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How to Become a Dental Hygienist

Updated on September 3, 2020

Profitable and in Demand Career

As dental practices improve and more people are retaining their teeth longer, the demand for Dental Hygienists is growing. Dental Hygienists and are well paid


To be a good Dental Hygienist, it is not enough to have all the knowledge and skill your education has taught you. To be a really good Dental Hygienist, you must also have good communication skills, enjoy working with people, and have the ability to relate to all patients, regardless of your own personal likes and dislikes.


Dental Hygienists usually work in dental offices or dental clinics. They may also be employed by hospitals, nursing homes and private health clinics. Some work in more than one location. Dental Hygienists work both full and part time, and may, if they choose, work in more than one location. Although, Dental Hygienists usually work a regular day shift, they may, depending on demand, work evenings or weekends.


Dental Hygienists have many and varied duties. They perform a complete examinations of patients' mouths, checking for signs of decay in the teeth and potential disease in the gums. They are thereby able to judge the dental hygiene of their patients and advise them how to improve the health of their mouths and maintain strong healthy teeth throughout their lives. Hygienists also clean teeth, remove stains, and plaque, and apply Fluoride. They take x-rays and administer local anesthetics. They also keep patient records, arrange appointments, and report essential or concerning observations to the office Dentist. Although they may work independently, Dental Hygienists usually work cooperatively alongside a Dentist.


If you wish to become a Dental Hygienist, your first step is to complete High School. While there is would be wise to take courses in chemistry, physics, biology, English, computer sciences, mathematics, first aid, and any health or public service courses available. Speak to a councilor to ensure that you are taking the courses that will be most beneficial to you.

Look into the possibility of 'shadowing' a practicing Dental Hygienist. 'Shadowing' involves following a professional as they go about their daily tasks. This would be an ideal way to ensure that this is a career you would enjoy.

After High School, those who wish to become Dental Hygienists must take at least two years of training. This training is available at technical colleges, community colleges, dental schools and universities. Make sure the program you choose is an Accredited Dental Hygiene Program. To find accredited programs go to the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Accreditation of programs for Dental Hygienists means that the programs have been evaluated by CODA, and are guaranteed to provide all the knowledge and skills needed for a successful career as a Dental Hygientist. State requirements for Dental Hygienists may very, so check these before you make any final decisions.


These programs will cover a variety of subjects including English, chemistry, hygiene, immunology, psychology, pharmacology, and microbiology. Perhaps most important of all, students will have the opportunity to practise their patient care skills in an actual dental office. This is of course done under the supervision of professionals.


After graduation from a two year accredited Dental Hygiene Program, you must obtain a license to practice in the state of your choice. To obtain this license, you must pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam. This exam covers both an applicants practical knowledge and their skill. Once you have obtained a passing grade in this exam, you will be able to seek employment and also have the privilege of using the letters R.D.H. (Registered Dental Hygienist) after your name.


You may choose to continue with your education at a university and obtain either a bachelor's or a master's degree. This can take two or more years, but with an advanced degree, further options for employment will be available to you. This could involve careers in education, marketing, public health, administration, and research.


As with most careers, it is always wise to get all the education you can afford, even if this means continuing your education while already employed. This is obviously never an easy task, but the rewards, including higher salaries, are worth the effort.

The better trained you are, the more in demand your skills will be.


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