Education and training to become a dental hygienist means getting a certificate or degree from a dental hygiene school that is accredited and a state license to practice. There are many options for securing certification or degree and attending an online school is both a convenient and cost effective option.
What is a dental hygienist?
A dental hygienist is a licensed professional that specializes in oral hygiene and preventative oral health. There are three types of services that dental hygienists offer their patients (1) therapeutic service to stop disease and make sure there are healthy tissues in the mouth; (2) preventive service to promote and maintain a healthy mouth; and (3) educational services so that patients foster good habits that promote better oral health. The educational services also help patients understand how important these good behaviors are in maintaining their oral health. Dental hygienists work alongside dentists to provide optimal health care.
What you will learn as a dental hygienist
Students in dental hygienist school will learn how to perform all dental hygiene services including effective preventative health services and programs, therapeutic oral care, community dentistry and the utilization of instructional techniques.
Training to become a dental hygienist
Most dental hygienists hold an associate’s degree that allows for entry level jobs in a dentists’ office. Other programs provide Certification in dental hygiene. Each state requires all dental hygienists to become licensed through test and evaluation.
Job Outlook for a dental hygienist
The career outlook for dental hygienist is promising and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the field will expand nearly 40% over the course of the next five years. The Bureau also suggests that dental hygiene is one of the fastest growing fields of all occupations because of the increased demand for good sound dental care and the increased need for well trained dental hygienists. Dental hygienists can work in a variety of fields including dental hygienist, dental equipment sales, dental lab technician, public health administration, healthcare administration, teaching and research. Salary expectations for dental hygienists are also promising. Earnings do vary by geographical location, educational level, years of experience and where the dental assistant works. Hourly, salary and commission based employment is available. According to national averages dental hygienists earn nearly $30.00 per hour and roughly $62,795 on a yearly basis.
Where Dental hygienists work
Dental hygienists can work in several arenas including private practice, health departments both state and country, sales and marketing, academia, pharmaceuticals, educational software development, clinical dental hygiene, research and dental insurance companies. Leadership roles in public health, education, health advocacy, commercial ventures and other professional associations are also a part of the work dental hygienists perform.
Certificate and Degree Options for Dental Hygienist
Associate Degree – The majority of dental hygienist hold an associate’s degree. A degree at this level allows for entry level positions in a dentist’s office. There are a number of community and junior colleges that offer this two years degree.
Bachelor’s Degree – This four year Science degree includes other areas of course study in science and other components of undergraduate education including composition. The four year degree is more broad and less directed and focused specifically on the specific skills needed as a dental hygienist.
Master of Science Degree – The Master of Science in dental hygiene is a two year program completed after the undergraduate degree is done. With this degree a candidate is able to not only teach but command the highest level of compensation as a dentist’s assistant.
Average Salary for Dental Hygienists
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for a dental hygienist is $66,570 with a certificate or Associate’s degree in dental hygiene. The job outlook in this area is high and there is expected job growth of nearly 36% over the next 5 years.
Resources to help in Selecting a School
There are many online resources that will assist in selecting the right school and in getting licensed through your state of residence.
The American Dental Association’s Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations offers certification examinations that are accepted throughout the United States.