
Bachelor In DH.
This degree is specified for dental hygienists as a more specialized qualification in dental hygiene, participating in supervised clinical practice. You will also be educated in liberal arts.
Bachelor’s degree, also known as degree-completion programs, is for students who already have obtained a dental hygiene license and have advanced further in the field and developed knowledge of theory and research.
Since they have hands-on experience in an associate’s program, clinical experience is not necessary. You can complete the Bachelor’s program online in 15 to 18 months.
You should have obtained a GPA of 2.5 or higher. A High school graduate should have studied the subjects needed for an associate’s program. If you have already successfully obtained an associate’s degree, you should know anatomy, radiology, and dental lab materials.
Master In DH.
This is the next level of a DH degree which can enable you to work at an administrative level, conduct research, or teach.
A master’s degree in dental hygiene is the best option for higher-level roles like oral disease prevention specialists, community program directors, or dental health and education program leaders.
The program takes 1–2 years and requires the completion of a capstone project.
You must have a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene or a related field that covers the prerequisites for enrolling in a Master’s program.
It includes a GPA of 3.0 or higher, a valid dental hygienist license, acceptable scores on the GRE, letters of recommendation, and a possible career statement or a current resume.
Dental Hygiene The Online Platform
If you need to know how to become a dental hygienist and do it online, we have good news for you.
Online programs exist for you to enjoy the flexibility, but you must have earlier in-person clinical experience or have a descending degree in dental hygiene.
Having already completed your clinical expertise by earning your Associate’s degree, you can obtain your Bachelor’s entirely online.
DH Licensure Requirements
The dental hygienists’ licensure requirements vary from state to state but have a common goal for the licensure process that ensures dentists meet professional standards and maintain patient safety.
A governing body with the outlines to modernize the state licensure process in the dental field monitors the whole process to address the use of single encounter, procedure-based examinations.
The licensing authority of the state licensure requires applicants to meet these three essential requirements regardless of the state:
- An associate’s degree in dental hygiene
- Candidates need to document evidence for passing both parts of the NBDE for U.S. licensing jurisdictions.
- The U.S. licensing Authorities require a clinical requirement, and the state boards of dentistry use a regional testing agency to administer this examination.
The state Board of dentistry monitors dentistry practice within the state. The state legislature limits the board’s authority which includes:
- Establishment of licensure qualifications and standards for training and conduct.
- Issuance of licenses to qualified applicants.
- Declaration of rules that apply to individuals who practice in this profession.
- Taking disciplinary action for misconduct on the job.
Apart from your degree in dental hygiene, you need to attend a program approved by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) to become a licensed hygienist.
Accredited dental hygiene programs ensure you are eligible as per the quality standards for future patient safety and education.
DH License Renewal
You must renew your license typically every 1–3 years and pay the necessary fees as determined by your state.
Dental Hygienists enjoy other perks and benefits apart from their fat paychecks and flexible schedules. Half of the dental hygienists work part-time while still earning above-average salaries.
Dental hygienists can pursue additional training in education, business administration, marketing, and public health, which help them find more specialized and high-level roles while increasing their earning potential.
How much does a dental hygienist school cost?
The cost that you would incur in getting into a dental hygienist school depends on the program and school that you are choosing.
The American Dental Hygienists’ Association lists the average cost of an associate degree in total to be approximately $22,692.
If you undertake the baccalaureate degree, then its estimated total cost is $36,382. The master’s degree is $30,421.
What’s the difference between a dental assistant and a dental hygienist?
A dental hygienist’s role is to provide optimal clinical patient care, whereas dental assistants usually go for administrative duties such as recordkeeping, appointment scheduling, or billing.
Based on salaries, dental hygienists earn more than dental assistants.
What’s the average salary of dental hygienists?
As per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the salary of a dental hygienist depends on different factors such as position, education, experience, and work setting.
We have mentioned most of the significant factors regarding how to become a dental hygienist.
We hope that this article allows you to get all the basic information and you can get going in the profession of a dental hygienist.
I am a dedicated healthcare researcher and an enthusiast specializing in medical grants, medical education and research. Through my articles, I aim to empower healthcare professionals and researchers with valuable insights and resources to navigate these critical aspects effectively.