A career as a dental hygienist is both rewarding and stimulating. Dental hygienists are integral parts of dental offices, providing specialized oral care to patients during routine checkups, examinations, and other dental procedures. As a dental hygienist, you can expect a degree of autonomy with patients, working one-on-one to provide services to supplement the care provided by the dentist(s) at your office. The duties of a dental hygienist may include polishing patients’ teeth, removing hard and soft deposits from teeth, administering local anesthetics and using specialized tools to remove tartar, plaque, and stains.
Dental hygienists can expect to earn salaries averaging around $74,000 annually – with the demand for dental hygienists and the number of positions expected to increase through 2026. For those looking for increased responsibility and patient interaction in the dental field, a career as a dental hygienist is an excellent choice.
In this guide, our healthcare educators at Howard HealthCare Academy provide an overview of the requirements to become a dental hygienist.
Dental Hygienist Education Requirements
How do you become a dental hygienist? First, prospective dental hygienist students must receive a degree through an accredited academic program at a community college, technical college, dental school, or university. The majority of community college programs take at least two years to complete. Upon earning this associate degree, a prospective hygienist may take licensure examinations to become licensed and work in a dental office. University-based dental hygiene programs offer baccalaureate and master’s degrees, which typically require at least two years of further schooling. (Individuals looking to eventually pursue a career in teaching and/or research often seek these degrees.)
Prospective students must meet a number of entrance requirements to be admitted into a dental hygienist program at any of the above institutions. These education requirements vary considerably from program to program. Completing high school-level courses such as health, biology, psychology, chemistry, mathematics, and speech is highly beneficial for applicants, regardless of which program you choose. Most dental hygienist programs show a preference for individuals who have completed at least one year of college, while some baccalaureate degree programs require that applicants complete two years of college prior to enrollment. Howard HealthCare Academy
Dental Hygienist Course Requirements
Upon enrolling in an accredited dental hygienist program, students will be expected to complete an array of specialized courses before earning their degrees and completing licensure examinations. These courses cover topics spanning from fundamental human anatomy to specialized lab work and dental instrument usage.
Howard HealthCare Academy’s Dental Assistant Program and certificate programs can start you on the path toward becoming a dental hygienist. Our dental assistant courses include dental terminology, dental materials, clinical and lab duties, and dental practice management. You can also earn standalone certifications in infection control, radiation safety, coronal polishing, ultrasonic scaling, and more. These skills will be highly useful if you’re looking to expand your career through an accredited dental hygienist program.
Dental Hygienist Certification Requirements
Almost all states require dental hygienists to be graduates of accredited dental hygiene education programs to be eligible for state licensure. However, graduation from an accredited dental hygiene program is only part of the process. Almost all states require candidates for licensure to pass a state-authorized licensure examination and obtain a passing score on the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination before becoming certified as a dental hygienist. The state or regional examination is structured to test candidates’ clinical dental hygiene skills and other necessary dental topics. Once you pass the examination, you’re ready to officially start your dream career as a dental hygienist!