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Steps To Take To Become A Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists are in high demand, and employment is expected to increase 7 percent by 2032 (bls.gov). This translates to an estimated 16,400 job openings for hygienists each year over the next decade. If you want to start this rewarding line of work, read on to see how to get into the career.

Requirements for Dental Hygienists

To work as a hygienist, you will need at least an associate degree, like an Applied Science in Dental Hygiene degree. Most community colleges and vocational schools offer programs for those wanting to enter this career. It should take around three years to complete the program.

However, for better career advancement, you may want to consider a bachelor’s degree, which takes about four years to finish. This isn't the most typical route, but it does open more doors beyond working in a private practice. And if you want to teach dental hygiene, you will need to get a master’s degree.

No matter which degree you go for, expect both classroom and clinical instruction throughout your training. Dental hygienist programs will teach you how to use the tools of the trade, software, and machines used in dentist offices. Other coursework will include oral pathology, dental materials, radiology, infection control, and pain management, just to name a few. You will also be taught interpersonal skills, which are necessary due to the nature of the job. As a dental hygienist, you'll be working closely with patients on a daily basis, so you will need to know how to communicate in a friendly and empathetic way.

You'll Need a License

All 50 states require dental hygienists to be licensed, and most states mandate those getting their licenses to have attended an accredited dental hygiene program. You may also need to provide proof of a CPR certification, letters of recommendation, and transcripts prior to testing for your dental hygienist license. Once you’re qualified, you will take the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam, a written exam given by American Dental Association, and then complete an exam that is specific to your state.

You can Advance

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, dental hygienists earned an average salary of $89,890 in 2023. The top 10 percent of dental hygienists averaged $118,400. As you gain experience, you may be eligible for career advancement. Dental hygiene is a great career; find schools near you today!

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