How to Become a Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists are in demand, and there are more opportunities than ever for people entering the profession. So what exactly do dental hygienists do and how do you become one?

What Does a Dental Hygienist Do?

Dental hygienists play a critical role in protecting the oral health of patients. They clean teeth and gums during dental visits, check the condition of the teeth, and pass on oral health tips to patients. They work one on one with dental patients during teeth cleanings and assist dentists when more complicated dental work is needed.

People sometimes get dental hygienists and dental assistants confused. Dental hygienists mainly assist dentists with dental work. Dental assistants tend to work on the administrative side of things, by keeping the dental clinic running.

If you are interested in science and health and enjoy working with people, you might find a career as a dental hygienist satisfying.

Dental Hygienist Education

Dental hygienist educational requirements vary state by state, but no matter where you live you’ll at least need to have an associate’s degree in dental hygienics to begin training. There are bachelor’s and master’s level programs, too, so you can take your education further if you have the interest.

The Commission on Dental Accreditation or CODA certifies educational programs, so you’ll want to look for a program that is accredited. If you don’t attend a program that is accredited, you won’t be able to become a licensed dental hygienist, which means you won’t be able to get a job upon graduation.

Dental hygienist programs cover four topic areas:

  • General education – These courses cover the essentials of oral and written communication, as well as psychology or sociology
  • Biomedical sciences – These classes provide grounding in anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, immunology, and nutrition
  • Dental sciences – These classes provide an overview of dental basics, including tooth morphology, oral pathology, radiography, and pain management
  • Dental hygiene – These classes provide information on oral health education and promotion, patient services, dental infections and dental hazards, and special needs of dental patients

Getting Established as a Dental Hygienist

After training, you’ll need to get licensed by sitting for the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination in order to get hired as a dental hygienist. Many states require that dental hygienists also take a test on dental drugs and laws, so they are able to practice effectively. Once you pass the test, you’re free to look for work but you will need to get your license renewed periodically. To renew the license, you’ll need to pay the fee and take the required amount of continuing education courses.

Once you’re licensed, you can apply for jobs. Dental hygienists work in a range of environments, including schools, hospitals, private practice, and public health clinics.

If you’re looking for a satisfying, in-demand job in the healthcare fields, consider dental hygienics. The dental hygiene field offers stable employment, satisfying wages, flexible schedules, and the ability to make a demonstrated impact in people’s lives.