What is a dental hygienist? It refers to a licensed oral health practitioner equipped with dental hygiene education. To practice this profession, you must take and pass written licensure and a clinical examination. Then, after passing the National Examination, your name will come with the suffix “RDH,” which means Registered Dental Hygienist (or LDH, which stands for Licensed Dental Hygienist, if you are from Indiana). Along with the title are all the credentials associated with a licensed oral health professional.
You will need to graduate from an accredited dental hygiene education program before being deemed eligible to take the state licensure exam. Being a dental hygienist requires you to work closely with a dentist to deliver quality, efficient, and professional service to their patients. Hence, as part of this field, you will face a career that offers a broad array of dental practice challenges.
Tasks of a Dental Hygienist
As a dental hygienist, you will be assisting dentists through tasks that require some amount of dental skill but less so than the work performed by dentists. You will conduct oral health care screening and the appraisal of patients’ health history, oral cancer screening, dental charting, and check-up of gum health status.
You will undertake regular dental procedures such as prophylaxis or cleaning that entails removing calculus (tartar) and plaque from teeth surfaces. You may also do fluoride treatment and sealants to cavities and take, develop, and interpret dental x-rays and make impressions for study casts. You will likewise be licensed to administer anesthetics or nitrous oxide analgesia before surgeries.
On the less technical aspects, you can conduct education and counseling sessions to teach about proper oral hygiene, plaque control, cessation of smoking, and nutrition. You may also perform documentation, office management, and installation of office systems.
General Requirements of Schools with Dental Hygiene Programs
As mentioned at the outset, a dental hygienist is a licensed dental health professional who provides specialized services focusing on preventative dental care. As such, you must be a graduate of accredited dental hygiene programs offered in community colleges, city colleges, and universities. After all, what is a diploma if you will not be able to use it to get a job? It is also crucial that you pass a written examination and clinical examination to obtain a state license and practice your profession as dental hygienists.
In the U.S., the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) administers all schools’ accreditation with dental hygiene programs. In the U.S., you can practice dental hygiene if you graduated from dental hygiene schools with dental hygiene programs accredited by CODA. Failure to graduate from an accredited school will make you ineligible to take the national licensure examination and become a licensed dental hygienist.
Many who have long since graduated from college but are just now discovering how lucrative a dental hygienist’s job can be are trying to get through by putting college degrees in order. What are those? Those refer to college degrees you can order from accredited online providers. No, they are not like diploma mills that give out fake college degrees. These providers are the real deal since they work closely with world-renowned universities with existing campuses.
How these providers work is, customers will put in college degrees in order depending on the career path they want to take. Then, they will submit all requirements, fill out an online form, and pay the fees. Then, they will wait for the degrees to be sent to the addresses on file. Buying online degrees is an option for those who have experience in a particular field or discipline or already have college degrees but want something more to amp up their credentials. You will do well to discover this website to find out more about these online degrees.
Of course, the above is merely a suggestion if you already have a previous degree, you have had enough experience, and you do not want to go through the motions again. Nevertheless, suppose you are looking for prominent institutions that offer accredited dental hygiene programs. In that case, the following list provides you with a short guide to dental hygiene schools that can help you pursue your career as a dental hygienist:
- New York University
- University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
- University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
- The University of Tennessee
- West Virginia University
- Virginia Commonwealth University
- Indiana University
- Miami Dade College
- Northern Virginia Community College
- Ohio State University-Main Campus
- Lone Star College System
- College of Southern Nevada
- Riverside Community College
- Pima Community College
- Broward College
- Salt Lake Community College
- Austin Community College District
- Tarrant County College District
Most of these schools with dental hygiene programs usually require a high school diploma or GED equivalent and entrance test scores to gain admission. Some prerequisite classes may also be necessary if you have not taken them in high school. These institutions often require a ‘C’ average grade, although some may require a higher ‘B’ average.
If you wish to apply to schools with dental hygiene programs, you will be required to take placement tests similar to those applying to other 4-year colleges or universities. These may include the SAT or the ESL exam if you are not a native English speaker.
Additionally, some institutions may ask you to take the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS), an exam that focuses on menial skills often required of healthcare professionals. Some dental hygiene schools may require applicants to have finished a year of college before applying to a dental hygiene program.
Dental hygiene programs offered by dental hygiene schools are usually two years in length and typically combine classroom instruction with clinical work in laboratories. Coursework may cover dental anatomy, oral histology, oral pathology, periodontology, and radiography. While participating in clinical labs, students also typically learn tasks such as removing plaque, applying cavity sealants, processing x-rays, and teaching proper oral hygiene.
Suppose you are already a dental professional and you wish to advance in your career as a hygienist. In that case, you may enroll in a bachelor’s or master’s degree program to become an office manager and administrator, teacher, or researcher. With additional education, you may become a fully licensed dentist.
After finishing your education, you must pass the national board exam and be licensed to practice. Typically, requirements vary from Although the requirements may differ from one state to another, all states but one accept the written examination administered by the American Dental Association’s Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations. Each state also administers a clinical or practical exam. These tests are usually taken during the final year of study within a dental hygiene program.
Without a doubt, it takes a lot to become a full-fledged dental hygienist, which is why some would rather put in college degrees to skip the tedious process. Since the college degree you will be getting is authentic and verifiable, there is nothing wrong if you go this route.
Good Prospects for Dental Hygiene Jobs
One of the career advantages that you can expect as a dental hygienist is providing service to people who need help regarding dental health care. You will likewise take pleasure in the respect you will get from the community. Such respect will be even more rewarding if you can use the status you enjoy to teach and encourage people to live a healthier lifestyle and care for their teeth and overall health.
Dealing with different people will similarly teach you values such as patience, compassion, and kindness. You will learn to develop flexibility and creativity to adjust to dealing with different personalities efficiently. Over and above, you will feel the job’s security with the demand that is still growing fast.
You may expect job opportunities to come from varied places of work. If you are a clinical dental hygienist, you can find work prospects in an assortment of health care settings. These include schools, hospitals, private dental clinics, public health clinics, managed care organizations, nursing homes and homes for the aged, corporations, and correctional institutions. Besides serving work in a dental hygienist’s capacity, you may also perform administrative work in any of the work settings mentioned above.
Based on your academic training, exposure, and experiences, you could apply your proficiencies and knowledge to other related activities such as teaching in college, teaching in the communities, especially in public clinics, and doing advocacy work for needy indigents. You may also pursue research as an assistant at the start and as a full-fledged researcher along dental hygiene lines.
The prospects of this career look very promising not only because the human population has immensely grown but also because people now realize the importance of having a complete set of teeth that is only attainable with regular dental care. Because of preventive medicine’s success in reducing oral diseases, more are realizing the importance of conscious effort and dental health care.
The opportunities are endless if you want to pursue a dental hygienist job. Whether you decide to put in college degrees in order or go the traditional route and enroll in a dental hygienist program is up to you. This article is only meant to guide you and help you make the right choice for your future.