It’s said that behind every sparkling smile is a stellar dental hygienist. A licensed dental hygienist is an integral part of a successful dental team. This article will map your route to becoming a highly regarded and well-paid dental professional.
DENTAL HYGIENIST JOB PROFILE
Your exciting responsibilities as a dental hygienist will include:
- Recording patient pulse and blood pressure
- Taking and developing oral x-rays
- Assessing decay
- Cleaning and polishing teeth, termed prophylaxis
- Performing oral cancer screening
- Applying fluorides and sealants to prevent decay
- Charting findings
- Teaching patients home oral hygiene
- Making impressions of teeth for study models
- Scheduling equipment maintenance
- Keeping an inventory of supplies
DISPOSITION AND SKILL REQUIREMENTS
To assess if this profession will be a good fit for you, think about the following traits of a champion dental hygienist:
- attention to detail
- good interpersonal skills
- manual dexterity
- keen eye-hand coordination
To become a dental hygienist, you need to enroll in an accredited dental hygienist program toward a Certificate or Associate’s Degree. When a school is accredited, it means it has met high standards set by a governing board. Accreditation also enables a school to provide federal and state financial aid. Colleges accepting transfer students require proof of prior attendance at an accredited institution.
IOWA DENTAL HYGIENIST SCHOOLS
There are 8 dental hygienist schools in Iowa. They are:
- Des Moines Area Community College – Ankeny
- Kirkwood Community College – Cedar Rapids
- Eastern Iowa Community College District – Davenport
- Hawkeye Community College – Waterloo
- Iowa Western Community College – Council Bluffs
- Iowa Central Community College – Fort Dodge
- Western Iowa Tech Community College – Sioux City
- Marshalltown Community College – Marshalltown
Admission requirements vary by school, but generally include:
- Proof of High School graduation or GED completion
- High School Transcript
- ACT, COMPASS, ASSET, or ACCUPLACER Scores
- Prerequisite Courses – Biology, Chemistry, Anatomy and Physiology, and Microbiology
- Medical and Dental Examinations and Immunizations
- Current CPR Certification
- School Application
All dental hygienist programs include classroom instruction and clinical practice. Clinical rotations provide the opportunity to learn hands-on skills in a patient care setting.
Course titles and descriptions differ between schools but overall education is the same. Some of the fascinating classes you’ll take are:
- dental hygiene theory and techniques
- dental anatomy
- dental materials
- dental radiography
- local anesthesia
- preventive dentistry
- therapeutics and pain control
- communication for health care professionals
- equipment operation and maintenance
- office management
The average annual tuition cost is $4,200 in-state and $5,100 out-of-state.
A certificate is not needed to apply for licensure in Iowa. However, you’ll need to provide proof of graduation from an accredited school.
In order to be licensed in Iowa, you’ll need to:
- Complete an Iowa Jurisprudence Exam. This is a test of your knowledge of Iowa practice laws for dental hygienists
- Pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam
- Pass the CRDTS or WREB Exam* for the county where you wish to work
- Submit a copy of your college diploma and transcript
- Present a copy of CPR certification
- Provide a letter to the State Dental Board explaining your desire to work as a dental hygienist in Iowa
In order to remain licensed, you’ll need to take continuing education courses in:
- CPR Certification – every 2 years
- Abuse Identification and Reporting Training – Within 6 months of employment and every 5 years
- Sedation/General Anesthesia With a Permit – every 2 years
States vary in the scope of services a dental hygienist can legally perform. In Iowa, under general supervision, you’ll be able to provide:
- Oral Diagnosis, Assessment, and Treatment Planning
- Fluoride and Pit/Fissure Sealants
- Root Planing
- Topical Anesthesia
- Study Cast Impressions
- Placement and Removal of Periodontal Dressings
- Suture Removal
- Treatment Planning
Under the direct supervision of your employer, you’ll be able to administer local anesthesia and nitrous oxide.
By law, you cannot place sutures or perform soft tissue curettage (excision of diseased gum tissue).
As a licensed dental hygienist, you’ll have a wide variety of career settings to choose from. You can work in a private practice, hospital, nursing home, public health clinic, or school. With a bachelor’s or master’s degree, you can obtain a job as a teacher or researcher. You can specialize in pediatric, geriatric, and disabled populations. Unique employment opportunities include working for a military base, veterinary center, dental supply company, health maintenance organization, insurance company, government agency, or marketing company.
SALARY OF A DENTAL HYGIENIST
Salary varies according to practice type, market competition, and the city in which you work. The salary range is $53,000-$76,000. Average annual salary is $65,000.
YOUR FUTURE AS A DENTAL HYGIENIST
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates that employment of dental hygienists will increase by 38% through 2020, which far exceeds the predicted growth rate for all occupations.1/
Now is a promising time to pursue a career as a dental hygienist. With more dentists delegating responsibilities, dental hygienists are working in an advanced capacity like never before.
You can be that stellar professional who uncovers sparkling smiles. Enjoy the gratifying path on the way to becoming a dental hygienist. A bright and rewarding career awaits you!
* CRDTS = Central Regional Dental Testing Service, Inc.; WREB = Western Regional Examining Board