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Dental Hygiene Career Info

Who's your hygienist?

Dental Hygienists are licensed clinical specialists who work in general oral health practices helping the young and the old to maintain their nice smiles for a lifetime.  Dental Hygienists can also work as educators, researchers, administrators, managers, preventive program developers, consumer advocates, sales and marketing managers and consultants.

Like to Know More About a Career in Dental Hygiene

A dental hygienist is an integral component of the oral health care profession.  The dental hygienist provides quality preventive and therapeutic oral health care services to the public.  Dental hygienists are also education specialists who inform patients about techniques and oral care products that can improve and maintain oral health.

What do Dental Hygienists do?

Each state has its own specific regulations and the range of services performed by dental hygienists vary from one state to another.  Patient care services performed by dental hygienists may include:

  • monitoring health care assessments, review of the patient’s health history, dental charting, oral cancer screening, taking and recording blood pressure;
  • exposing, processing and interpreting dental     X-rays;
  • removing plaque and calculus (tartar) – soft and hard deposits – from above and below the gumline;
  • applying cavity-preventive agents such as fluorides and sealants to the teeth;
  • teaching patients proper oral hygiene techniques to maintain healthy teeth and gums;
  • counseling patients about plaque control and developing individualized at-home oral hygiene programs; and
  • counseling patients on the importance of good nutrition for maintaining optimal oral health.
  • (option 2)
  • perform oral health assessment
  • provide nutritional counseling and self-care programs to prevent disease
  • examine head, neck and oral regions for disease
  • take and process x-rays and perform other diagnostic tests
  • provide services that help patients prevent gum diseases and cavities; examples include removing deposits from teeth and applying sealants and fluoride to prevent decay

As noted above dental hygienists are not just in clinical practice.  There are many specialized practices that dental hygienists may work in as well as other settings.  In addition to those listed above dental hygienists can also provide services in hospitals; managed care organizations; federal, state and municipal health departments; primary and industry; correctional institutions; and private and public centers for pediatric, geriatric and other special needs groups.

How Can I become a Dental Hygienist?

A dental hygienist is a preventive oral health professional who provides educational, clinical, and therapeutic services to the public.  The educational background that is required for a license becomes the foundation for the future.

Before Attending –

Admission requirements and prerequisites vary from college to college but usually include many of the following elements:

  • High School diploma or GED
  • Minimum age of 18
  • High school courses in mathematics, chemistry, biology and English
  • College entrance test scores
  • depending on the dental hygiene program, prerequisite college courses in chemistry, English, speech, psychology and sociology

Education Foundation –

A dental hygiene education is a minimum of two years but can be as long as four years.

  • Two-year programs offer a certificate or associate degree
  • Four-year programs offer a baccalaureate degree
  • Master’s level programs are offered for those interested in education, research or administration

Curriculum –

Dental hygiene curriculum consists of 1,948 clock hours of instruction that includes 600 hours of clinical experience.

  • General education courses, including: English, speech, psychology and sociology
  • physiology, biochemistry, microbiology, pathology, nutrition and Basic science courses, including: general chemistry, anatomy, pharmacology
  • Dental science courses, including: dental anatomy, head and neck anatomy, oral embryology, and histology, oral pathology, radiology, periodontology, pain control and dental materials
  • Dental hygiene science courses, including: oral health education and preventive counseling, patient management, clinical dental hygiene, community dental health and ethical aspects of dental hygiene practice
  • Pre-clinical and supervised clinical instruction

RDH – What does it mean?

A dental hygienist becomes a licensed professional whose accomplishments are recognized by the designation: RDH, Registered Dental Hygienist.  Licensure is the strongest form of regulation used today.  Licensure is a means of protecting the public from unqualified individuals and unsafe practice.  Your state license and RDH credential assure the public and other professionals that you have completed a nationally accredited dental hygiene program, successfully passed a national written examination and a state or regional clinical examination.  As licensing requirements vary from state to state, it is necessary to contact each licensing authority individually for its specific application requirements and procedures.  Examples of other licensed professionals include nurses, physical therapists, dentists and physicians.

Your RDH designation represents accreditation, trust and a professional credential you have earned and deserve.

Make a Difference

Whether it is a professional beginning or a time for change, the many opportunities of a career in dental hygiene can make a satisfying difference in your life.

Think of the advantages:

  • Status of a healthcare professional
  • Attractive income potential
  • Rewards of keeping people healthy
  • Flexible work schedule – full-time or part-time
  • Direct patient care
  • Variety of professional settings
  • Opportunity to work nationwide or abroad
  • Pleasant surroundings
  • Career potential and stability

Choose A Winning Career

Healthcare is a growing, dynamic field and a career in dental hygiene is your opportunity to make a difference – in other people’s lives and in your own life.  This is a career that can give you confidence, diversity, professional status and sense of purpose and accomplishment.  Become the professional you seek to be.

Take the first step, Consider a Career in Dental Hygiene… a profession of opportunities.

Information sources: ADHA