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How to Become a Dental Hygienist in Arizona

Dental hygienists are important team members in dentists’ offices as well as public health agencies. Dental hygienists are expected to be in high demand in the near future — the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that there will be a growth rate of 33 percent nationwide and 44 percent in Arizona between 2012 and 2022. In Arizona, this equates to 240 job openings per year for dental hygienists during this period.

Requirements

Although Arizona does not require dental hygienists to be certified, they must be licensed. Applicants for licensing must first earn a degree or certificate from an accredited school of dental hygiene that is recognized by the Arizona State Board of Dental Examiners. In addition, applicants must be of good moral character and 18 years of age or older. They must have passed all of the following exams:

• National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, offered by an agency of the American Dental Association, the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations
• Dental Jurisprudence Examination, administered by the Arizona State Board of Dental Examiners
• Clinical examination administered by the Western Regional Examining Board or another examination offered by a state or agency that has equivalent requirements

Continuing Education Requirements

Dental hygienists in Arizona typically receive a license that is valid for three years. Renewals require proof that the hygienist has met the minimum requirements for continuing education during the previous licensing period. Although the requirements are subject to change, as of 2014, dental hygienists must earn at least 54 continuing education credit hours that comply with the following:

• A maximum of 14 credit hours can be earned in the areas of methods of health care delivery, dental hygiene practice organization and management or patient management skills.
• A minimum of three credit hours must be in infectious disease or infectious disease control.
• A minimum of three credit hours must be in chemical dependency, ethics, risk management, tobacco cessation or Arizona dental jurisprudence.
• A minimum of three credit hours in healthcare provider CPR, ACLS and PALS.
• A minimum of 31 credit hours must be in one or more of the following: care of implants, pain management, dental public health, new concepts in dental hygiene, managing medical emergencies, dental record-keeping, periodontal diseases, maintenance of cosmetic restorations and sealants or radiology techniques and safety. The area of dental and medical health and dental hygiene services is also included in this category.

All continuing education credits must be earned through an institution or agency recognized by the Arizona Board of Dental Examinations. Excess credit hours cannot be carried forward.

Salaries for Dental Hygienists

Salaries for dental hygienists in Arizona vary by geographic location, experience and employer. However, statewide, dental hygienists earned salaries in 2013 that compared favorably with the national rates. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, dental hygienists in Arizona had a median salary of $84,300, which was significantly higher than the national median salary of $71,100 for the occupation. Annual salaries for dental hygienists ranged from $67,800 to $94,300 in Arizona and from $47,900 to $96,700 nationally, with 10 percent earning less than the minimum amount stated and 10 percent earning more than the maximum amount stated.

Job Duties

The job duties of a dental hygienist will vary by employer. However, according to Arizona statutes, a dental hygienist is permitted to:

• Perform scaling and prophylaxis
• Perform closed sub gingival curettage
• Perform root planing
• Conduct periodontal examinations and examine the patient’s mouth and teeth
• Compile case histories and record clinical findings
• Take and develop dental radiographs
• Perform all tasks authorized for a dental assistant

Under certain circumstances, dental hygienists are permitted to apply therapeutic or preventive agents, place sutures or administer nitrous oxide and local anesthetics.