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How to Become a Dental Hygienist in California

If you are in the process of deciding on a career, you might want to consider being a dental hygienist as an option. Here is one occupation where prospects are really good. According to the Occupational Handbook of the Bureau of Labor and Statistics the job outlook for dental hygienists is estimated at 33% with a nationwide median pay of $33.75 per hour.

Income and Benefits for Dental Hygienists in California

There are several advantages that come with working as a dental hygienist in the state of California.

• The average annual salary for dental hygienists is higher than the average annual salary for employees as a whole. To illustrate, statistics covering 14,038,950 workers across the nation showed an average annual salary of about $51,910 which translates to $24.96 per hour. In comparison, these figures are much lower that the average annual wage ($71,110) and the average hourly wage ($34.39) of dental hygienists in California. In Vallejo, Santa Rosa, and San Francisco, dental hygienists earn even more.

• Apart from the pay, dental hygienists are generally able to work under flexible work schedules. Furthermore, if you the work as a dental hygienist, your work hours end when the dental clinic closes. This means your weekends are free.

• Possibly the biggest advantage that comes with being a dental hygienist is the accessibility of oral health services. Dental health has become acknowledged as an important component in overall wellness; being part of a dental clinic will provide plenty of opportunities for preventive care and an awareness of the latest standards in the industry.

Tasks Performed by Dental Hygienists

Dental hygienists are trained to examine patients for signs of gingivitis and other oral diseases. They are often assigned to provide patient education on oral health. Their major tasks, however, revolve around preventive dental care; this may take the form of oral prophylaxis, periodontal debridement, fluoride or sealant application, and periodontal charting.

Some hygienists are licensed to administer local anesthesia under the instructions of a dentist, and some are qualified to take dental X-rays. In orthodontic clinics, hygienists help in choosing the right bands for braces, making dental impressions, and removing orthodontic fittings.

Apart from doing oral health care in dental clinics, dental hygienists can also look at other job options in their field. These options include teaching, research, community health, and sales. However, those interested in teaching and research will probably need a baccalaureate and a master’s degree.

Becoming a Qualified Dental Hygienist

If you want to become a well-paid dental hygienist, take a look at the requirements you need to comply with in order to begin your career.

1. Prerequisites. To begin formal studies in the field, you will need a high school diploma or a GED (General Educational Development) certificate. In addition to this, you will need to pass your SAT or ACT exams. In some cases, schools will set a “C” average as part of their admission standards.

2. The Dental Hygienist Course. Numerous dental schools, community colleges, technical colleges, and universities across the state of California offer a dental hygienist course as a regular program. It is important to make sure that the college where you plan to enroll is accredited by the ADA (American Dental Association).

These programs generally take two years or more to complete and come with an associate degree. Some universities offer baccalaureate and master’s degrees in this field of study as well, but the basic requirement for entry into this field is the regular two-year course.

Dental hygienists are also required to earn a CPR certification. This is submitted to the appropriate board when the graduate applies for a license.

3. Licensure. After completing the dental hygienist course, individuals are required to pass the state licensure exams before they can be hired as registered dental hygienists (RDHs). The written exam will cover dental hygiene skills and related subjects.

To take the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, apply to take the exams through your state’s licensing board. This is usually available through the website of the Secretary of State.

You will need to submit proof that you have completed the course and letters of recommendation from the institution where you graduated. After you pass this exam, you will be entitled to add the letters R.D.H. after your name to show that you are a state recognized Registered Dental Hygienist.

Work Requirements for Dental Hygienists

The license awarded by the state to registered dental hygienists is kept active only when certain requirements are met. In California continuing education is part of these requirements and RDH license holders need to cover 25 hours of continuing education studies for every two year cycle.

Of these 25 hours, two hours are spent on the study of California dental law and another two hours on infection control. Registered Dental Hygienists also need to keep their CPR license current, and they need undergo mandatory tests to make sure they are in good health before they can continue to provide oral care services.

Dental Hygiene as a Career Path

Being a dental hygienist is a promising career path that offers good pay and alternative options for those who want to work outside of the dental clinic. It does require some serious study and investing two years or more in coursework, but then, nothing worthwhile ever comes without cost.