Dental hygienists with specialized training or certification may also perform other clinical functions to support the dentist. Now that you've learned how to become a dental hygienist, you're ready to look ahead to the next step in your career: becoming a great dental hygienist.
By developing your expertise and credentials, you can broaden your career opportunities and achieve a greater professional impact in the field of dental hygiene.
These schools offer particularly quick info upon request, and we have written detailed profiles for each (click school names to see the profiles). College Search Tools: Find colleges by major, tuition, location, athletics, and many other parameters. Employment And Career Training: Info including salary and job growth statistics, by metro area. While an aspiring dental assistant does not need a formal education, many employers seek new hires with some kind of training behind them. Hygienists must also pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination administered by the American Dental Association's Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations. Many states require hygienists to complete continuing education courses in order to maintain licensure. Poor oral hygiene and dental disease may be more prevalent in patients with disabilities due to the effects of their condition and extra considerations regarding medication. Some patients can have a difficult time reaching their mouth with a toothbrush, which can have serious health implications.
Before any prevention program can be developed, a dental professional with dental assisting training must determine the patient’s needs based on their oral condition, history and ability.
An ideal prevention program, which may involve a parent or caregiver, should include education, plaque biofilm control, fluorides and diet counseling.
Assessment and skill evaluation can help determine if a patient can do what is required of them.
By judging a patient’s ability to extend his or her arms and reach their mouth, a dental professional can determine the needed length of the oral healthcare device.
For a patient with special needs, there are many factors that can contribute to poor oral health, which is why it’s essential for a dental professional with dental hygienist training to be able to develop a total daily prevention program based on need and ability. Dental assistants perform many tasks, ranging from providing patient care and taking x rays to recordkeeping and scheduling appointments. Employment of dental assistants is projected to grow 18 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of dental assistants with similar occupations. Learn more about dental assistants by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations. Dental assistants perform many tasks, ranging from patient care and taking x rays to recordkeeping and scheduling appointments.
Assistants who perform lab tasks, such as taking impressions of a patienta€™s teeth, work under the direction of a dentist. All dental assistants complete certain tasks, such as helping dentists with procedures and keeping patient records. Dental assistants wear safety glasses, surgical masks, protective clothing, and gloves to protect themselves and patients from infectious diseases. Some states require dental assistants to graduate from an accredited program and pass an exam.
Accredited programs include classroom and laboratory work in which students learn about teeth, gums, jaws, and other areas that dentists work on and the instruments that dentists use. High school students interested in a career as a dental assistant should take courses in biology, chemistry, and anatomy. Dental assistants who do not have formal education in dental assisting may learn their duties through on-the-job training.
States that allow assistants to perform expanded duties, such as coronal polishing, require that they be licensed, registered, or hold certifications from the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). In addition, many states require assistants to meet specific education or training requirements in order to work with radiography (x ray) equipment. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. As the large baby-boom population ages, and as people keep more of their original teeth than did previous generations, the need to maintain and treat teeth will continue to increase the need for dental care.
In addition, the number of individuals who have access to health insurance is expected to continue to increase because of federal health insurance reform. The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of dental assistants.
Dental hygienists clean teeth, examine patients for signs of oral diseases such as gingivitis, and provide other preventive dental care.
Medical assistants complete administrative and clinical tasks in the offices of physicians, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities.
Occupational therapy assistants and aides help patients develop, recover, and improve the skills needed for daily living and working. Physical therapist assistants, sometimes called PTAs, and physical therapist aides work under the direction and supervision of physical therapists. Surgical technologists, also called operating room technicians, assist in surgical operations. Pharmacy technicians help pharmacists dispense prescription medication to customers or health professionals. Nursing assistants, sometimes called nursing aides, help provide basic care for patients in hospitals and residents of long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes. The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised.
The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked.
The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensateda€”annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses.
The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's Career InfoNet.

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.
The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile. The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation.
The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation. Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.
The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2014, which is the base year of the 2014-24 employment projections. Professional dental cleaning and regular check-ups help prevent serious tooth and gum disease.
They support their patients' oral health by cleaning and polishing teeth and by providing guidance on how to maintain healthy teeth and gums. They may administer clinical laboratory tests and confer with the dentist to analyze results.
Prepare for your professional training by emphasizing science and math courses in high school.
The most common path is to complete a certificate or college degree from an accredited dental hygiene school.
Most states require hygienists to graduate from an accredited dental hygiene program and pass a written and clinical exam.
There are approximately 300 dental hygiene programs accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation.
You can then leverage this training as a foundation for other professional development activities throughout your career.
The difference between skilled oral hygiene support staff and an advanced dental hygiene professional depends on the steps you take to develop your expertise and credentials. With a four-year undergraduate or graduate degree, you qualify for research, teaching, specialized clinical practice, and public health administration roles.
These associations are ideal for networking with other professionals and accessing professional resources such as conferences, job lists, and continuing education seminars. Dental assistant programs typically lead to certificates and are short-term career preparation programs. Hygienists typically earn an associate degree, though some programs offer bachelor and even master degrees. License applicants must also pass a clinical examination that is administered at either the state or regional level.
The New Jersey State Board of Dentistry requires 20 hours of continuing education for every two-year licensure period, for example. To help patients with special needs maintain good oral health, a dental professional or intra-oral dental assistant must put together a daily preventive program that’s effective, simple to use, and low in cost. Poor physical coordination, teeth with developmental defects or oral habits such as pouching of food are all factors that can contribute to a poor oral hygiene. Can the patient brush and floss on their own or are they partially or totally dependent on a caregiver? A regular toothbrush may suffice, or an extended handle made from a plastic ruler and electric tape might be needed. If the patient is able to properly access the oral cavity, then the brush head or flossing device can do the majority of the work for them. Though some devices to aid in overcoming obstacles to oral hygiene are available commercially, using imaginative techniques can also provide an effective alternative to help a patient achieve optimum oral health. Ongoing research linking oral health and general health will likely continue to increase the demand for preventive dental services.
Fluoride application, in which fluoride is put directly on the teeth, is another anticavity measure. Most programs are offered by community colleges, although they also may be offered by vocational or technical schools.
A dental assistant or dentist in the office teaches the new assistant dental terminology, the names of the instruments, how to complete daily tasks, how to interact with patients, and other activities necessary to help keep the dental office running smoothly. Dental assistants must follow specific rules and protocols, such as infection control procedures, when helping dentists treat patients.
In other states, there are no formal requirements to become an entry-level dental assistant. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $24,950, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $50,660. People with new or expanded dental insurance coverage will be more likely to visit a dentist than in the past.
Dental assistants with advanced certification or training will likely have the best job prospects.
These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area.
Occupational therapy assistants are directly involved in providing therapy to patients; occupational therapy aides typically perform support activities.
They help patients who are recovering from injuries and illnesses regain movement and manage pain. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.
Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).
Like many clinical assistants, dental hygienists fulfill a broad range of job responsibilities.
Some dental hygiene programs require applicants to have completed at least one year of college. The American Dental Association's Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations administers the written test. For example, a graduate-level dental hygienist may lead a public health campaign or teach students in school health programs.

Aspiring hygienists and assistants should familiarize themselves with state requirements before pursuing an education to ensure they take the right steps to be able to work in their state after graduation.
By educating the patient as well as his or her caretaker, the dental professional can develop a system that allows the patient to maintain optimal oral health. Of course, regular dental visits should be part of the plan to evaluate effectiveness of the program and make adjustments when necessary.
If the patient is unable to reach certain areas of the mouth by bending their wrists, a compact head toothbrush can provide a better intraoral fit. Some dental assistants may be qualified to apply topical anesthetic to an area of a patienta€™s mouth, temporarily numbing the area to help prepare a patient for procedures. Dental assistants work under the supervision of dentists and work closely with dental hygienists in their day-to-day activities.
Assistants also must be aware of what tasks they are allowed to complete in the state where they work. They generally work in tight quarters on a small part of the body, using very precise tools and instruments. They need to follow directions from a dentist or dental hygienist, so they can help treat patients and do tasks, such as taking an x ray. They should have the correct tools in place for a dentist or dental hygienist to use when treating a patient. The educational requirements for DANB certification are that dental assistants must either have graduated from an accredited program or have a high school diploma and complete the required amount of work experience. Dentists will continue to hire more dental assistants to complete routine tasks, allowing the dentist to see more patients in their practice and to spend their time on more complex procedures. This will increase the demand for all dental services, including those performed by dental assistants. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.
This tab may also provide information on earnings in the major industries employing the occupation. In return, you can enjoy a stable, high-demand career with flexible hours and generous benefits. Other options include the one-year certificate program and more advanced bachelor's and master's degree programs. An angle can be bent into the toothbrush handle by holding the handle under very hot water until it becomes pliable. They also offering instruction to dental patients about what they can do to maintain dental health, which research has shown has a direct relationship to overall health. Courses teach you how to become a dental hygienist, covering topics such as anatomy and physiology, periodontology, histology, dental materials, clinical dental hygiene, and pathology.
The Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), part of the American Dental Association, accredited nearly 300 dental assisting training programs in 2015.
Get Connected with Top Dental Hygienists Programs and Schools According to the Mayo Clinic, studies have shown a link between dental health and diseases and conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
In some cases, improper oral hygiene can allow bacteria from the mouth to enter the bloodstream, affecting other parts of the body. Also, the condition of the teeth and gums can be an indicator of problems elsewhere in the body. An increase in the focus on dental care is behind the predicted rise in the need for dental hygienists. Job Duties for Dental Hygienists A patient going to the dentist for a regular check-up will likely spend most of the session with the hygienist. In some cases, hygienists also place and carve filling materials, temporary fillings and periodontal dressings.
Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a dental hygienist’s primary duties include: • Removing tartar, stains and plaque from teeth • Applying sealants and fluorides that help protect teeth • Taking and developing dental x rays • Keeping track of patient care and treatment plans • Teaching patients oral hygiene, such as proper brushing and flossing • Taking saliva samples which can be used in early detection of cancer Free Career Guide GET HELP PAYING FOR SCHOOL There are grants and scholarships that can offset your education expenses. This handbook includes advice on planning your career path and outlines steps you can take to increase your chance of professional success. Health and safety are of primary concern for dental hygienists, who wear gloves, surgical masks and safety glasses to protect themselves and patients from disease.
Dental hygienists must be familiar with and able to use equipment such as x-ray machines and various hand and powered tools employed to clean and polish the patient’s teeth. Dental Hygienists Salary and Jobs Outlook   New technology which helps diagnose oral health issues, as well as increasing knowledge of the link between oral health and overall health, are spurring an increase in the demand for dental hygienists. Further, advances in dental health care mean that patients keep their teeth longer than in the past, also fueling the need for dental hygienists. More dentists are leaving routine dental care to hygienists, another reason for the increased demand in the field. The BLS predicts an increase of 38% for this occupation by 2020, well above average for all occupations.
For example, in 2010, only about 38% of dental hygienists worked full-time, meaning many of them were not eligible for benefits such as vacation and retirement fund contributions. Some part-time hygienists work for more than one dentist, increasing their earning potential. Depending on the employer, hygienists are paid hourly wages, by commission or are salaried. Dental Hygienists Education Requirements and Training Programs Typically, an associate’s degree in dental hygiene is needed for entry into the field.
Every state requires dental hygienists to be licensed, although specific education requirements vary by state.
Most states require a degree from an accredited dental hygiene program, as well as passing written and practical examinations.
Get Matched with Top Dental Hygienists Education Programs Most dental hygienists programs offer laboratory, clinical and classroom instruction, as well as courses in anatomy, physiology, nutrition, radiography and periodontology, the study of gum disease. High school students interested in becoming dental hygienists should focus on biology, chemistry and mathematics.

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