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How to Become a Dental Hygienist in Arkansas

Becoming a Dental Hygienist in Arkansas will require an academic commitment of approximately two years to obtain the necessary basic skills. An Associate of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene obtained through an accredited community college, technical college, university or dental school gives hygienists the ability to take national and state licensure examinations. In preparation for a career in this field, students will receive both classroom coursework and clinical instruction in oral pathology, radiology, pain management, periodonitics, pharmacology, dental materials and community dental health.

Dental Hygienist Requirements in Arkansas
Advanced degrees are also available for students interested in teaching, research, public health or clinical practice in a school setting. Universities offer baccalaureate and master’s degree programs in dental hygiene that will include more specialized didactic, laboratory and clinical experiences. These degrees can usually be completed within two additional years and also lead to eligibility for licensure.

All states require dental hygienists to be licensed when providing dental hygiene care and educating patients. Graduates who have earned an associate’s, bachelor’s or master’s degree in dental hygiene are eligible to take comprehensive written examinations through both the State of Arkansas and the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination. Receipt of a license allows Registered Dental Hygienists to work in dental offices and use “R.D.H.” to signify their state recognition. The exam tests the applicant’s knowledge of both clinical and legal aspects of dental care. Arkansas also requires hygienists to hold a CPR certificate.

Is continuing education necessary?
As licenses must be renewed every two years, Registered Dental Hygienists are required to complete 40 hours of continuing education classes. Courses may be completed through online home study and include a mandatory class in Infection Control for Dental Professionals. Other subject matter reinforces skills related to managing medical emergencies, substance abuse, impact of tobacco and smoking cessation, local anesthesia, HIPAA, ethics, pain management, safe and proper prescription management, error prevention, HIV/AIDS and dental care, Hepatitis infection implications, Nitrous Oxide sedation and occupational safety. Regular re-licensure requirements in Arkansas ensure that dental hygienists have the most current knowledge for safe and effective patient care.

Dental Hygienist Salary in Arkansas
As reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment opportunities for dental hygienists are expected to grow 33 percent over the next decade. While many openings will be in dental offices, some will also be found in hospitals, outpatient care facilities and physicians’ offices. The average annual salary for dental hygienists in Arkansas is approximately two percent higher than the national average at $52,000.

Dental Hygienist Job Duties
R.D.H. responsibilities vary but typically include performing patient health care assessments such as health history, dental charting, taking blood pressure and oral cancer screening. They also take, process and interpret x-rays plus perform dental cleaning by removing deposits between teeth as well as above and below the gum line. Dental hygienists are also required to educate and counsel patients on proper dental care between cleanings and the significance of good nutrition for healthy teeth and gums.

What tasks is a dental hygienist legally allowed to perform?
Restrictions vary from state to state as to what tasks a dental hygienist is legally allowed to perform. In Arkansas, no supervision or authorization is required to take study cast impressions or x-rays. Prophylaxis (removing plaque and tartar), fluoride and sealant application do not require supervision but do require a dentist’s authorization. Dentist authorization and supervision is required in each instance where local anesthesia or Nitrous Oxide is being administered, root planing and scaling for disease prevention is performed, and surgical soft tissue curettage is done.

Job Outlook
Pursuing a career as a dental hygienist in Arkansas can be both exciting and lucrative. Demand for qualified professionals is high and expected to continue for the next several years. Within a relatively short amount of time, individuals can earn the skills needed for a long and rewarding career in this field.