How to Become a Dental Hygienist

A dental hygienist is responsible for teaching patients about the importance of dental hygiene, professionally cleaning teeth and performing minor preventive dental care. Day to day tasks will include doing x rays of patients’ mouths, giving fissure sealants, preparing laboratory tests and removing plaque and stains from teeth. Depending on the laws of the country in which the dental hygienist works in, additional tasks such as filling patients’ teeth and putting patients under anesthesia may also be performed.

A large part of a dental hygienists job is to educate his/her patients. Such education covers the importance of proper dental care including what the best toothbrush for an individual is and how to correctly use it and floss to prevent plaque build up. One of the unique aspects of the job of a dental hygienist is that it is one of the easiest careers to work on a part time basis due to the fact that many dentists only hire dental hygienists for a couple of days a week.

Educational Requirements

The educational requirements to become a dental hygienist are relatively light compared to the grueling educational requirements of becoming a dentist. In order to be licensed as a dental hygienist, a candidate must pass a written and practical test and graduate from a dental hygiene school.

The majority of dental hygiene schools award associate degrees and these are all that is required to work in a private dental practice. Some offer bachelors degrees and these are required should you wish to teach or do research in dental hygiene.

Some of the dental hygiene schools in the US prefer candidates to have completed one year of college prior to entry, however this is not the case for all. While at dental hygiene school, typical subjects will include physiology, radiography, pathology and pharmacology together with the more obvious subjects of clinical dental hygiene and gum diseases.

Demand for your skills

In 2012, dental hygiene is expected to be one of the highest growing employment fields in the US. It is expected than demand overall for dental care will continue to increase and also that dental hygienists will begin to provide more treatments that were originally reserved for dentists.

The increase in demand for dental care is put down to both the increase in the population and the increase in the number of people keeping their natural teeth as dental care continues to improve. It is also expected that the newer dentists that are replacing the high number of older dentists that are set to retire soon will be more likely to hire dental hygienists than their predecessors.

Did you know?

  • Almost 75% of Americans suffer from some form of gum disease without being aware of it.
  •  According to the ADA, a person’s smile outranks their eyes, body and hair as their most important physical feature.
  • Tooth decay is the most common and the most preventable disease in American children and more than fifty one million school hours are lost each year because of dental related illness.

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