Although each state determines the path to becoming a Dental Hygienist, becoming certified and licensed is the first step towards an exciting and lucrative career. No previous experience is required prior to becoming a dental hygienist but a plethora of training opportunities are readily available whether land-based or online.
A dental hygienist is the first face a patient sees and is the connection between the dental profession and the community. The majority of dental hygienists have at least an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree and certification are available. For those interested in academia like teaching or research particularly, a master’s degree is an option. Students interested in getting an associate’s degree have the option of community college or technical school located across the United States.
Dental Hygienist Schools in Alabama
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What Does a Gadsden AL Dental Hygienist Do?
The dental hygienist is responsible for the first steps in preventive care when a patient comes into the dentist’s office. The following is a short list of dental hygienist responsibilities:
- Pre-procedure care
- Dental patients
- In-office treatments
- Post procedure care
- Removal of soft and hard deposits from the patient’s teeth
- Examination of teeth and gums to determine whether oral abnormality or disease are present
- Strip the teeth of tartar, plaque and stains
- Root planning
- Applies fluoride or sealants to deter cavities
In addition to the above, in some states, dental hygienists are able to administer anesthetics and other functions that doctors tend to perform including removing sutures, metal restoration polishing, filling applications and periodontal dressing. Additionally, dental hygienists do take on academic responsibilities in educating patients on a regular basis. Dental hygienists do not diagnose disease but they are responsible for preparation and diagnosing laboratory tests. A dental hygienist is part of a team not only in the dental office but in the community.
Dental Hygienist Levels, Training, and Scope of Care
There are four levels of training and education available to those interested in becoming a dental hygienist. Not all levels are required to have a lucrative and enjoyable career but these options are available.
Dental Hygienist (Certification) – Certification as a dental hygienist typically takes two to three years of intensive study. The curriculum outlined in the certificate program includes both laboratory and classroom work so that students get not only academic but practical experience as well. Some of the core classes students in a certificate program will experience include:
- Local anesthesia
- Dental hygiene theory and practice
- General and oral pathology
- Dental pharmacology
Dental Hygienist (Associate Level) – At the associate level, dental hygienist education advances to include supervisory experience in a dental health care professional setting. Students have the opportunity to observe dentists who have specialty areas; for example in preventive care. Students also have the opportunity to lean other clinical activities including teaching patients, conduct oral x-rays, sealing cavities and the application of fluorides for the teeth.
Most associate programs are two years of both classroom and lab training. The majority of associate course room work includes:
- Legal responsibility in dentistry
- Dental materials
- Oral biology
- Nutrition in dentistry
- Community dental health
Dental Hygienist (Bachelor and Master’s Level) – Most students interested in advanced degrees tend to pursue research or teaching as an option or practice in education or public health programs. At the bachelor’s level, these programs of study are considered an entrance into clinical programs. On the master’s level, education, management and research are the focus.
Dental Hygienist Programs Available
There are four types of programs available for those interested in being a dental hygienist inclusive of Degree-Completion, Re-entry, Online and the Master of Science in Dental Hygiene.
The Degree Completion Program include both the certificate and associate programs that aid a student in earning the necessary credits to practice as a dental hygienist or towards a bachelor’s degree. Although a person could become licensed at the associate or certificate level, the rate of pay is greater the higher the education level.
The Re-Entry Program is established for those students who started a program but didn’t finish but wish to continue until completion. In most cases, the credits the student earned prior to are applied during the re-entry process.
Online dental hygiene programs are available for those individuals who lead busy lives but still want to pursue their education. Some of the benefits of online programs include 24 hour access to classroom and resources and flexibility so that the course work is manageable around the individual’s regular life.
The Master of Science in Dental Hygiene is for individuals interested in research and academia that can lead to higher paying employment as they specialize in specific areas.
How Do I Become a Certified Dental Hygienist?
Gadsden AL Dental hygienists are required to take an examination. The National Board Dental Hygiene Examination outlines the eligibility requirements, test regulations, rules of conduct and testing procedures to assist those preparing for examination. Typically, the criteria for sitting for the examination include:
- Graduation from a dental hygiene school that has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation.
- Pass the national board examination within five years before making application for license.
- Pass a clinical examination that is administered by the Central Regional Dental Testing Service, the Northeastern Regional Examining Board, the Western Regional Examining Board or the Jurisprudence Examination specific to Minnesota covering the rules and statues of the Board of Dentistry within five years prior to applying for licensure.
It is necessary to pass all of the above in order to secure licensure through examination. There is also the option of becoming licensed through credentials by:
- Holding or having held a license in a Canadian Province or another state, in good standing;
- Active practice for more than 2,000 hours of the previous 36 months in a US government service, Canadian Province or another state; and/or
- Having passed an approved board clinical examination for licensure in a Canadian Province or another state.
The Gadsden AL Dental Hygienist
Whether you plan to stay and work in Gadsden AL or move elsewhere your Gadsden AL dental hygienist certification and training will qualify you for jobs anywhere in the United States. The dental hygienist career is filled with opportunity starting from certification, bachelor level or with an advanced degree. A career in dental hygiene is stable with great income and benefits. The growth potential within the field is expected to grow exponentially over the course of the next five years. Being a dental hygienist is a great opportunity for both personal and professional development. A dental hygienist is the first person that a patient or an individual in the community sees and experiences. A dental hygienist not only attends to the patient but educates them in the process as to the benefits of good oral health. Whether an individual gets certified, pursues an associate’s degree or goes on to secure an advanced degree, the opportunities for a licensed dental hygienist are promising.
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.