How To Become a Dental Hygienist

How To Become a Dental Hygienist

If you have an interest in being in the medical field, you may be exploring a career as a dental hygienist. As a dental hygienist, you can help people and have job security. It’s a growing field that should see about 9% growth over the next ten years. Compared to other medical careers, this career offers flexibility, minimal education, and high job satisfaction. Find out how you can get your start in this field.

What is a Dental Hygienist and What Do They Do?

A dental hygienist is a healthcare professional who focuses on oral health. They need to be licensed and work with a team of other medical professionals to offer both preventative and therapeutic oral services. Oftentimes, dental hygienists keep their patients smiling and healthy.

So, what exactly does a dental hygienist do? Although every day may look slightly different, dental hygienists usually perform the following tasks:

  • Education patients on dental care
  • Applying fluoride, removing plaque, and sanitizing instruments
  • Handle non-surgical procedures
  • Perform oral screenings with the purpose of finding cavities, cancer, and gingivitis
  • Depending on the location, administering anesthetics
  • Gather information from the patient
  • Take X-rays and dental impressions
  • Keeping track of inventory and ordering supplies
  • Referring patients to other providers

If all of those tasks sound interesting to you, it may be the right time to embark on a career in the field. Unlike many other medical professions, this one doesn’t require too much education or debt.

How Much Do They Make?

On average, a dental hygienist makes about $35 per hour. If you’re curious about the annual salary, it usually works out to about $72,000 each year. You may opt to work in the field part-time, which would result in a lower salary.

Usually, the salary of a dental hygienist is determined by several factors. This could include the level of education, the years of experience, and the location. In places like Los Angeles and Seattle, dental hygienists tend to make more than the national average.

Steps to Becoming a Dental Hygienist

Every state has its own requirements for dental hygienists. Therefore, you should look into your own state’s laws before you begin your journey into this career. Almost every state requires a minimum of an associate degree, so you could start looking into local associate programs.

Generally, you can obtain a degree in dental hygiene in about three years. You may be able to obtain your degree in as little as 16 months. Most community colleges, technical schools, and universities offer the degree. As you work towards the degree, you learn about dental care. Part of the education includes hands-on, practical learning.

If you want to teach others dental hygiene or work in dental research, you would need a bachelor’s degree. The Commission on Dental Accreditation site has a list of accredited universities.

Picking the Right School

Before you sign up for a program, take some time to research your options. Education isn’t cheap, and it also isn’t universal. Some programs are more reputable than others. While looking for a school, consider the quality of the education. Read reviews and look for a program that has a high rate of success.

Additionally, you should also pick the type of program with care. If you only plan on working in a dental office, you don’t need to spend the time or money on a bachelor’s degree. Consider your future and your career goals. Then, pick the right program and degree.

Pass the Test

Once you obtain your associate or bachelor’s degree, you need to take your state’s licensing exam. Without taking the test, you won’t be licensed and won’t be able to practice in your state. Taking and passing the exam gives you a license, which allows you to legally work as a dental hygienist.

Continuing Education

Because the dental hygiene field is always changing, you need to stay up-to-date on the latest technology and research. As time passes, you may need to take new training courses. Your state’s Board of Dental Examiners will direct you to the proper coursework.

Job Search Tips for Dental Hygienists

After you become a licensed dental hygienist, it’s time to start the job search. As you might expect, it can be a little challenging to find a job with no experience. Fortunately, there’s a high demand for hygienists. If you handle the job search well, you can get a job in the industry without too much of a struggle.

Work on Your Resume

First, you should focus on your resume. Make sure you lay out the resume in a way that’s easy to read. If you’re not sure how to create a resume, look for examples online. Find out how other dental hygienists structure their resumes and copy the format you like the most. You should be able to easily see your experience, education, and skills.

Since you haven’t worked as a dental hygienist before, you may need to get creative. Include any volunteer opportunities that relate to the industry, along with any college projects that relate to the field. Try to keep everything relevant to the dental hygiene field. Include metrics that quantify your accomplishments. By doing so, you make it easy for the hiring manager to see your value.

In your resume, you should also include a professional summary. The paragraph should tell the hiring manager more about yourself and what you’ve achieved in your life. For the biggest impact, place the summary under your contact information.

Know Where to Look for Jobs

If you want to find a job quickly, you need to know where to look. You can look on your favorite job platform for jobs by using the right keywords. It’s also useful to use your network to find vacancies. During college, you might make some connections that can help you find a job.

Dental hygienists often work in dental clinics, nursing homes, and managed care organizations. With a thorough job search, you can find the right job listings and be on your way to a successful career.

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