How to Become a Dental Hygienist

As people begin to understand the connection between dental health and overall well-being, dentistry is becoming a more and more promising career. Preventative dentistry is gaining in reputation as well because it is more cost-effective than palliative dentistry. Dental hygienists perform many of the same basic functions as dentists, but the requirements for licensure are much less demanding. When researching how to become a dental hygienist, you should take into account the monetary and other costs of an education and the benefits conferred by such a career.

Dental hygienist education can be had for a reasonable price. One of the quickest routes is by getting an associateís degree. Dental hygienist schools can offer a low cost per credit because they offer highly targeted courses without a lot of superfluous classes in the liberal arts. By keeping costs down, students can begin to reap the rewards of dental hygienist career without being bogged down in onerous student loan payments. It is possible to earn a bachelorís degree with an emphasis in dental hygiene as well.

Dental hygienists must be licensed by an association that is approved by the state in which they work. Licensure mandates specific courses in dental hygiene as well as clinical training and a test. Licenses must be renewed on a regular basis. Renewal carries the mandate of continuing professional education in dental hygiene necessary to keep learning the latest techniques and keeping up with medical advances. Licensure is how states protect patients against having work done by unqualified individuals.

Besides asking how to become a dental hygienist, you might ask why you might want to become one. Working conditions for dental hygienists are extremely desirable. The hours are steady, with almost all work done by appointment. In addition, the costs of being a dental hygienist are lower than those of a dentist. Dentists must carry insurance to protect themselves if a procedure goes wrong. Most dental hygienist work does not require anesthesia so that there is little danger that patients will suffer from some complication. Preventative procedures like cleaning and flossing come with very few inherent risks. Furthermore, dental hygienists work in extremely clean environments with rules and procedures in place to protect their health and that of their coworkers and patients.

Another major factor to consider is your potential salary as a dental hygienist. The good news is that dental hygienists make an average salary well above that for many other professions. It is a high-paying job that has room for learning new skills. Dental hygienists who can offer patients more care options can charge a premium. Another major factor in salary is the state in which the dental hygienist practices. Since they must be licensed, dental hygienists can only practice in a single state. Being a dental hygienist in California means a much higher salary than doping the same job in another state. Some states allow their hygienists to offer a wider range of services and, consequently, to charge more money to their patients.

Dental hygienists perform many of the functions of dentists. They perform cleanings and polish teeth. They take dental x-rays to diagnose cavities or gum disease. They counsel patients on caring for their teeth and avoiding periodontal disease. They must be knowledgeable about different treatments like fluoride and deep gum cleansing. In most states, dental hygienists are not allowed to use anesthetics, but in a few states they must have extra training to deal with possible problems. This will likely include CPR and other life-saving measures as anesthesia can cause serious, if not fatal, problems.

Last Updated: 05/22/2014