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A dental hygienist provides direct care to patients who need teeth cleaning and dental hygiene services. A dental hygienist works closely with dentists and other dental staff to maintain healthy teeth and provide preventative care. To become a dental hygienist, you must attend a 2-year dental hygienist training program from an accredited college, university, or training provider. There are also certificate, bachelor’s and masters programs.
Becoming a dental hygienist normally requires an associate’s degree in a dental hygiene training program. Dental Hygienist schools offer courses in a campus setting as well as online training programs. In 2012 there were over 330 entry level dental hygienist training programs accredited by the American Dental Hygienists Association (ADHA). Much of the coursework focuses on oral health, education/preventive counseling, patient management, clinical dental hygiene, community dental health, medical and dental emergencies, and supervised instruction in pre-clinical and clinical practice. This knowledge is important to provide high quality dental services to patients.
Find Dental Hygienist Schools in your State
Dental Hygienist Exam
Each state regulates dental hygienists differently. Once a student has completed a dental hygienist training program, he/she may be required to pass an exam to become licensed or credentialed. Most dental hygienist schools and accredited programs utilize the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination as the standard. In most cases students must pass an exam to become licensed, certified, or registered in order to practice. Once they have received proper credentials, students can begin working as a hygienist in a dental office.
Dental Hygienist Job Outlook
One common question of any student is, “Where there be jobs when I graduate?” According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the future of dental hygienist jobs is very good. The BLS projects that the dental hygienist market will grow by 38% between 2010 and 2020, resulting in over 68,000 new jobs. This growth is higher than average, when compared to other occupations, such as certified nursing assistant or dialysis technician.
With the economy doing poorly, many young people are wondering what areas can provide long term, stable employment opportunities. It appears that dental hygiene is one of these areas. A dental hygienist training program can help you take advantage of this rare opportunity to begin a new, well paid career.
Dental Hygienist Salary
One of the main reasons students choose a career in dental hygiene is because of the competitive salary. According to the BLS, the average dental hygienist salary in the U.S. is $68,250 per year, or about $32 per hour. It is important to note that this is an average salary which can vary based on location, education, and experience. Dental hygienist salary can be as high as $93,000 in some areas. Dental hygienist training is your first step towards a rewarding and well paid career in dentistry.
Skills of a Dental Hygienist
A dental hygienist will be working closely with patients and other dental staff on a daily basis. There is a skill set, much of which can be learned during the training provided by dental hygienist schools. There are also some other skills that can help a dental hygienist be successful:
Compassion. Dental work is not the most comfortable health care procedure. Dental hygienists need to be aware and compassionate about patient comfort and anxiety.
Attention to Detail. There are specific rules and protocol to diagnosing patients. A dental hygienist must be very detail oriented when following these rules or instructions of a dentist.
Dexterity. A dental hygienist works with a variety of different tools. Being able to work with your hands in tight spaces (the mouth) is very important.
Interpersonal Skills. Working closely with dentists and patients is almost always required. Dental hygienists should have the social and interpersonal skills to do this.
Stamina. Dental hygienists need to be comfortable performing various physical tasks, as well as sitting and bending over for long periods of time while.
Technical Skills. In many cases dental hygienists are required to operate complex machinery and technological equipment at the workplace. Dental hygienist training courses may teach students how to use x-ray machines, in-mouth cameras, and other powered instruments.
Almost all dental hygienists work in a dentist’s office. They work alongside dental assistants and dentists to provide a full array of dental services to patients. Dental hygienists learn to work in a sanitary environment, using protective gloves, eye wear, and masks to protect themselves and patients from infectious diseases. Working as dental hygienist requires long periods of sitting and awkward positioning. Dental hygienist training teaches students how to work in a professional dentistry environment.