How To Become A Dental Hygienist

Dental Hygienists
Dental hygienists are one of the most important members of the dental healthcare force. Working alongside dentists they provide dental care by cleaning teeth and examining patients for oral diseases like gingivitis. They also educate patients on various dental health issues. The job outlook for dental hygienists is very good. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the profession is expected to grow at a rate of 38 percent, which is faster than the average for all other professions. The BLS stated that dental hygienists earned in excess of $65,000 annually in 2010.

Dental Hygienist Job Description
During the course of his/her professional life, a dental hygienist will perform the following duties:

  • Educate patients on oral hygiene; tell them how to brush and floss properly
  • Keep track of patient care and treatment plans
  • Take and develop dental x rays
  • Apply sealants and fluorides to help protect teeth
  • Remove tartar, plaque, and stains from teeth

As mentioned earlier, dental hygienists do not work independently, but under the supervision of dentists and dental assistants. One of the greatest features of the job is the flexible work schedule. A majority of dental hygienists work part-time for one dentist, which allows them to work for more than one dentist. Dental hygienists use gloves, surgical masks, and safety glasses to protect themselves and the patients from infectious diseases. However, the hardest part of the job will require bending over for long periods of time to work on patients.

How To Become A Dental Hygienist
All dental hygienists need to be licensed. In addition, they must hold an associate's degree in dental hygiene. This is not to suggest that advanced college-level degrees in dental hygiene are not available or not pursued by dental hygienists. However, a majority of employers require only an associate's degree; advanced degrees in the field are usually held by those who are interested in teaching, research, or clinical practice in public or school health programs. If you are a high school student who is interested in becoming a dental hygienist then you might want to take courses in mathematics, chemistry, and biology. Some dental hygiene programs may be more selective than others in their enrollment process.

An associate's degree in dental hygiene may also be available through accredited online degree programs. Online programs provide schedule flexibility which may not be available in on-campus courses. Online courses are accessible from the comfort of one's own home. These programs are also great for older students who may not want to study with students half their age, and for students who may not want to attend classes on campus. Online courses may also be cost-effective as compared to on-campus courses.

Is The Profession Right For You?
If you are wondering whether to pursue a career in dental hygiene, you should consider the following qualities that many successful dental hygienists possess:

  • Technical skills
  • Stamina
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Dexterity
  • Detail oriented
  • Compassion

Dental hygienists perform an important role in the dental healthcare for many people. They are well respected in the society for the invaluable service they provide.

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