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How to Become a Dental Hygienist – A Complete Guide

Do you want to learn what it takes to become a Dental Hygienist? If YES, here is a complete guide plus requirements needed to become a Dental Hygienist online.

The work of a dentist might sound related to that of a dental hygienist but there is a thin line with what differentiates the two professions from one another. A dentist is superior to a dental hygienist in terms of the jobs they do, the quality and years of educational experience and even in terms of salary scale but the work of a dental hygienist cannot be undermine, as the dental hygienist plays a key role in ensuring humans have a healthy tooth and oral system.

The profession of a dental hygienist is a good career for people to specialize in but one needs to know all what the profession really entails.

What is a Dental Hygienist?

A dental hygienist is a professional practitioner that specializes in the treatment and hygiene of the tooth and the oral system. A dental hygienist is a professional oral health professional but still subject to work under the license and supervision of a professional dentist. A dental hygienist always work to ensure that people have the full knowledge of their oral system and how to ensure the proper management and functioning of the oral system.

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Table of Content

Duties of a Dental Hygienist and their Job Description

For the fact that the profession of a dental hygienist is closely related to that of a dentist doesn’t mean they offer the same services to the general public. A dental hygienist is a professional that performs a clear and distinct job that is far different from that of a dentist. A professional dental hygienist is the only dental specialist that specializes in performing some of the works that are listed below:

  • Screening: The first major job a dental hygienist is to screen the patient. A dental hygienist needs to screen the patient, so as to know the exact illness and causative of his patient’s illness and disease. During screening, a dental hygienist would need to screen the patient for oral cancer to know if that is exactly what the patient is suffering from. He would examine the gums to know if there is any illness troubling the teeth. Diagnosing: After the dental hygienist have screened the patient and have recorded all what he has gotten during the course of screening, it is now left to him to diagnose the exact oral challenge the patient is suffering from. It is during this diagnosing that the dental hygienist would be able to validate the illness troubling the patient before proceeding to treating the patient
  • Treatment: After a dental hygienist have screened and diagnosed the patient and have been able to know the exact problem the patient his suffering from, he will now go ahead in treating the patient.
  • Educating: Apart from the fundamental duties of a dental hygienist listed above, it is very important a dental hygienist gives instructions and educate the patient and people in the society about what they need to know about their oral system.
  • Researching: A dental hygienist always indulge in research, especially online ones. He need to carry out researches, so as to keep himself abreast of the latest oral disease and illness and researches can also a dental hygienist to find solutions and medications to the oral problem that might be troubling the patient.
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Equipment and Tools of the Trade for a Dental Hygienist

  • Hand tools: This is a specialized instrument used by a dental hygienist. It is a hand-held mouth mirrors that assists a dental hygienist in seeing into the nooks and crannies of a patient’s mouth. Hand tools equipment can be used by a dental hygienist to see the tartar, plaques and stains deposited in the patient’s teeth.
  • Polishers: After the hygienist has successfully removed any plaque and tartar that are in the patient’s mouth, he can then start polishing the teeth to make it bright and shiny. Polishers are slow-speed rotary tools that can be used in polishing every part of the teeth and it would make it look very smooth. Polished teeth are easier for healthy gums to attach to and harder for plaque and tartar to grow on.
  • X-Rays: Decay is prone to lurk and hide within the teeth and it might even be difficult to be noticed by ordinary eye and it might be too late to repair, as it could have eaten up the teeth. To check for damages and decay, it is very important a dental hygienist takes the X-ray of the patient’s mouth from time to time, so as to get a clear picture of the patient’s dental health. X-ray tool is the only equipment that can give a true picture of the oral problem troubling a patient.
  • Ultrasonic scalers: this equipment is similar to a hand scaler. Ultrasonic scalers are used to pull away plaque and tartar from the surface of the teeth. However, these technologically advanced tools are powered by pneumatic turbines and vibrate down plaque and tartar that are present in the teeth.
  • Syringes: This instrument is good for patients who have low-tolerance for pain. Dental hygienist may need to administer a local an anesthetic by using syringe, so that they can perform their work efficiently. For excessive tartar build up or advanced cases of periodontal disease, a more thorough cleaning than usual is required, which can cause pain and bleeding in patient, so a local anesthetic is commonly used with syringe.
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How to Become a Dental Hygienist – A Complete Guide

Facts, Figures and Labor Market Situation for Dental Hygienists

  • Over the past few years, the number of dental hygienist has risen greatly. This great increase could be attributed to the increased in public health awareness about oral system in many countries of the world, especially in countries like United States of America, Canada, United Kingdom and Australia. People are now aware about their oral system and the need to patronize a dental hygienist to always keep the oral system hygienic at every time.
  • With the preference of dental hygienist over dentist assistant, the labor market is getting booming for dental hygienist. Dentist now prefer to work with a dental hygienic to working with a dentist assistant, as they believed dental hygienist can perform lots of dental routine in an healthcare setting.
  • According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistic, Employment Opportunity Projection Program, the profession of dental hygienist is expected to grow by 33 percent between the year 2012 and 2022. This sharp increase is so much faster than that of the average occupation.
  • Also, with the increase in the number of people using artificial teeth, it is expected that the need for dental hygienist will increase. There would be need for people using artificial teeth to be patronizing the dental hygienist to treat and keep the teeth in a good condition.
  • The occupation of a dental hygienist is a good profession for the practitioners and even fascinating to people on the path of becoming a dental hygienist. Both the practitioners and the students of this profession don’t have anything to fear. With the favorable projection for this occupation by experts, the profession is good one to indulge in, as it has a glorious future.
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Impact of the internet and Technology on the Dental Hygienist Profession

There is no doubt that every professional profession has adopted the full usage of the internet and technology in carrying out their day to day activities. However, the profession of dental hygienist is one of those few professions where the impact of the internet and technology could be greatly felt.

Now, to the issue of the negatives; the negative implication of the internet on the dental hygienist profession is minute compared to the positives. With the help of internet and technology, people can now access videos of proper teeth brushing, flossing and polishing techniques without consulting the dental hygienist.

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Career ideas / Sub-sectors That Exist within the Dental Hygienist Profession

As a dental hygienist, there are various business ideas that are available for you to indulge in. It is very important you take note of them so that you can maximize all that the industry has to offer:

  • Private Dental Hygienist
  • Community Dental Hygienist
  • Dental Health Instructors
  • Oral Health Therapist
  • Clinical Dental Hygienist.
  • Dental Health Researcher

Professional Bodies and Associations You Must Enlist in to be Recognized as a Dental Hygienist

  • International Association of Dental Hygienists
  • American Dental Hygienists Association
  • British Society of Dental Hygiene & Therapy
  • Dental Hygienists’ Association of Australia
  • The National Dental Hygienist Association
  • National Dental Hygienists Association
  • Canadian Dental Hygienists Association
  • Irish Dental Hygienists Association
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Benefits of Becoming a Dental Hygienist

  • Pay: Dental hygienists are well paid for the job they render. They always earn a reasonable wage from their profession.
  • Job opportunities: The good news for dental hygienist is that there is wide range of job opportunities for dental hygienists, especially with the good projection by the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistic.

Factors Discouraging People from Becoming a Dental Hygienist

  • Lack of recognition: Though dental hygienists are highly impactful in the dentistry profession, they are not well recognized. Many persons respect and recognized dentists and other medical professionals in the hospitals etc. than dental hygienists. This lack of recognition is indeed a discouraging factor for anyone who wishes to venture into the profession.
  • Working as a second fiddle: Dental hygienists who are professionals with the flexibility it enjoys, most at times have to work as subordinates to dentists. This subordination discourages many people from delving into the profession. This is because every professional wants to enjoy independence and total freedom.
  • An emerging profession: Dental hygienists are well known professionals in some parts of the world such as the united states, United Kingdom etc. but in other parts of the world, the profession is just emerging and is not really known by many. This trend of the profession which makes it a seemingly “new” profession is indeed a factor that discourages people from venturing into it.
  • The reward system: Dental hygienists earn well, but cannot compete favorably with other professionals in the medical field especially dentistry. This reward system of the profession is a factor that discourages people from venturing into it. As many people, especially the young ones prefer a highly rewarding profession with a lot of financial benefits.
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How Much Do Dental Hygienists Earn Monthly/Annually?

If there is any paramedical field professional that earns reasonably in different countries of the world, then the dental hygienists come to mind. Their earnings which is dependent on many factors such as: experience, country, states etc. And according to a research that has been done by the year 2022, the expected job growth will be 33%.

  • In the United States of America

The average yearly salary for a dental hygienist in the United States depends a lot on the establishment of employment. Those who are working in a private dentist office have an average yearly salary of $67,220 and if you are employed by a hospital it would be $55,670 If you are working in outpatient care centers your average yearly salary would be $68,170. The average yearly dental hygienist salary also varies from state to state and takes in many different factors such as where they are working, the geographical area, years of experience, etc.

  • In Canada
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The salary of dental hygienists in Canada is not quite different from what is obtainable elsewhere; this is because a dental hygienist earns an average of $35.00 CAD per hour.  The range is from $25.00 to $48.00 CAD per hour.  The average yearly dental hygienist salary in Canada is $72,800 CAD.  At current exchange rates this is approximately $65,520 in U.S. dollars. Conclusively, in Canada the average yearly dental hygienist salary is C$42,176 – C$92,972 with a yearly bonus of approximately C$2,687.

  • In Australia

Dental hygienists in Australia earn decently too, this is because a dental hygienist earns an average of $42.00 AUD per hour. The hourly range is from $27.00 to $56.00 AUD.  The average yearly dental hygienist salary in Australia (AUS) is $87,360 AUD.  At current exchange rates this is approximately $78,624 USD. Conclusively as a dental hygienist in Australia your average yearly salary would be AU$49,873 – AU$109,190 with a yearly bonus of approximately AU$4,848.

  • In the united kingdom
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While dental hygienists generally in the United Kingdom (UK) are paid well, because a dental hygienist earns an average of £25.00 GBP per hour.  The range is from £19.00 to £34.25 GBP per hour.  The average yearly dental hygienist salary in the United Kingdom is £52,000 GBP. In the U.S. that converts to approximately $88,400 USD. One interesting thing about the dental hygienists salary In the UK is that the average yearly salary is based on your age. If you are in your 20’s it would be 27,969, in your 30’s it would be 36,547, and in your 40’s and 50’s it would be 43,259.

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How Long Does It Take to Become a Dental Hygienist?

Generally it takes about 2-4 years to qualify as a dental hygienist. This is because a dental hygienist needs to graduate from an accredited school, and most dental hygienist programs grant associate’s degrees, but some offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

However, depending on the type of advancement someone wants in his or her career, a bachelor’s or master’s degree might be more desirable. To work as a dental hygienist in a private dental office typically requires an associate’s degree, though a certificate may be accepted in some cases. In order to go into research, public health or teaching, dental hygienists usually need to hold bachelors or master’s degrees.

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Educational Requirements to Become a Dental Hygienist

Just like other professionals. Dental hygienists have educational requirements that must be fulfilled before someone can be certified. The requirement is as follows: To become a dental hygienist, you’ll need either a 2- or 4-year degree in dental hygiene.

The degree to be undertaken is as follows:

  1. Associate’s Degree: A dental hygiene associate’s degree will help you better understand basic and dental sciences. During the course of your studies, you’ll learn how to make decisions about patient care, hone your critical thinking skills and improve your problem-solving abilities. Earning a dental hygienist associate’s degree will prepare you to work with patients from various backgrounds and teach you how to interact with different healthcare professionals.
  2. Degree-completion Programs
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This is designed specifically for dental hygienists with an associate’s or certificate, a degree-completion program results in a baccalaureate degree. You must have a license to practice in order to enroll. Since the program is designed for dental hygienists who are already working, you’ll find that some schools offer their curriculum completely online or in a hybrid format. In many cases, you won’t be required to fulfill clinical requirements.

  1. Bachelor’s Degree

Pursuing a 4-year degree in dental hygiene studies is particularly useful if you plan to teach, participate in research or work in clinical practice in public or school health programs. Some dentists also prefer to hire hygienists with a bachelor’s degree. Some of the courses to be taken here include: Teaching strategies for dental professions, Dental public health and research, Business management and Introduction to independent practice

  1. Master’s Degree: Although it’s not necessary to work as a dental hygienist, a graduate degree in the field can propel you into careers in education, leadership, advocacy and administration. Dental hygienists with advanced dental hygienist schooling often go on to work as: Oral disease prevention specialists, Program directors and Researchers.
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Certifications Required in Become a Dental Hygienist

It is a known fact that certifications are one of the major things needed in order to practice in any field as a professional. Likewise dental hygienists are also not short of certifications. The certification process varies with countries, states, regions etc. Therefore, the certifications required in order to become a dental hygienist especially in the United States are as follows:

  • Each state requires dental hygienists to be licensed, and requirements vary by state. For most, licensure requires a degree from an accredited dental hygiene program and passing written and clinical exams administered by the American Dental Association’s (ADA)Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations
  • It is also necessary and beneficial in the process of certification to shadow a dental hygienist in your area. Not only will the experience give you a chance to see the ins-and-outs of the profession, but some schools will value (and sometimes require) this additional step.
  • In most states, a degree from an accredited dental hygiene program and passing grades on written and practical examinations are required for licensure. For specific application requirements, contact your state’s medical or health board. Although all states require dental hygienists to become licensed, exact licensing requirements vary depending on your state. Most states require you to pass practical and written exams. Make sure to contact your state’s medical board for exact requirements.
  • The National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE) may fulfil or partially fulfil the written examination requirement for your state. The nine-hour exam covers three topics: Basics Sciences, Clinical Dental Hygiene and Community Health and Research Principles
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Can You Become a Dental hygienist by Taking Online Courses?

Yes, it is possible to become a dental hygienist by taking online courses. Therefore, if you really aspire for a career in dental hygiene but fear you’re too busy for traditional classes, distance learning might be a good option, since there are many online programs for dental hygiene. This distance learning program is provided for persons who have the interest in the job whose outlook looks outstanding, with a projected 33 percent growth from 2012 to 2022 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Industries a Dental Hygienist Can Work in

  • Hospitals
  • Dentistry medical facilities
  • Private establishments
  • Academics
  • Research institutes/centers
  • Outpatient care centers
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Career Opportunities Open for a Dental Hygienist

  • Periodontics or paediatric dentistry.
  • Provision of dental hygiene services for patients in hospitals, nursing homes and public health clinics.
  • Application of skills and knowledge to other career activities such as teaching hygiene students in dental schools and dental hygiene education programs depending upon the level of education and experience achieved,
  • Research, office management and business administration
  • Employment opportunities also with companies that market dental-related materials and equipment.

Skills and Traits Needed to Become a Successful Dental Hygienist

  1. Compassion: Sometimes patients are in extreme pain or have fears about undergoing dental work, the hygienist must be sensitive to their emotions and must be compassionate
  2. Communication skills: A successful dental hygienist must be able to communicate and work closely with both the dentists and the patients.
  3. Detail oriented:Dental hygienists must follow specific rules and protocols to help dentists diagnose and treat a patient. In rare cases, dental hygienists work without the direct supervision of a dentist.
  4. Dexterity:Dental hygienists must be good at working with their hands. They generally work in tight quarters on a small part of the body, using very precise tools and instruments.
  5. Interpersonal skills:Dental hygienists must work closely with dentists and patients.
  6. Physical stamina:Dental hygienists should be comfortable performing physical tasks, such as bending over patients for a long time.
  7. Creativity: Because dental hygienists interact with such diverse population groups, they must be creative in their approach to patient management and oral health education.
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Tips and Advice to Help Advance your Career as a Dental Hygienist

  • Earn the necessary certifications: To become a successful dental hygienist, you must ensure that you acquire all the certifications that are required of you. This is because it is only through this, that your journey towards even making it as a dental hygienist can be fulfilled
  • Seek relevant information: Seeking of information from the right sources is critical to ensuring that you succeed as a dental hygienist
  • Follow relevant blogs: The internet today brings information to you even from the comfort of your homes. This must be utilized if indeed you want to succeed
  • Be patient with people because some patients are always impatient and stubborn.