Dental Hygienist


Whilethe dentists are known to concentrate on the treatment of tooth andgum conditions, the oral health practitioners equally known as thedental hygienists play a vital role in assisting prevent the problemsthat arise from oral hygiene. Therefore, when one has a problem withhis/her teeth the appropriate person to see is the dentist while thedental hygienist is visited for preventive health care. Most of theover 183,000 registered oral health practitioners work within thedental offices alongside the dentists. In most cases, they see apatient first before the dentist and clean the teeth of the patientby removing stains, tartar, and plaque as they floss, brush, as wellas scrape the teeth. Oral health practitioners are equally involvedin the education of patients regarding the beast ways for one tobrush his/her teeth, floss, in addition to the best oral products touse. Besides their technical skills, the oral health practitionersare expected to be good communicators given that they are required tounderstand how to read as well as relate to the client. Therefore,this paper presents a research work on becoming a dental hygienist.The research covers the schooling of a dental hygienist, statisticson the profession, the role, as well as the work environment of thedental hygienist.

Statisticsand Salary

Statisticsindicates that the oral health practitioners` job market is booming.Based on the data released by the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics),the profession is anticipated to grow by about 33.3 percent by theyear 2022. The projected growth rate for this profession remainshigher compared to that of most other professions. The upsurge in thenumber of jobs is probably because of the elevated awareness amongcustomers and the population on the link between oral health andone`s overall health. Data shows that an enormous number of oralhealth practitioners will be hired to undertake preventive healthcare measures with part of the employers projected to includeemergency rooms, physicians, as well as medical clinics. Thesecategories require the oral health practitioners to provide oralhealth care to their patients.

Concerningthe salary of the oral health practitioners, statistics indicatesthat they make comfortable salaries given that majority of them workpart time. In the year 2013, the median salary for the oral dentistswas $71,110 with the best earning approximately $96,690 and the last10% earning about $47,880. A majority of the top paid oral healthpractitioners work in the dental offices (U.S News). In relation tothe states, California has been reported to have a good compensationpackage for its dental hygienists.

TheSchooling to Become a

Oralhealth practitioners typically need an associate degree in dentalhygiene. However, a bachelors` degree in dental hygiene is usuallyavailable for one to pursue. For the purposes of research, clinicalpractice, or teaching in the public or school health programs, oneusually required to have a masters or bachelors degree in dentalhygiene.

Thedental hygienists obtain their education via academic programs at thetechnical colleges, community schools, dental schools, communitycolleges, or universities. A majority of community college programsusually last a period of at least two years for a student tograduate, with the graduates obtaining an associate degree. Uponobtaining this degree, the hygienist is allowed to sit for alicensure examination, either at the national, state, or regionallevel, to become a licensed dental hygienist working in a dentaloffice. The university-based programs in dental hygiene may providebaccalaureate and masters degrees, which usually require two years tocomplete.

Inorder to be admitted for a program in dental hygiene, therequirements vary based on the courses taught at the high schoollevel. High school courses, such as biology, chemistry, health,mathematics, speech, and psychology are among the beneficial ones forsecuring an admission. A majority of programs usually preferapplicants who have finished at least one year of college education.Some baccalaureate degree programs necessitate that the applicantsfinish a two-year college education before being enrolled in theprogram.

Oralhealth practitioners` education programs provide clinical educationin the form of supervised patient care experiences. The programscover courses in areas such as liberal arts, basic sciences, andclinical sciences. The liberal arts courses comprise of speech,psychology, English, and sociology. The basic sciences comprise ofimmunology, chemistry, microbiology, pharmacology, anatomy,physiology, and pathology. The clinical sciences comprise ofradiology, dental hygiene, and dental materials. The completion ofthe dental hygiene program allows one to decide on pursuingadditional training in other areas such as business administration,education, marketing, public health, and basic sciences.

TheCODA (Commission on Dental Accreditation) of the ADA (American DentalAssociation) is tasked with accreditation of dental hygienelearning/education programs. Within the United States, there areabout 330 CODA-accredited oral hygiene programs. The oral healthpractitioners are usually licensed by each state to offer oralhygiene care and educate the patients. Nearly all the states have arequirement stating that dental hygienists must be graduates of theCODA-accredited oral hygiene programs in order to be eligible forlicensure, by that state. Equally, the states also require that thecandidates applying for licensure obtain a particular passing scoreon the NBDHE (National Board Hygiene Examination), which is acomprehensive written test or examination apart from passing thestate licensure exam. The regional or state examination tests theclinical dental hygiene skills of the candidates in addition to theirknowledge and understanding of the dental hygiene subjects and otherassociated courses.

TheRoles of a

Theroles of the oral health practitioners are very distinct from theones of the dentist thereby outlining a clear difference in the twocareers. The dental hygienists undertake the basic role of cleaningteeth, examining for oral disease signs like gingivitis in patients,as well as providing additional preventive dental care. The otherbasic duty that the undertake regards educating the patients on thebetter ways of improving and maintaining a good oral health.Regardless of their working environment, hospital setting or employedin clinics by other medical practitioners like physicians, the dutiesof the oral health practitioners typically comprises of thefollowing.

  • They remove stains, tartar, and plaque from the patients` teeth

  • They apply the fluorides and sealants to assist the patient in protecting their teeth

  • They keep record of the treatment plans and patient care

  • They take as well as develop the dental x-rays

  • They educate patients on oral hygiene techniques like how to floss the right way and brushing

Theoral health practitioners use several kinds of tools to undertaketheir jobs. For instance, they polish and clean teeth using theirhands, ultrasonic tools, and power. In a number of instances, theyusually remove the stains using an air-polishing device that sprays amixture of water, air, and baking soda. They also polish teeth usinga powered tool that operates like an automatic toothbrush. Anothertool that the hygienists use is the x-ray machines, which they take apicture with to check in case the jaw or tooth has problems. Of greatsignificance among their roles is assisting patients to develop aswell as maintain a good oral health. For instance, the oral hygienepractitioners may elaborate on the association between oral healthand diet, information that serves to encourage patients to take goodcare of their oral health. They can also advise the patients on whatto consider when selecting a toothbrush in addition to the other oralcare devices. While the typical duties are similar, they may differbased on the state that one works in. For instance, some states maypermit the dental hygienists to undertake duties, such as placing andcarve filling materials, periodontal dressing, and temporary fillings(Andrews 100).

Theeffective undertaking of the roles of dental hygienists needs anamalgamation of a number of qualities like any other profession.These qualities are vital since they facilitate better servicedelivery and good customer relation regarded as vital in the healthcare sector. The most important qualities that a dental hygienistneeds to display include compassion, dexterity, detail oriented,physical stamina, and interpersonal skills. In some cases, patientsare usually under extreme pain and may exhibit fears of undergoing adental work. Therefore, the compassion of the dental hygienist willensure that the job is done taking into consideration the emotions ofthe patients. The quality of detail oriented is necessary because thedental hygienists need to follow exact protocols and rules in orderto assist the dentists diagnose as well as treat the patients. Theinstances where the dental hygienists undertake their duties withoutthe direct supervision of the dentists are very rare (Andrews 100).

Thework environment

Thework environment of the oral health practitioners is similar to thatof the dentists since they work in the dentist offices. The coreworkers of this group are the dental assistants and the dentists. Asper the statistics of the BLS, the dental hygienists held a total of192,000 jobs in the year 2012. When at work, the dental hygienistsdress in safety glasses, gloves, and surgical masks to guard themagainst patients with infectious illnesses. When taking x-rays, thedental hygienists follow stringent procedures to ensure that they areprotected as well as the patients. The nature of their duties needsthem to spend prolonged periods in order to work on the patients.Their work schedules are flexible with enabling them to do a lot ofpart-time jobs (Bureau of Labor Statistics).


Inconclusion, this research examined how to become a dental hygienistwith focus placed on a number of areas. These included the statisticsand salary range of dental hygienists, the schooling process tobecoming a dental hygienist, the duties and the working environmentof a dental hygienist. Also regarded as oral health practitioners,the research concluded that a dental hygienist remains a lucrativeand well pursued career with statistics indicating an upsurge intheir number by the year 2020.


Andrews,Ester. PracticeManagement for s.Philadelphia,PA: LippincottWilliams &amp Wilkins, 2007. Print.

Bureauof Labor Statistics. DentalHygienists.Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections, 8 Jan.2014. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.

U.S.News. DentalHygienist: Salary.U.S. News &amp World Report, 2015. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.