Looking for a great career opportunity? Have you considered the field of dentistry? There are a variety of positions in the field of dentistry that are in high demand, including that of dental hygienist. You can easily become a dental hygienist in a short period of time and become part of the dynamic world of dental care.
The requirements to become a dental hygienist begin with a college program that is specific to dental hygiene. While in high school, science courses such as chemistry and biology will be helpful. In Maryland, a dental hygienist can become certified with an associate’s degree, which generally takes two years, but some choose to go on to earn a bachelor’s degree which will help to further their career. Dental hygiene programs are very competitive, so it is imperative that you do well on standardized tests and maintain a competitive GPA when applying for admission.
When locating and choosing a college, ask questions about the rigor of the coursework as well as the accreditation. Make certain that the school is regionally accredited and that the Dental Hygienist program you are applying to is accredited by the American Dental Association. Training to be a dental hygienist will be very clinically based. Students will take courses in oral anatomy, physiology, nutrition, biology, periodontics, clinical dental hygiene I and II, and other various similar courses. General education courses, such as English, mathematics and humanities courses will also be required.
Once you have acquired your education, the next step is certification. You should prepare to sit for “the boards”, as they are informally referred to. You will take a written and a clinical examination. A facility of the American Dental Association’s Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations administers the written exam. The Maryland Dental Board of Examiners maintains a registry of all certified practitioners. In order for your license to remain current, you must maintain a renewal every two years with at least 30 continuing education credit hours, required by the Maryland Dental Hygienist’s Association.
Dental Hygienists love the profession overall. Most state that working conditions are favorable, employers are fair and professional, and the salary is above the average salary for the education requirements. In Maryland, the median salary for a dental hygienist is $53,000 annually. With higher degrees and experience, their salary increases accordingly.
Because of nature of the job, dental hygienists are in very close proximity to their patients during much of the visit. For this reason, they really must possess excellent people skills in order to make patients feel comfortable. They begin the visit with an oral examination of the patient’s mouth, inside and out. They will talk with the patient, reviewing any health problems, any dental concerns, and any changes since the last visit. They will take basic radiographs – xrays- of the patient’s teeth and then begin with the cleaning of the patient’s teeth.
The hygienist will begin to remove calculus and plaque from the surfaces of the patient’s teeth using special tools to carefully scrape the deposits off. The hygienist will then apply preventive materials, such as sealants or fluoride, to the surfaces of the teeth. Educating the patient about oral hygiene is the final component of the hygienist’s portion of the dental visit.
Much of the time, the dental hygienist is the first point of contact for children with the dental office and it is this impression that will remain with them for the rest of their life, even into adulthood. It is critical that dental hygienists understand the important role that they play in the oral health of their patients, in the entire oral healthcare team and as a respected member of their community.