How to Become a Dental Hygienist
Any worthwhile undertaking requires careful planning and a dogged pursuit of your goals in order to succeed. Learning how to become a dental hygienist is no different.
Below we’ve outlined a five-point plan to take you from education to practice in five easy steps. This is a general overview, so think of this as a roadmap and a complimentary compass to help you find your path.
Step # 1 Select a Program
The first thing you need to do when figuring out how to become a dental hygienist is to figure out which dental hygiene degree program you want to enrol in. Easy right? Well, actually you’ve got a fair amount of choice as to what kind of program(s) to take.
There are Certificates, Undergraduate Degrees and Graduate Degrees, as well as some more advanced training available to you. These different levels of training will open different doors for you, so it’s worth spending some serious time investing in figuring out how and where you want your education in dental hygiene to take you; that is, specifically, what part of the healthcare industry you want to work in.
And when deciding on what program to undertake always, always remember to make sure that the institution you’re looking into has been accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (who themselves are part of the ADA, or American Dental Association).
Step # 2 Take Prerequisite Courses
This is one of those required segments of learning how to become a dental hygienist. To enrol in a program of study as a dental hygienist there are prerequisite courses you may be required to complete prior to starting your degree program. You need to make sure that you’ve planned for these and are ready to complete them before you undertake to start your actual degree program.
These additional, or preliminary courses are designed to bolster your knowledge of the field you’re entering and to better prepare you for the career you’re embarking on. Moreover, they’ll stand you in good stead if you ever want to expand into another branch of the dental hygienist field after you complete your initial degree(s).
Step # 3 Improve Your Communication Skills
It seems fairly basic when you come right down to it, but so many people overlook this basic requirement of working with others. Because at the end of the day, that’s what dental hygiene is all about: working with a community. If you can’t communicate with that community comfortably and put them at ease, you’ll be at a serious disadvantage.
People are rightly concerned about what’s going on in their mouth while you’re working with them, and it’s your job to tell them what you’re doing and how you’re helping them. Or in some cases you’ll simply need to reassure your patients that everything is all right. Especially when working with small children.
Lastly, even if you can’t make small talk or engage patients in witty banter, you’re going to need to be able to clearly articulate your intentions and instructions to your patients. You’ll also have to make technical terminology understandable, so if you have any problems that require the aid of speech therapy you need to address that before you start learning how to become a dental hygienist. You’ll be glad you did once you move into active practice.
Step # 4 Get a Dental Hygienist Scholarship
Financing a medical education is expensive, but there’s scholarship and/or grant money to be had once you know how to access it. There’s absolutely no reason not to at least look into the kind of scholarships that are available to you – especially if you’re coming into dental hygiene as a mature student. Your individual financial standing will determine how much aid you can gain from organizations and institutions offering scholarships and other forms of aid, so never assume that someone else’s experience will speak to your own. Look into this for yourself and get ahead of the game with some extra funding.
Step # 5 Get a License
You actually can’t avoid this step. Each state has its own licensing for dental hygienics, and you can’t work as a dental hygienist without one.
You’re required to take two exams in order to receive your license to practice. The first is designed to test your knowledge of the core subjects you studied in the degree program you just finished, as well as biometrical science. The second is your state’s clinical exam.
By passing these two qualifying licensing exams you prove to the state in which you intend to practice that you are qualified to hold a license to practice in the healthcare community. With proper practice and a good education these exams are difficult, but not impossible. And that’s as it should be. You’ve chosen to follow a career path in the medical profession, and the state you live/work in wants to make sure that you’re not going to endanger the lives of your fellow citizens. You’d expect the same protections if you were on the other side of the fence.
So, now that we’ve outlined how to become a dental hygienist for you it’s time to start considering where you’re going to go for your education and how to pull together the funding. Take your time and think carefully about what branch of dental hygienics you want to go into, and plan for eventual advancement or a lateral path into research if you want to move into an area with even more opportunity for growth than clinical practice.
Becoming a dental hygienist, like any other medical profession, is a long journey and there’s a lot to consider. But don’t worry. We’re here for you, and we’ve got the answers you need in all the relevant sections of this website. Use the navigation bars and Category headers to find what you need. And take your time. This is your future we’re talking about. Make it count.