Getting to the root of dental hygiene in Kansas: how to become a hygienist
For those looking to go into a career with little chance of downsizing, the dental field is an appealing one. But most people don’t want to spend years in dental school becoming a full-fledged dentist; they want to start in the field after a reasonable amount of training.
In Kansas, that start might be as a dental hygienist—but there are many questions to answer. Education, necessary training and starting salaries are all matters that concern someone making a possible career change.
What are a dental hygienist’s duties and what are they allowed to do?
Dental hygienists evaluate patients, review health histories, take and develop X-rays, remove calculus and plaque from a patient’s teeth, apply sealants and fluorides to teeth, and teach patients about good nutrition and dental health. They can administer topical anesthesia, and local anesthesia under direct supervision. They can also remove sutures.
What type of education or training is required? Is there a certification?
There are seven dental hygiene schools in Kansas; five schools are located at community colleges, while the sixth is located at Wichita State University and the seventh at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. In general, the schools require certain English or psychology classes, as well as chemistry or biology classes, before starting a dental hygienist program. Most schools don’t accept all applicants, so possible students should expect an interview process.
American Dental Association-accredited programs require 83 credit-hours, spanning four regular semesters and one semester. Courses required include chemistry, microbiology, health education, human anatomy, and various dental hygiene, therapy and materials classes. Usually speech and communications classes are required as well, since dental hygienists need to talk clearly with patients and their families.
Kansas requires that dental hygienists take an examination after graduating from an ADA-accredited dental hygienist program. The exam is based on Kansas’ Dental Practices Act, and the state board actually encourages test takers to print it out and use it during the test.
Are there continuing education requirements?
The state of Kansas requires 30 hours of additional education per year and hygienists must also have a valid CPR card at all times. You can use the 4 hours of CPR instruction as part of the 30 continuing education hours.
Any of the following American Heart Association certified, American Red Cross certified, or American Safety and Health Institute (ASHI) courses can be used to meet the CPR requirements:
(1) Basic Life Support (BLS) for healthcare providers;
(2) Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) for healthcare providers; or
(3) Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) for healthcare providers.
Keep in mind that some organizations offer online CPR courses, but the state will reject any course that has no “hands on” component.
What kind of salary should I expect?
Average salaries vary widely in Kansas, mainly because demand for hygienists isn’t the same across the state. But the average rate across the state is approximately $33 an hour with Kansas City being slightly lower; online reviews have suggested that because there are a number of dental hygiene programs in the immediate area, most graduates try to practice in Kansas City. For higher rates, graduates should look at smaller towns.
For most areas in Kansas, the median salary for dental hygienists hovers around $66,000 per year. Reports range from a median of $58,160 in Salina, KS to $67,685 in Lenexa, KS. While dental hygienists make less than the national median, the cost of living in Kansas is also lower than most other states.
The dental field is not for everyone; even the less-paying jobs require a good amount of training due to the nature of dentistry being a health profession. But for those willing to take the time to go through a dental hygienist program, they should be able to make an excellent wage in a field that appears to be expanding, not contracting.