Dental hygienists are in demand all over the country, and the with dozens of schooling options to choose from in every state, getting on track to earning your dental hygiene license is easy! Dental hygienists are one of the highest paid professions in the medical industry, and they enjoy great benefits and lucrative and rewarding work.
What is a Dental Hygienist?
A dental hygienist is a registered dental professional who handles a wide variety of dental tasks, like cleaning teeth, educating patients, documenting medical information in charts and on computers. Dental hygienists are special in the role they play with patients, as they are often the “go to” person in the dental industry, helping bridge the gap between the dentist and the patient. Dental hygienists are responsible for:
- Gathering patient history and information about their potential dental problems and concerns
- Performing dental examinations, teeth cleanings, and polishings
- Taking and developing x-rays to look for cavities and structural problems
- Administering fluoride and other preventative treatments
- Educating patients in proper dental hygiene
- Keeping medical records of dental treatments and patient history
How to Become a Dental Hygienist?
Dental hygiene is one of the fastest growing and highly paid professions in the medical world. To become a dental hygienist in the United States, you’ll need to graduate from a dental hygiene school or program that has been accredited by the American Dental Association and pass two dental hygiene exams. Associates degrees are the most common for dental hygienists, but bachelor’s degrees, and master’s degrees are also options.
Additionally, all dental hygienist schools and programs require students to participate in an externship, or a clinical rotation, to complete their program. The externship pairs a dental hygienist student with a local dental office, allowing the student to further refine their dental hygienist skills. It is important when researching potential schools and programs to not only determine if they have the accreditation and courses necessary to become a successful dental hygienist, but also to verify they have an externship with local and reputable dental offices. Externships are vital to completing dental hygienist training, and important in establishing rapport with potential employers.
What are the Educational Requirements for a Dental Hygienist?
Becoming a dental hygienist is as simple as earning an Associate’s degree and passing a national exam. Most dental hygienist Associate’s programs last two years or less, and after graduation, you’ll be ready to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE). After passing the NBDHE, you’ll be a full-fledged dental hygienist!
What is the Salary of a Dental Hygienist?
Dental hygienists are one of the highest earners in the medical world, bringing in on average $70,000 per year. Considering that most dental hygienists only have an Associate’s degree, the salary to education earnings potential for dental hygienists is one of the best in the job market. Dental hygienists in states like California and Washington earn up to $100,000 per year!
What Is The Job Outlook for Dental Hygienists?
The future career outlook for dental hygienists is one of the strongest in the medical fields, growing much faster than other professions, with an expected growth of 38 percent between now and 2020. The national average hourly pay for dental hygienists is over $38 an hour, while the average annual salary is nearly $70,000. Currently, there are over 180,000 practicing dental hygienists in the United States; by 2020, it is predicted that over 250,000 dental hygienists will be working in America.
Where Dental Hygienists Work?
Nearly all dental hygienists work in a dental office; however, many opportunities exist in more unique locations, such as on college campuses, Indian Reservations, in prisons, or in branches of military. Most dental hygienists work part time, with some dental hygienists working for two dentists to increase their hours. Flexible hours and an abundance of opportunities make finding a job easy for registered dental hygienists.
Resources for Dental Hygienists
With such a rapidly growing and sustaining occupation, there is an abundance of resources for aspiring dental hygienists to look into.
The American Dental Hygienist Association (ADHA) is the premier association for dental hygienists in the United States. They offer membership opportunities to help dental hygienists stay abreast on new opportunities, publications, and all the happenings in the dental hygiene world.
The American Dental Association (ADA) represents all occupations of the dental industry, including dental hygienists. Their website offers a vast database of resources for all dental professionals, including breaking news, research and publications, events, and resources to help aspiring dental professionals find the right programs and pathways to a new career.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics is one the best sources for information regarding jobs and professions in the United States. To help get a better idea on what it takes to become a dental hygienist, how much money you could be making, and what the future of the profession may look like, visit the bureau’s report on dental hygiene.