How Do You Become a Dental Hygienist?

dental hygienistIf you would like to pursue a fulfilling career helping patients with oral health, but you do not want to study to be a doctor, you may want to become a dental hygienist. Dental hygiene is a fulfilling field where professionals can make a difference in the lives of their patients without having to attend school for a lengthy time.

What makes the dental hygiene field such a unique healthcare opportunity is that you can enjoy a competitive average salary of $71,110 with as little as an associate’s degree, according to the American Dental Education Association. If you would like to enjoy a flexible schedule while you make a positive impact on oral health, here are the steps you will need to take.

Earn a GED or High School Diploma

All degree programs or certificate programs that train future dental hygienists require students to possess their general education degree or high school diploma before they can attend. It is important that you also check into GPA requirements, because some of the more competitive programs will require you to have an acceptable GPA before you will be accepted by their admissions councils.

Enroll in an Undergraduate or Certificate Program

A majority of dental hygienists earn their Associate of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene by attending a two-year degree program at a junior college. These two-year programs are designed to prepare students for a career in dental health by covering theory, methodology, and clinical practice. The courses that you will complete to satisfy curriculum requirements may include: infection control, pain management, radiology, oral pathology, periodontics, pharmacology and dental tools.

If you already possess a degree in another area of study, you may be better off earning a dental hygienist certificate at an approved vocational or technical school. These programs focus entirely on the skills you need to work in dental hygiene and will help you prepare to pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination.

Prepare for the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination

Once you hold a degree or certificate from an accredited institution you may be eligible to sit for the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE). You will need your CPR certification and letters of recommendation as well when applying to test. The NBDHE is a written examination that is administered by the American Dental Association to measure whether or not a candidate is competent enough for their license. Candidates are required to complete state board exams in addition to passing the national exam through the ADA.

Apply for Your State License

After you pass the national exam, you are officially classified as a Registered Dental Hygienist. You will then need to get licensed in the state where you will practice. To earn your state license to practice as an RDH you must pass a state clinical exam. Check with your state board to see what the requirements are and to arrange your test date.

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If you want to pursue a career in a challenging field where you can help patients live healthier lives, dental hygiene could be the field for you. In this highly skilled discipline, you can work closely with patients and an entire oral health care team. Start studying for your degree or certificate and become a dental hygienist to change your outlook in life.