A dental hygienist is nothing short of an oral health care professional who works directly with a myriad of patients. Although they work under the supervision of a licensed dentist, they have the necessary know-how of oral healthcare and along with instructing patients on oral hygiene, they also have the expertise to conduct oral inspection, patient assessment, and teeth cleaning.
Before you begin with this educational journey to become a dental hygienist, you must understand what you seek in this profession; from salary to work-life balance to long-term goals.
A dental hygienist working in a general or specialty dental clinic, nursing home or a hospital requires an associate degree in dental hygiene. Such associate programs typically take anywhere between two to three years to complete.
Alternatively, if you seek to advance your career, you could opt for a bachelor’s degree. It could take you well beyond a dentist’s office and open doors to private practice and clinical research.
Such degree programs are focused on dental tools and equipment, dental softwares, and include courses like oral pathology, radiology, periodontics, pharmacology, dental equipment and material, community dental health, pain management and infection control.
A career as a dental hygienist requires strong interpersonal skills, higher than average reasoning abilities and elementary medical knowledge. Some of the other attributes vital for a career in dental hygiene are stamina, patience, compassion, concentration, and dexterity.
You are also required to use good body mechanics for you’d be at a high risk of occupational injuries owing to awkward positions and long working hours.
Mentioned below are chief steps to become a dental hygienist:
1. An associate degree or any of its equivalent: It’s imperative to possess an associate degree or a diploma certificate which are typically available at dental institutes, dental diploma centers, vocational colleges and now, online as well. If aspiring to move any further, you could move to bachelor’s degree as well.
2. Licensing: Competent educational qualification is only the first step towards becoming a dental hygienist. Anyone looking to practice must be licensed. You need to opt for the screening test administered by the chief dental association. In India, it’s Dental Council of India.
3. Advanced training: In the field of dentistry, one needs to keep up with whatsoever additional knowledge available. While associate degrees and licensing is enough to become a dental hygienist, earning additional degrees would help you advance your career and keep you at the forefront of knowledge.