What Education Is Necessary To Become A Dental Hygienist?

Dental Hygienists play an integral role in the dental profession. Often employed in private dental offices or clinics, these professionals either work alone, or in conjunction with dentists or other Doctors of Dentistry. Hygienists can execute individual tasks, including, but not limited to, applying local anesthetics and fluoride treatments, cleaning a patient’s teeth, taking X-Rays and conducting the process of dental charting. Responsibilities of a Hygienist may also include assisting Dentists, Periodontists and Orthodontists in applying braces and performing oral surgery. Some Hygienists might choose to further their careers in the teaching or research fields.

One can opt to pursue either an Associate’s Degree, a Bachelor’s Degree or a Master’s Degree program when pursuing a career as a Dental Hygienist. Your career goals will determine what academic program would best suit your needs.

Associate’s Degree Program

Completion of an Associate’s Degree of Applied Sciences in Dental Hygiene is the minimum academic requirement necessary for anyone interested in securing employment in the field. Students will receive instruction in subjects like oral hygiene, communication, nutrition and in various health and science courses. In addition to classroom training, you should expect to spend a significant amount of time in laboratories and in mock dental offices where you will gain practical experience by working with dental equipment. Associate’s Degrees are typically offered at vocational schools, community colleges, or four-year colleges and universities. In some cases, coursework may also be completed online.

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In addition to fulfilling academic requirements, a prospective Dental Hygienist must obtain a license from the state in which they plan to seek employment. To attain the license, you will need to pass a written and skills test demonstrating your mastery of the subject matter, as well as skills. Some states also mandate Dental Hygienists pass an exam demonstrating their knowledge of dental hygiene practice law.

Bachelor’s Degree Program

Completion of a Bachelor of Science Degree in Dental Hygiene will require the study of similar coursework necessary to attain an Associate’s Degree. However, Bachelor’s Degree candidates will likely also be required to earn credits in education and business courses. Such a background might be needed for those interested in one day pursuing an advanced degree or to become more employable in other fields. Bachelor’s Degree Programs can be completed at accredited colleges and universities. Some academic institutions offer online programs as well.

Master’s Degree Program

Though earning a Master of Science in Dental Hygiene is not necessary to be employed as a Dental Hygienist, it may be beneficial to those interested in pursuing leadership roles within the field, or for those whom wish to parlay their knowledge into a career in teaching future generations of Dental Hygienists. To gain admission into a Master’s Degree Program, a prospective candidate typically must possess at Bachelor of Science Degree in Dental Hygiene, have earned at least a 3.0 grade point average during undergraduate studies, have a current license to practice dental hygiene and have letters of recommendation from Professors or past employers. Master’s Degrees can be earned at accredited colleges and universities and, in certain instances, be completed online.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Dental Hygienists earn, on average, more than $72,000 per year.