A dental hygienist works alongside a dentist to teach patients about proper dental hygiene and to provide them with dental care. In caring for a patient's teeth, dental hygienists often clean a patient's teeth, provide local anesthesia, and perform x-rays of the teeth. Although there are varying educational degrees that you can pursue, a bachelor's degree in dental hygiene will ensure that you have ample employment options and that you also have the opportunity for advancement. Also, if you plan to pursue clinical practice opportunities, research, or teaching, then a bachelor's degree is definitely a necessity.
Before you can begin your course work you must first obtain your high school diploma. Dependent upon which college or university you decide to attend you will most likely have to submit copies of your ACT scores, copies of your transcript, and letters of recommendation. It is important that your transcript shows that you had a satisfactory GPA in your course work. To become a dental hygienist you should be prepared to complete a four year bachelor's degree program that requires approximately 120 hours of course work. It is important to realize that if you choose to begin your education with a shorter degree program, it is highly likely that the course work required by that degree program will be applicable as you begin working on your bachelor's degree.
In your course work as a dental hygienist you will complete courses like the following: radiography, histology, microbiology, periodontology, clinical dental hygiene, pathology, dental materials, pharmacology, anatomy, physiology, and nutrition. It is typical for post-secondary learning institutions to also require prospective dental hygienists to successfully complete course work related to teaching methods and pedagogy. This is primarily due to the fact that in your profession you will need to thoroughly understand all matters related to dental hygiene and be able to explain it and educate your patients on such issues. Once you have successfully completed the degree program to become a dental hygienist you will be required to earn a passing score on a licensing exam before you can actively practice your new occupation.
. The requirements that you will need to meet for this licensing exam vary from state to state; so it is important to check into what is required by your state of residence. However, regardless of the state you live in you can expect to be required to complete a written exam as well as a clinical exam. In addition, the American Dental Association provides the opportunity for you to become licensed by successfully passing the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination.
In your job capacity as a dental hygienist you can expect to spend the majority of your time focusing on a patient's maintenance of their teeth and the preventive care of their teeth. You will be responsible for teaching patients about proper oral care of their teeth at home, giving them advice on gum disease and gum care, removing deposits from a patient's teeth, and diagnosing any diseases or abnormalities they may have.
We have collected the most common questions that are asked of our staff regarding the dental hygiene career. If you have any questions feel free to contact us directly.
Question: What level of education is the best in order to receive a job offer these days as a dental hygienist?
Answer: Earning your Bachelor’s Degree in Dental Hygiene is what is recommended. Some schools offer certificate based programs however the majority of the jobs that you’ll encounter will require at least an Associate’s degree.
Question: What is your main role?
Answer: As a dental hygienist you start by welcoming the patient and preparing them for the dentist. You’ll prep the area including sterilize all necessary tools that are needed. Your main role is to assist the dentist with the type of dental procedure they are going to do on the patient. Before the doctor comes in you’ll examine the patient and look for diseases in your oral screening of their teeth.
Question: What if any does educating the patent come into play in your job role?
Answer: It plays a significant role. One thing that patients actually forgot overtime is the importance of good mouth hygiene. The older the patient gets they seem to stop flossing and brushing as well as they should. A big issue we have seen is patients that didn’t receive the dental work they needed early on and now they are faced with major surgery to fix the issues they are having with their teeth. Also we often visit schools to teach K-3 graders about their teeth but we also visit high schools during senior day and give information to kids that are looking into dental hygiene as a career.
Question: What is the best thing that you like about being a dental hygienist?
Answer: Without a doubt you have to want to help people. I go into work each and every day loving what I do. I really enjoy working with kids and showing them how to properly clean and take care of their teeth.
Question: What is one of the hardest things for parents to teach their kids regarding proper care of their teeth?
Answer: What has changed so much over the years is the amount of sugar that kids and even adults are consuming each day. I’ve seen a big increase in dental problems that can be tracked back to sugar. Kids are drinking lots of soda and sugary drinks and consuming them during school. Also one of the worst things for your teeth is potato chips. The chips stick on your teeth and really don’t come off until you brush.
Question: What is the worst thing that you dislike about being a dental hygienist?
Answer: I’ve been really luck and always worked for a great dentist but I have heard horror stories where the dentists aren’t that nice which makes your day very long. Outside of that I think that sometimes dealing with a parent that seems to blame us when something happens to their kids is hard to deal with. I’ve had a mom come in a year after we just got done filling 6 cavities on her daughter only to find 5 more. She blamed us when it was very obvious that her daughter just didn’t brush her teeth. She screamed at us and privately I asked the girl how often she brushed her teeth and she said once or twice a week.