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How to Become a Dental Hygienist in District of Columbia

There are a lot of careers out there to learn, but for those people looking to get out into the job force soon and quickly improve the quality of their lives with better pay, being a dental hygienist is a great path to choose. They’re responsible for removing tartar and plaque from patients’ teeth. They also take x-rays and apply fluoride for dental treatments. The training required doesn’t take too much time, which means becoming a trained professional in the field can be quick for those out there that are determined enough to learn the job. Exactly what’s needed to become a dental hygienist? Let’s take a closer look.

Dental hygienist requirements

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the minimal requirements needed to become a dental hygienist generally involves a 2-year course from a certificate program or associate’s degree program from some institution that’s accredited by the Commission of Dental Accreditation. Obtaining this will allow dental hygienists to go after state licensing.

Is there any prior education or training required?

To go after the license, dental hygienists must first have a high school education. After that, they’ll be able to pursue getting a state license, which can be obtained after getting either a certificate or a associates degree from an accredited institution.

Are dental hygienists required to be certified?

Yes, in order to get licensed, aspiring dental hygienists must become trained, which can be done through either a certificate program or even an associate’s degree. Once certified, the student will have had clinical experience and had the ability to work under the supervision of a trained dental health care professional. Associate degrees, in particular, will allow students to observe dentists who work in specialized fields, such as preventative dental care or periodontal care.

How can dental hygienists become certified?

These certificate programs generally take about 2 to 3 years to complete, based on the individual. The curriculum for them is a combination of both class work and application in a clinical laboratory setting. This allows aspiring students to gain practical experience before they actually enter the workforce. There are many certificate programs available, but what most have in common is a core of similar courses: periodontology, dental pharmacology, oral and general pathology, local anesthesia, and dental hygiene practice/theory.

Is continuing education necessary?

There are many advanced degrees available for dental hygienists, but the undergraduate degree is all that’s required for a clinical career. These advanced programs are for students who intend to find academic research careers or work with schools or public health programs. Master’s level dental hygiene programs are focused specifically on research, management, or education.

Dental hygienists and salary

There are a number of factors to keep in mind when looking at dental hygienist salaries, such as location, the size of the company they work for, the particular industry they’re in, the number of years of experience they have, and just what their level of education is. Generally speaking, though, the median pay is at about $70,210 a year, which is $33.75 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There were just under 200,000 jobs in the year of 2012 and the job outlook for the upcoming years are very favorable, at 33%. The lowest 10% earned around $46,500, while the highest 10% earned more than $96,280.

Dental hygienist job duties

Generally speaking, dental hygienists clean teeth. They also will examine patients to see if there are any signs of diseases like gingivitis, and will provide other preventative care. Aside from that, they’re also responsible for teaching their patients the best ways to maintain oral health and improve it. Some of their specific duties include keeping track of treatment plans and patient care, taking and developing dental x-rays, removing tartar or plaque from patients’ teeth, applying sealants or fluorides for added protection, and demonstrating the proper way to brush and floss.

They use a number of different tools on the job, such as air-polishing devices to remove stains, automated tools for cleaning, and x-ray machines for taking pictures.

What tasks are dental hygienists legally allowed to perform?

Dental hygienists are not dentists, and they do not have the training to perform the procedures that dentists commonly do. Dentists will treat problems such as fractured teeth or cavities and also perform procedures like fillings, extractions, and root canals. They’re able to replace teeth with dental implants and use braces to help straighten them. Dental hygienists are not legally allowed to perform these things, as their job responsibilities generally involve preventative care, but they’re allowed to and regularly work closely with dentists in doing their duties. They’re not allowed to write prescriptions, but they are, in some instances, able to administer anesthesia.