BECOMING A DENTAL HYGENIST
Becoming a dental hygienist may be for you – read on and see if it’s the direction that you would like to go in for your future career.
WHAT IS A DENTAL HYGIENIST?
The dental hygienist is usually the person you see more than the actual dentist at the dentist’s office. When you go for your cleaning, the dental hygienist is the one who does it. They usually work with an assistant (which is very different than a hygienist due to the amount of training and school that is involved to become a hygienist). There are also other tasks that hygienists do, including:
- Cleanings and fluoride treatments
- Teach patients about oral hygiene
- Teach patients about preventative care
- Examine teeth
- Record any abnormalities or areas of concern for the dentist to check out at the end of the appointment
The dental hygienists are the hands and feet of the dental practice, and they do a lot of hard work in the office.
WHAT EDUCATION DO I NEED?
The education that you need in order to become a dental hygienist only involves getting an associate’s degree at an accredited program at a college or university. There are education programs that offer bachelor’s degrees as well, but they are currently not required to be hired at a dental practice. Both programs are of equal value and will prepare you to become a dental hygienist.
DO I NEED TO BE LICENSED?
You do have to be licensed in order to be able to be a practicing dental hygienist. Once you have completed your degree (associate’s or bachelor’s) from an accredit college, you need to be licensed through the American Dental Association (ADA). This process is different for each state, but they usually involve proof of completion of your degree, passing a clinical exam, and passing a written exam. Because the procedures for licensure differ from state to state, make sure to check with the ADA in order to figure out exactly what you will need.
DO I NEED ANY OUTSIDE TRAINING?
There is very little outside training involved, outside of what you will get on-the-job for the specific technologies used at your practice. Some dentists also send their hygienists to seminars and conferences for them to learn about new technologies, treatments, and techniques. There are requirements for furthering education in some states, but not all, in order to retain licensure. Check with the ADA in order to determine what you need to do to retain your licensure.
WHAT IS THE PRIMARY SKILL SET OF A DENTAL HYGIENIST?
There are a variety of skills that dental hygienists need to have. Here are the main ones:
- Verbal communication
- Interpersonal relationship skills
- Physical wellness
- Ability to be on your feet (physically fit)
- Emotional well-being
- Critical thinking skills
- Attention to detail
- Ability to work in a fast-paced environment
- Ability to learn quickly and adapt to technology
- Dexterity – you’re working with a variety of very small dental instruments, which requires a lot of dexterity.
Dental hygienists have a great job outlook and good job security – we will always need our teeth cleaned! If you’re considering dental hygiene, it’s a good field to look into and very rewarding. Check out dental hygiene, it may be the best choice for you and your future career path!