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How to become a Dental Hygienist

Updated on March 10, 2012

If you are aspiring to go into dentistry, you could enter the field by studying to become a dental hygienist. Your primary task is to teach patients the importance of preventive dental care. You would usually work with licensed dentists, and would be assisting them in helping patients achieve good dental health.

Dental Hygienist
Dental Hygienist | Source

College or University?

There are several dental hygienist programs available in dental schools as well as in community and vocational colleges that can prepare you for this career. You can choose between a certificate program that may last for about 2 years or go through the more extensive 4-year program in a university.

The requirements for admission to a dental hygienist training program vary from one school to another. Some may only require you to have already completed a year in college, while others may ask you to submit your college entrance test results. Find out what the school where you intend to study would require for admission.

If you have already made up your mind that becoming a Dental Hygienist is the career path you would want to take, it is best to prepare for it early by taking more classes in high school, specifically math and science subjects such as chemistry and biology. By doing so, you would be increasing your chances of being admitted into a dental hygiene program.

After completing your training, you would have to pass a written and clinical exam administered by your state, in order to acquire your state license. This license will allow you to work with a professional dentist or work in a government-owned hospital where you would be tasked to provide preventive dental care to patients.

There are also many dental hygienists who choose to continue their studies to become dentists. They could support their studies while working, and at the same time gain the experiences that could prepare them well for a career as a dentist.

dental floss
dental floss | Source

Attitude and Skills

It is not enough to have the training and the license to succeed as a dental hygienist. It is also necessary that you have the right attitude for the job. Having good communication skills is essential, because you may encounter patients who may not easily be convinced to sit on a dentist's chair.

You should practice good hygiene, yourself, since you are teaching patients to practice good health through hygienic practices. One thing you should remember is to always keep your hands looking clean. Keep in mind that your job requires you to put your hands in someone's mouth and therefore, you should keep them looking clean all the time.

To succeed as a dental hygienist, you could join a professional organization like the American Student Dental Association where you can learn about the latest news in the field. It is also a good venue for networking with others in the same profession, and obtaining information that can increase your potentials for career advancement.


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