What kind of degree do I need to become a Dental Hygienist?

A dental hygienist takes care of their patient’s oral healthcare. They are a professional that must be licensed within the state they are practicing. A dental hygienist assists dentists during the patient visit with responsibilities including assessing a person’s dental health, examining their teeth for oral diseases such as cavities or gingivitis and reading x-rays. They are also responsible for routine cleaning of the patient’s teeth to maintain good oral health and helps to educate their patients on proper brushing techniques, all while working under the direction of a licensed dentist.

Dental hygienists generally work in private dental clinics, however, they are sometimes employed by hospitals, outpatient clinics or nursing homes. They work very closely with dentists and dental assistants. In this position, a dental hygienist may be subject to long hours of leaning over patients and standing for long periods of time. Body mechanics courses are available to help you stay healthy while twisting in sometimes odd, unnatural positions. Precautions must be taken to prevent the possibility of spreading disease or air borne illnesses between patients, always. Generally, dental hygienists work 30 to 40 hours per week with an average income of $72,910 annually, as reported in 2016. Of course, there are several factors which will contribute to your salary such as education, location and years of experience.

To become a dental hygienist, you will need to obtain your online Associate for Applied Science in Dental Hygiene degree. This program usually takes two years to complete, however, if you are interested in career advancement, then a four-year Bachelor’s of Science in Dental Hygiene degree is obtainable, as well, but is not as common. An online bachelor’s or master’s in dental hygiene degree is usually required by those wishing to do dental related research or to use their knowledge in an educational setting such as teaching in public schools or other programs. Both degree programs are offered at most community colleges, universities, vocational schools, and specialized dental schools, however, you may choose to get your degree or diploma from an online dental program option, as well.

Coursework involved in becoming a dental hygienist may include how to use dental software, radiology, oral pathology, pain management, microbiology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology, the use of dental tools, machines and materials, tooth morphology, controlling infections, periodontics, pharmacology, community dental health, mouth infections and, of course, the practice of assessing patient dental health information and preventative oral healthcare.

Since dental hygienists interact with patients all day, schools may also require students to take classes such as speech, psychology and sociology to strengthen both their bedside manner and their diagnostic skills. A dental hygienist must be a kind and compassionate individual, therefore, when their patients are in pain or feeling a bit fearful of dental procedures, they can effectively explain dental methods and comfort them, too. Good communication skills are a must.

Other required coursework may include CPR certification and as with most professions, clinical work and internships relating to dental hygiene work will be required to gain hands-on experience in order to obtain your degree.

Once you have completed your online associate degree, you’ll also need to complete the National Board Dental Hygiene written exam given by the American Dental Association along with your state’s mandatory clinical board examination so you can hold a license to practice in your respective state. All states require you to have the proper licensure to practice in the United States.

If you would like to learn more about earning your online associate degree in dental hygiene, feel free to check out our Top Accredited Online Programs to help you along your educational journey.