It’s been said that a dental hygienist lights up the world one smile at a time. The career of a dental hygienist is delightfully rewarding. You have the opportunity to restore a healthy smile to every person who sits in your dental chair. You receive the gratitude of each happy patient as they leave your office. Wonderful relationships are developed during that 1 hour of dental care. This article will explain how to join the ranks of this enjoyable profession.
DENTAL HYGIENIST JOB PROFILE
As a dental hygienist, your responsibilities will include:
- Obtaining medical and dental histories.
- Measuring and recording patient vital signs.
- Administering and developing x-rays.
- Assessing for the presence of gum disease and recession.
- Charting tooth decay and disease.
- Completing oral cleaning of teeth and gums, termed “prophylaxis.”
- Performing oral cancer screening.
- Providing patient education on home oral care.
- Protecting against decay through the application of fluoride and sealants.
- Making impressions of patients’ teeth for study casts.
- Scheduling periodic maintenance of dental equipment.
- Keeping an inventory of dental supplies, and re-stocking as needed.
- Preparing for medical emergencies by maintaining CPR certification.
Don’t let the above list of responsibilities intimidate you. Education and training will fully prepare you to perform with confidence and excellence.
PERSONAL SKILL REQUIREMENTS
To be a successful dental hygienist, you’ll need to have:
- an aptitude for science
- good communication skills
- strong writing skills
- good judgment and decision-making abilities
- sound eye-hand coordination
To work as a dental hygienist requires the completion of a 2-year certificate or associate’s degree program in dental hygiene from an accredited institution. The term “accredited” refers to a school’s ability to demonstrate the quality and standards set by a governing agency. The American Dental Association is the agency that oversees Connecticut dental hygiene curricula. A certificate or associate’s degree then qualifies you to pursue licensure, which is another state requirement for employment.
If you wish to pursue a career in research or a school or public health program, you can obtain a bachelor’s and/or master’s degree.
1. Copy of your High School Diploma or General Equivalency Diploma (GED)
2. High school transcripts
3. Proof of completion of a university or college degree, if applicable
4. Proof of immunization against varicella, rubella, measles, and mumps
5. Prerequisite courses may be required, such as English, Math, Lab Science, and Social Science
6. Scores from the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or American College Testing (ACT)
7. Two Letters of Recommendation from an academic source, such as a guidance counselor, teacher, or principal may be requested
8. Personal Essay is a possible requirement, to demonstrate your ability to express yourself and organize thoughts
9. School Admission Application
Again, don’t be alarmed or discouraged by the application process. Just focus on obtaining one requirement at a time. You can do it!
SUMMARY OF THE 3 LARGEST DENTAL HYGIENE SCHOOLS IN CONNECTICUT
1. Tunxis Community College, Farmington
This public college offers a 2-year Associate of Science in Dental Hygiene degree, with preparation for regional and national licensing exams. Course prerequisites are English Composition and Anatomy and Physiology. Proficiency in Math is also required. Tuition and Fees are: $3,598 per academic year, in-state; $10,754 per academic year, out-of-state. The campus environment is suburban.
2. University of Bridgeport, Bridgeport
This private university offers three dental hygiene degree programs: associate, bachelor’s and master’s. The 2-year associate degree program is a combination of classroom and clinical coursework and prepares students for licensure. The 4-year bachelor’s degree program includes the associate degree curriculum plus general education courses. The master of science degree program is targeted to licensed dental hygienists pursuing careers in administration, education, or public health. Tuition and Fees are $33,050 per academic year. Tuition includes required dental instruments, school-issued uniforms, and supplies. The campus environment is that of a mid-sized city.
3. University of New Haven, West Haven
This private university awards associate and bachelor’s degrees. The 3-year associate degree program includes preparation for licensing exams. Clinical training is given in the school’s modern 19-chair dental clinic. Additional clinical rotations in the field are provided. Study is available at a US site, such as a Native American reservation, or at an international facility in countries such as Mexico and Romania. The 4-year bachelor’s degree program consists of the associate degree program curriculum plus 1 year of general education courses. Tuition and Fees are $32,750 per academic year. The campus environment is suburban.
DENTAL HYGIENE PROGRAM CURRICULUM
Now we’ll cover the really fascinating details: what you’ll be studying! All school curricula feature classroom learning and clinical practice.
Your classroom subjects will include:
- Dental hygiene practice and theory
- Oral biology
- Oral and general pathology
- Oral hygiene
- Dental pharmacology (uses, action, and effects of medication)
- Periodontology (treatment of gum disease)
- Dental materials
- Nutrition in dentistry
- Community dental health
- Legal responsibility in dentistry
- Local anesthesia
- Basic Life Support
- Student dexterity and spatial testing
You’ll have the opportunity to apply your classroom education to hands-on work, under the supervision of licensed dentists and faculty members. Your clinical rotations will involve practice in dental offices or on-campus clinics.
You do not need a certificate to apply for licensure. However, you must provide proof of graduation from an accredited school.
To obtain licensure in Connecticut, you must:
- Be a graduate of an ADA-accredited dental hygiene program
- Pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (written exam)
- Pass a Regional Clinical Board Examination
The regional exams are those provided by the:
- Western Regional Examining Board (WREB): $960.00–$1,250.00, depending on whether you take only the clinical exam or the additional Local Anesthesia and Restorative Exams. Site fees are included.
- North East Regional Board of Dental Examiners (NERB): $975, with additional testing in Local Anesthesia for $140.
- Southern Regional Testing Agency (SRTA): $950 plus site fees
- Central Regional Dental Testing Service (CRDTS): $950 plus site fees
Upon licensure, you’ll be able to use the initials “R.D.H.” to signify credentialing as a Registered Dental Hygienist!
To maintain licensure in Connecticut, you’ll need to obtain at least 16 hours of continuing education within the 2 years leading up to renewal.
States vary in the extent of services a dental hygienist can legally perform. In Connecticut, you’ll be able to provide:
- Diagnosis, Assessment, and Treatment Planning
- Topical Anesthesia
- Root Planing
- Study Cast Impressions
- Fluoride Treatments
- Pit and Fissure Sealants
- Periodontal Dressing and Removal
- Suture Removal
The above responsibilities require the prior authorization of a supervising dentist. However, the dentist need not be present. You can provide diagnoses, assessments, and treatment planning under general supervision. You can administer local anesthesia with a dentist’s direct supervision.
Dental hygienists are legally prohibited in Connecticut to administer nitrous oxide, place sutures, and perform soft tissue curettage (removal of diseased gum tissue).
As a licensed dental hygienist, you’ll have a wide variety of employment opportunities! You can choose to work in a private practice, hospital, dental clinic, managed care organization, primary or secondary school, nursing home, municipal, state, or federal health department, correctional facility, or Indian reservation.
In addition to clinical practice, you can pursue a career in administration, teaching, sales and marketing, research, public health, and government.
You can also specialize in the oral care of pediatric, geriatric, and special needs patients.
You’ll have the option of flexible work hours, in either a part-time or full-time position.
DENTAL HYGIENIST SALARY
In Connecticut, your salary will vary depending on patient population, practice type, market competition, and the city in which you work. Average annual salaries by city follow:
Bridgeport – $76,000
Danbury – $76,000
Greenwich – $77,000
Hartford – $72,000
Manchester – $72,000
Norwalk – $77,000
Stamford – $77,000
Waterbury – $72,000
Connecticut at large: $75,000
THE FUTURE FOR DENTAL HYGIENISTS
The United States Department of Labor projects that employment of dental hygienists is expected to increase by 33% through 2022, which is much faster than all other occupations. So you can look forward to excellent job opportunities and great job security. Dentists are putting more emphasis on preventive care. The elderly are retaining their natural teeth longer than in previous decades. These are some of the factors contributing to the increase in employment.
If you have a knack for science, good dexterity, and enjoy working with people, you’re likely to be an excellent dental hygienist.
Be that person who lights up the world one smile at a time. Become a dental hygienist.