How to Become a Dental Hygienist

How to Become a Dental Hygienist
"Dentist.2" by Erik Christensen - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dentist.2.jpg#/media/File:Dentist.2.jpg

Dental Hygenist: A Quick Look
Median Salary $70,210 per year $33.75 per hour
Entry-level Education Associates degree and a state license
On-the-job training None
Primary employers Dental offices
Number of positions (U.S.) 192,800
Job Growth (2012-2022) 33% (Much faster than average)
New positions (2012-2022) 64,200

How to Become a Dental Hygienist

“Dentist.2” by Erik Christensen – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dentist.2.jpg#/media/File:Dentist.2.jpg

Dental Hygienist Job Description:

Dental hygienists work closely with people every day of the work week. The primary Dental Hygienist job description revolves around examining and cleaning patients’ teeth. They remove plaque and tartar from teeth. They also obtain patients’ medical information and document any issues patients have had with their teeth. Dental hygienists also serve as educators. They teach patients about preventative strategies to avoid disease and infection such as proper teeth brushing and dental flossing techniques. You can discover more about the Dental Hygienist job description.

Dental Hygienist Salary:

The BLS* estimates the median value of a dental hygienist salary at $70,210 per year (or $33.75 per hour). As you can imagine, the high Dental Hygienist salary (compared to the loose education requirement) spurs on a solid influx of new professionals in the field.

How to Become a Dental Hygienist:

Dental hygienists almost always hold an associate’s degree in dental hygiene. Some individuals choose to attain a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene. However, this distinction is typically not required to work in a private practice. If you are interested in teaching or doing research, it may be beneficial (or necessary) to hold this aforementioned bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene. Since dental hygienists work closely with people, it is important to have strong social and communication skills. They should also be perceptive and able to read people fairly easily. Find out more about How to Become a Dental Hygienist here

FIND LOCAL OR ONLINE DENTAL HYGIENIST SCHOOLS AVAILABLE TO YOU

Dental Hygienist Job Outlook:

According to the BLS*, the Dental Hygienist job outlook should grow by approximately 33% between 2012 and 2022. This projected growth is much faster than almost all other occupations. along with the average of all other jobs (11%). There will continue to be a need for dental hygienist and dentists as dental hygiene is an important field. The Affordable Care Act should provide more individuals with greater accessibility to medical and dental care. This should lead to an increased demand for dental hygiene services.

Dental Hygienist Salary:

The median wage of all employed dental hygienists was estimated by the BLS* to be $70,210 in May 2012. The Dental Hygienist salary is much higher than the median annual wage for all occupations within the United States ($34,750). The lowest 10% of dental hygienists employed within the United States earned less than $46,540, and the top 10% of dental hygienists in the United States earned more than $96,200. Pay may fluctuate slightly based on the location of the dental office the hygienist works at. For example, pay may be somewhat higher in an urban dental office than in a rural dental office. Also, years of experience as a dental hygienist may also influence salary. In 2012, more than half of all dental hygienists in the United States worked part-time jobs. Some of the highest paying dental hygienist positions are located in metropolitan areas in California. In these areas, dental hygienists can anticipate earning from $99,000 to nearly $113,000.

How to Become a Dental Hygienist

If a person is interested in learning how to become a dental hygienist, it is beneficial that they start planning for their education early. This will help them down the road as they get into their focused dental hygienist studies. It can be helpful for high school students who are interested in a career in dental hygiene to take advanced mathematics and science classes (such as biology). After high school, people who want to become dental hygienist should enroll in associate’s or bachelor’s degree programs for dental hygiene. Most people choose to pursue an associate’s degree in dental hygiene. A bachelor’s degree or master’s degree is beneficial and may be necessary for individuals who want to teach in a dental hygiene program or complete research pertaining to dental hygiene. Dental hygienist programs are typically offered at community colleges or technical schools. Some dentals schools also offer dental hygiene programs. There are currently over 330 programs created for the study of dental hygiene. Many of the programs take approximately 2 years to complete. Bachelor’s degree and master’s degrees typically take 4 or more years to complete. It is important to note that the path to become a dental hygienist is different than the path to become a dental. You cannot jump from being a dental hygienist to being a dentist very easily. Dental hygiene students typically take courses on human anatomy and physiology, microbiology, chemistry, dental hygiene, radiology, pathology, and pharmacology. They may also be required to take basic general education classes such as English and psychology. Following completion of an accredited dental hygiene program, dental hygienists are required to acquire licensure in the state they want to work in. Licensing requirements vary from state to state. You must pass your state dental hygiene exam in order to obtain your dental hygienist license. Dental hygienists cannot work without a license.

Dental Hygienist Job Description:

The Dental Hygienist job description perform a variety of tasks all while working closely with people. Dental hygienists clean patients’ teeth by scraping away tartar and plaque, polish teeth, take x-rays, examine teeth and gums for signs of diseases and cancer, inquire about patients’ medical histories and issues they have experienced with their teeth, apply sealant material to teeth to protect from cavities, apply fluoride treatments to teeth, and educate patients about proper teeth brushing/dental flossing techniques. The job of a dental hygienist requires flexibility both when working with a variety of patients and when creating a work schedule. The Dental Hygienist job description requires that the professionals must be able to work some evenings and weekends in order to accommodate patients’ schedules. Dental hygienists should appreciate variety and diversity as they will likely work with a diverse population of patients. For that reason, it is important that dental hygienists be understanding and compassionate towards their patients. During various dental procedures patients may experience pain or may have fears about receiving dental care. Dental hygienists should be able to support and encourage patients all while taking care of the patients’ dental needs. This career also requires close interaction with other staff members in a dental office. Therefore, strong interpersonal skills are extremely beneficial to dental hygienists. They work closely with dentists in additional to patients. Dental hygienists may spend a great deal of their time standing and bending over patients as they clean their teeth and perform procedures. It is beneficial if dental hygienists have some degree of physical stamina to keep up with the physical demands of this career. It is beneficial if dental hygienists maintain their physical fitness so as to prevent stress and strain on the joints. Dental hygienists use their hands throughout their time on the job, all while working in the small confines of patients’ mouths. As a result, dental hygienists must be rather nimble with both hands in order to handle the instruments used for dental care. Good hand-eye coordination is essential for dental hygienists. Some dental hygienists serve as educators for their patients. They may go into schools to teach children proper oral hygiene techniques. Within the dental office setting, dental hygienists often help their patients master the proper oral hygiene techniques. They may need to instruct patients on specific groups of teeth that need more attention during teeth brushing or on the correct way to dental floss teeth. It is important to be aware that dental hygienists may be exposed to various illnesses and diseases when treating patients. For that reason, dental hygienists must wear various protective equipment such as face masks, plastic or latex gloves, face shields and safety glasses, and disposable gowns. A dental hygienist must be able to work comfortably and effectively while wearing various protective equipment. It is important for dental hygienists to be able to cope well with stress as the job of a dental hygienist can become quite stressful at times. What does a dental hygienist do? The typical job attributions of a dental hygienist can include the following:
  • Apply fluorides to add a layer of protection to teeth
  • Educate patients on proper oral hygiene techniques
  • Take x rays of patients' teeth
  • Track patients' dental care plans and files
  • Remove tartar, stains, and plaque from the patients' mouth

Dental Hygienist Job Outlook:

The Dental Hygienist job outlook appears extremely good. The expected growth of dental hygienist employment is 33% from 2012 to 2022. As society becomes more aware of the benefits of preventative dental care, the demand for dental care services should also continue to rise. The Dental Hygienist job outlook is far greater than the combined average of all occupations within the United States (11%). The large number of people born during the baby boom from 1946 to 1964 will also require specialized dental care as they age. Additionally, the passing of The Affordable Care Act should provide more individuals with greater accessibility to medical and dental care. This may lead individuals who previously could not afford medical and dental care to seek such services quite possibly for the first time. These combined factors lead to great job security and growth in the field of dental hygiene *All the numeric data in this article was provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), www.bls.gov.

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