Your guide to becoming a Dental Hygienist

Here we outline the steps required to become a Dental Hygienist.

Step 1: Get a high school diploma

High school education is a basic requirement for entry into a Dental Hygienist Program. Additionally it is advisable that students interested in becoming Dental Hygienists should take courses in mathematics biology, and chemistry at high school.

Step 2: Complete an accredited Dental Hygienist Program

A Dental Hygienist Program typically consists of a minimum 2 year associates degree to work in clinical practice. Dental Hygiene Programs are accredited by The Commission on Dental Accreditation.

Dental hygiene programs typically include coursework in the following subject areas: dental anatomy, immunology and microbiology, radiology, pharmacology for dental hygiene, periodontics, patient/pain management, pathology, nutrition, head and neck anatomy, and medical ethics.

Work experience is normally required as part of Program completion is typically required as part of licensing requirements in most States.

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Step 3: Get licensed

The requires that Dental Hygienists are licensed in the State in which they wish to practice. Eligibility requirements often vary from one state to another. But generally you must have received an associates degree from an accredited college and you will also need to pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam. Depending on the State you may also need to sit a regional or State
exam as well.  Additional requirements of licensing including CPR certification and background checks.

When you’re ready to get licensed we advise you to contact your relevant State board to find out the specific requirements you will need to fulfill.

Click on your State below for specific requirements and contact information;

Step 4: Find employment

Dental Hygienists may be self employed or employed directly by a practice. There are so many working environments for this profession including community health organizations, specialty
oral health practices, public health clinics, correctional facilities, schools, hospitals, and long-term care facilities.

Job growth and salary levels for Dental Hygienists are very positive with substantial increase in demand for Dental Hygienists predicted.

Step 5: Stay up to date with continuing professional development requirements

Most States set conditions that require Dental Hygienists participate in continuing education throughout the duration of their careers. These stipulations are put in place to ensure that you stay well updated with the current technologies, infection control practices, and advancements in the field. The extra professional requirements usually should be met on a bi-annual or annual basis;
however, they usually differ from one State to another.

Step 6: (Optional) Become a member of a professional industry association

There are a number of professional organizations n the USA which are relevant to Dental Hygienists including:

  • Academy of General Dentistry
  • The American Dental Hygienist Association
  • American Academy of Periodontology
  • American Dental Assistant Association
  • American Board of Pediatric dentistry

As a member of one of these organizations you will receive access professional development and continuing education, employment opportunities, opportunities to receive mentoring, possible scholarship opportunities to pursue graduate degrees.


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