Dental hygienists have so many opportunities for their education and careers. Especially now that there are multiple dental hygienist settings to work in. Demand for dental hygienists is on the rise. If you are interested in entering into this field for your career, here is a step-by-step process on how to become a dental hygienist.  

Understand the job description

Before you apply to a program or school for a dental hygiene career (interlink-Dental Hygienist Programs, Schools, And Training Page), you should check if choosing this career path is the right decision for you. A dental hygienist’s job requires you to be detail-oriented since you might have to work on multiple tasks at once. You should also be great at interpersonal relationship building and communication. Many personality traits correspond to an efficient dental hygienist, which may not apply to all. Thus, you need to assess if you have the competence to become a dental hygienist.  

Choose A Dental Hygienist Program

You should select an accredited dental hygienist school. CODA is the only approved agency to accredit dental hygienist programs. To begin your career, you can earn an associate’s degree to familiarize yourself with the job. To achieve a high-level position of work, you can further study for a bachelor’s degree. Some schools offer a master’s degree in dental hygiene. The master’s programs are for those with work experience who want to move on to more administrative roles.   There are several paths you can take to earn certifications:   Volunteer at a dental office-

Doing some volunteering work or an internship at a dental center can give you on-the-job training. It may help you get a dental hygienist role in some states.

Get an associate degree- Earning an associate’s degree is the most common path towards becoming a dental hygienist. It takes two to three years to complete these programs. These programs are best for students aiming to get an entry-level job. You can also earn the certification needed for employment. An associate’s degree course includes subjects like mathematics, English, and psychology.

Get a bachelor’s degree- Having a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene can help you stand out in your application when looking for a job. It is a four-year program where students receive clinical training. These programs also include anatomy, physiology, microbiology, nutrition, humanities, and social sciences. A bachelor’s degree will give you more employment options, such as education, research, administration, etc.

Get a master’s degree- Professionals in the field with work experience can work towards a master’s degree. This program is for advancing to other professions in areas like public health, management, and consultants.   You can also choose what type of schools to go to earn your certification. You are free to choose which school to go to, but it is advisable to attend an accredited school. It will ensure that you receive a quality education as well as a guarantee for broader job prospects.

Technical colleges-  The dental hygienist programs at these schools take less time to complete (1 year). You can enter the workforce after earning an associate’s degree from technical colleges. Since these programs are short duration courses, they are intensive. Because the courses at technical colleges are intensive, you might miss out on some critical skills.

Community colleges- The dental hygienist programs at community colleges last up to two years. They are more comprehensive than technical colleges. These programs also include studies related to health care law and evidence-based research.

Colleges and universities-  Colleges and universities that offer dental hygienist programs are generally attended by those who want to earn a bachelor’s or a master’s degree. They also offer associate’s degree but are not typically applied to by students. Since they cater to a wide variety of students and areas of study, these schools tend to give students more exposure.

Online Dental Hygiene Programs-  A more recent and popular way of earning your certification is through online courses. All the lessons are taught online through different platforms. Sometimes you might have to attend on-campus classes for lab work or fieldwork. These programs are more sought after by students because they provide flexibility to the students.    There are some pre-requisites for applying to these dental schools. These requirements may also vary depending on the school, but some standard pre-requisites are:   Achieve a specific score on high-school level examinations (SATs)   Complete a high school diploma or its equivalent

Submit letters of recommendation from concerned authorities.   Earn a CPR certification as a provider   Submit a background check   Follow the proper application process Complete payment of fees

Complete Your Educations and Dental Hygienist Training

These programs allow you to understand your job as a dental hygienist better. After completing your coursework, you will be able to understand the needs of different types of patients. The dental hygienist programs provide students the chance for clinical practice so that they can earn their license. It also teaches you about your state’s dental practice laws. 

Pass The National Board Dental Hygiene Examination

  The National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE) is offered by the American Dental Association (ADA). The exam scores are on a scale of 49–99. You have to score a minimum of 75 to pass this exam. The test comes in two parts: discipline-based and case-based. Each state also has a clinical exam that tests your knowledge of essential dental hygienist duties. Some conditions may also need you to take a drug and law exam.  

Earn Your Dental Hygienist License

Dental hygienist licensure is granted by each state. In most states, you will have to take the NBDH exam and pass your state or regional clinical licensure exam. This chart by the American Dental Hygienist Association (ADHA) details the credentials/endorsement required by each state. Upon obtaining a dental hygienist license, you will have to renew this license every 1-3 years. Registered dental hygienists must continue classes and renew their CPR certification annually.  

Finding a job as a dental hygienist

Salaries and job outlook for dental hygienists (interlink-Dental Hygienist Salary And Career Outlook Page) are attractive. To increase your employment chances, you should consider getting all the necessary certifications. Although an associate’s degree can earn you an entry-level job as a dental hygienist, your employability and even your earnings can increase if you have higher academic qualifications. According to the BLS, the vast majority of dental hygienists are employed in the offices of dentists, although there are also those employed by physicians’ offices and government institutions.

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