As a profession, Dental Hygienist sounds pretty attractive.
Not in a creative sense of course. After all, it is hardly possible to do something creative with someone's teeth, especially when it is stained and has plaque on it.
But salary-wise, the job is pretty lucrative as you get to earn more than $1000 per week, and what's more, you won't even have to get a four-year degree to become a dental hygienist.
But how long does it really take to become a dental hygienist?
Well, it depends on which dental hygiene programme you choose. If you choose to complete the associate’s degree programme, then you can start practicing only after two years.
On the other hand, if you decide to complete a bachelor's degree programme, then it will take 4 years to become a dental hygienist.
Now, when preparing for a career as an oral health practitioner,it’s important that you have a clear idea about the process of becoming a dental hygienist.
To make things easier for you, below I have discussed all the steps that you need to follow in order to become a dental hygienist-
Get A High School Diploma
First, you need to get a high school diploma or its equivalent as it is a prerequisite for becoming eligible for a seat in the dental hygiene school.
It is recommended that you take courses in biology, chemistry, and mathematics as they will come in handy for post-secondary training.
However, you may be required to complete certain subjects such as chemistry, physiology, and human anatomy with a GPA 2.5 or more in order to get an entry into the dental hygiene associate’s degree program
Complete a Dental Hygiene Associate’s Degree Program
All prospective oral hygienist students are required to complete an associate's degree in oral hygiene in order to start practicing.
Therefore, after getting a high school diploma, you need to get yourself enrolled in a dental hygiene program which is approved by the Commission of Dental Accreditation.
In dental hygiene programs,you will get laboratory and clinical education along with classroom instructions.
As a hygienist, you are going to study subjects such as anatomy, physiology, nutrition, oral pathology, periodontology, and radiography.
Apart from getting clinical experiences, you will also have to complete laboratory exercises. In which you are going to interact directly with the patients and have lessons in performing rudimentary dental procedures.
Get a License
No matter which state you choose to ply your trade, you will need to get a license which includes graduation from an accredited dental hygiene school and getting passed in both written and clinical examinations.
The American Dental Association provides two written examinations, which are accepted by every state in the USA.
Regarding the clinical exam, it is conducted regionally and each state has its own clinical exam. Moreover, a few states may require you to pass a test on legal aspects of the oral healthcare field.
Getting employed is comparatively easier than previous steps as dental hygienists are very much in demand. You can easily find work in the offices of dentists, physician or in a general hospital.
Moreover, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2014 that the job openings for dental hygienists were expected to grow more than 30% over the decade.
Therefore, it is unlikely that dental hygienists will suffer from unemployment in the near future.
Associate’s vs. Bachelor’s Degree
An associate’s degree along with a state-issued license is all you need to start practicing. You don’t need to complete any other additional courses to become an oral healthcare practitioner.
On the other hand, a bachelor’s degree isn’t required to get work as an oral hygienist, but it can open the doors for higher education, leadership, and research projects.
In addition, a bachelor's degree will provide you with both theoretical and clinical understanding of the dental health care field.
Moreover, you will need a baccalaureate degree if you want to advance your education and get a master’s degree in oral science.
Re-entry programs are for those students who had to leave the oral care field for some time due to some family or other problems but want to pursue their dream of becoming a dental hygienist.
By enrolling yourself in the re-entry programs you will be able to resume your education and eventually become a dental hygienist.
However, you might need to go through an interview or pre-screening to assess whether you are eligible for the program.
Depending on whether you choose the associate's program or the bachelor's degree, it will take 2-4 years for you to become a dental hygienist. So, do the calculations yourself and make your decision carefully.
I wish you good luck in your future endeavours. Adieu!