Though requirements vary from state to state, such as whether you will need to earn a degree or not, you must earn a dental hygiene license. An accredited dental hygiene program will give you all the tools you need to pass the exam. While dental hygienists are known for cleaning teeth, their responsibilities don't end there. Additional duties include educating patients on proper dental hygiene practices, keeping track of patient care and treatment plans, and taking dental radiographs. Depending on the state in which you choose to work, you may also be responsible for crafting and applying periodontal dressings, carving filling materials and placing temporary fillings.
Experience in the dental field prior to pursuing a career in dental hygiene isn't required, but if you plan on attending college rather than a trade school, there are several prerequisites that you will need to complete before applying to the program. English, communications, organic biochemistry and biology are just a few of the required courses. The school you choose to attend for the dental hygiene program will be able to give you a list as well as a time frame for completing these courses. Plan on spending your first year solely knocking out the prerequisites. According to the American Dental Association, there are 270 accredited schools that offer this program.
Areas of Study
Once in the program, you will be submersed in a world of study ranging from oral pathology to nitrous oxide sedation. While cleaning teeth is a portion of the study, there are so many other factors involved to become a well-rounded dental hygienist. You will study proper nutrition to help you council your patients on how their food choices affect their overall dental health, in addition to learning about anesthetics and how to handle unexpected medical emergencies.
After completion of the required schooling, you will need to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination. Successful completion of this test, in addition to a state examination, will grant you your license. At this point, you can start adding R.D.H to the end of your signature and begin looking for work.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, dental hygiene is one of the fastest growing fields in the medical industry. Depending on your location, you can land a job in a clinic or hospital. If you aren't looking to hop right into the field or plan on furthering your education while working, additional education beneficial to an RDH includes business administration, public health, and basic science courses. A bachelor's or master's degree can open up opportunities in teaching, research, and even public health.
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