The dental hygienist is one of the most important roles in a dentist’s office. They perform many of the routine clinical duties that would otherwise take up much of the dentist’s time focusing on patients with bigger, more complex needs. A hygienist will perform cleanings, but will also update patient records and perform a variety of other clinical tasks. From educating patients on oral hygiene to, in some states, administering anesthesia, a dental hygienist is more than just a cleaning person. In order to become a dental hygienist, though, you’ve got to have some education under your belt, which will mean dental hygienist schools.
There are actually a variety of options available in terms of dental hygienist schools. Many dental hygiene programs are offered through colleges, where you can choose from a two year degree or a four year degree. If you’re feeling ambitious, go ahead and dive right on in to a bachelor’s degree, but an associate’s degree – which is only two years – is really all that’s required.
In order to be admitted into dental hygienist school programs, you’ll have to meet a few requirements. You’ll need your college entrance exam scores (SAT or ACT), and you may be required to take an additional entrance exam. In addition, you’ll need your high school diploma or GED equivalent, as well as your high school transcripts.
While you’re attending dental hygienist school, you’ll be taking many classes. Some of these classes, especially for those going for a four year degree, will be general education classes, but most will revolve around instruction in chemistry and biology, as well as anatomy and even a few courses in patient care ethics.
However, the learning does not end there in dental hygienist schools. You’ll also be performing a variety of tasks in a “laboratory” setting. This may mean that you’re practicing on mannequins or you’re participating in a computer simulation. These laboratory practice sessions will give you some great, hands-on experience.
And then, of course, is the clinical part. Usually, clinical hours will take place outside the school and in a dentist’s office in order to give you a feel for what it will be like when you’re actually on the job. Generally, you’ll also be mentored by an already licensed dental hygienist, who can give you some great advice and pointers rooted in a good few years of experience.
Once you’ve completed dental hygienist school, you’ll be ready to take your state boards. Every state requires that a dental hygienist is licensed in order to practice. In addition to a clinical examination, you’ll also be required to pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination written exam. Upon certification, you’ll be able to put the letters “RDH” after your name, signifying that you are a Registered Dental Hygienist.
Becoming a dental hygienist can be quick and easy, and a great way to make a career switch. With the variety of dental hygienist schools options available, there’s bound to be something that fits your needs and the desires you have for your career.