How To Become A Dental Hygienist
This guide is for those who are interested in entering the profession of Dental Hygienist or if you have a loved one or friend that is considering it. More and more colleges with dental hygienist programs are getting interest from high school graduates in the field of oral health. And that interest is predicted to continue as it will remain one of the fastest growing jobs through to at least 2018. There are many reasons for its popularity, it pays well, there are jobs out there and because of the nature of making appointments you can control whether you work full or part time.
A dental hygienist can work for themselves, in a dental hygiene clinic, in a research setting, in academia or alongside a dentist in a dental office. The profession of dental hygienist involves various skills and duties including education patients about dental hygiene, a balanced diet and proper oral care, cleaning teeth and removing tartar and plaque, preparing for x-rays and taking dental molds, using sealants or fluorides to help prevent decay. It is the responsibility of a dental hygienist to encourage and carry out mostly preventative oral care whereas a dentist looks at treatments and procedures that are more complex.
Prerequisites to become a dental hygienist
If that above sounds like a job you would enjoy you need to earn either a certificate, an associate’s degree in dental hygiene or a bachelor’s degree. The first degree takes two years to complete and the bachelor’s at most schools take four years, though there are some courses at some colleges that offer it in three. To obtain this qualification you need to achieve the prerequisites all schools or colleges will have. While the specifics or names of these prerequisites can vary somewhat all will have prerequisites to be able to enter their dental hygienist program. Do be sure you have chosen a program that has been accredited too.
Completion of high school or equivalent as well as passing the entry examination scores for that college is usual. Already having a year of college completed including some of the prerequisite courses is also in most cases needed. If you are aiming to enter a research, management or academic position a master’s degree is often required. Not all schools that offer an associate’s or bachelor’s will offer a master’s so be sure to check.
Once you have been accepted into a program you can expect classes to take place in both classrooms and laboratories as well as being involved in clinical studies. A two year course will cover specific topics to become a dental hygienist such as the names and use of various instruments, training and practice of those instruments, pharmacology, dental anatomy, microbiology, chemistry, microbiology, histology, clinical oral hygiene and physiology. In a four year degree alongside those same subjects you will also cover some behavior sciences, humanities, communication, English and other general studies.
When the program is finished
When you have finished the course and passed, you will still need to pass some examinations before you can get your license to practice as a certified dental hygienist. This is just a start. These are state and national exams and are clinical and written. It is important you take and pass the state exam in the state you intend to practice in. While not every state asks you to pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, most do. Check into what exactly is required in the state you wish to work in.
You should also be aware that the responsibilities of dental hygienists can actually vary a little from state to state. Your general ones of inspecting teeth, educating patients, keeping concise records and cleaning still stand but in some states you can actually perform some duties that are for dentists only in other states like polishing metal reconstructions, administering anesthetics, removing stitches, putting in non permanent fillings and using periodontal dressings. If you want those additional duties you need to look into which states allow you to carry them out.