Dental hygienists give us beautiful smiles. Working with dentists, they take x-rays and review them to decide what type of cleaning is required for patients’ teeth. They then clean patient’s teeth and help protect them from oral diseases. They teach patients how to care for their teeth to avoid getting cavities and tooth decay. This career requires obtaining accredited training from dental technician schools.
To start a career as a dental hygienist, an associate’s degree is required. Coursework for dental hygienists includes general academic classes including math and English, as well as health coursework such as nutrition and health, anatomy, physiology and pathology. Students also learn about behavioral and social sciences. Coursework related to dental hygiene includes oral hygiene, periodontology and radiology procedures of the teeth and jaw. Students gain a solid understanding of all of the skills required to help patients care for their teeth, giving them healthy smiles. Along with an associate’s degree, aspiring dental hygienists can pursue higher education through dental technical schools by obtaining a bachelor’s or master’s degree in dental hygiene.
All states require dental hygienists to obtain a license to practice professionally. During the last semester, many dental technician schools prepare students for the state’s written and practical exam, which is typically administered by each state’s Board of Dentistry. The exam encompasses the skills and knowledge required to do the job, as well as the sanitation necessary to protect dental hygienists and their patients. Passing the written and practical exam give dental hygienists the credentials required to pursue a career.
Many dental hygienists work for private-practice offices of dentists. Others work for physicians, outpatient service centers and government agencies. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a 38 percent increase for dental hygienists through 2020. Ongoing research, advances in technology and the demand for care services related to personal appearance will increase the demand for these professionals in the next decade. Improvements in dental care will also allow an increasing elderly population care for their teeth, rather than require dental implants or dentures. This will increase the number of patients requiring care for their teeth.
Dental hygienists earn high salaries for minimal schooling requirements. Although only an associate’s degree is required for the job, employers will examine grades and studies to ensure dental hygienists are well-qualified. As of 2011, the average salary for dental hygienists was over $69,700 per year, according to BLS. Starting salaries ranged form $46,000 to $56,000 per year.