If you are looking for a career with a promising future, one of the professions with the brightest job outlook, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), is dental hygiene. Job growth is predicted to be 33% between 2012 and 2022. Respectable salaries, pleasant work environment and flexible work schedules make this an attractive choice for someone considering a health career.
What Does the Dental Hygienist Do?
Dental hygienists perform the following tasks:
• Cleans and polishes teeth, removing tartar, stains and plaque using hand or powered tools
• Examines gums and teeth to detect any disease or abnormality
• Takes and develops x-rays
• Prepares clinical and laboratory diagnostic tests for the dentist to interpret
• Works alongside the dentist during intensive procedures
• Applies fluoride or sealants for preventing decay
• Educates dental patients on oral hygiene and care of teeth and gums
In addition, dental hygienists in Kentucky who provide proof of competency are allowed to perform the following restorative duties:
• Apply cavity-liners and bases
• Place and remove temporary crowns
• Place, carve and finish amalgam restoration
• Place and finish composite resin silicate restoration
The entry requirement for dental hygienists is an Associate of Science or Associate of Applied Science degree from a school accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). This is a two year program of laboratory and classroom instruction in the sciences related to dental health conditions. Courses include anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, histology, periodontology, radiography, pain control and dental materials. Hands-on experience is provided through extensive dental hygiene practice in clinical settings. Upon completion of the program, graduates take the National Dental Hygiene Board Examination which is required for licensure.
There are four colleges in Kentucky that provide accredited two-year programs in dental hygiene:
1. Big Sandy Community and Tech College
2. Bluegrass Community & Technical College at Cooper
3. Henderson Community College
4. Western Kentucky University
In addition, the University of Louisville and Western Kentucky University provide accredited four year Bachelor of Science degree programs in Dental Hygiene.
How Does One Qualify to Become a Dental Hygienist in Kentucky
To become licensed as a dental hygienist in Kentucky, the dental hygienist must complete the requirements set forth by the Kentucky Board of Dentistry.
Applicants for licensure must
1. Submit a completed and signed “Application for Dental Licensure.”
2. Pay the application fee of $75.
3. Submit an official transcript of completed dental hygiene coursework.
4. Provide proof of successful completion of the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination.
5. Take a clinical examination at one of the five regional examining authorities and submit a score card.
6. Complete and pass the board’s jurisprudence examination.
7. Provide proof of having current certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
8. Submit a criminal background check performed by the F.B.I. for the last five years.
The Board of Dentistry provides very clear instructions on how these application steps must be completed, and alternative steps for special cases such as holding a license from another state.
Continuing Education Requirements
Dental hygienists are required to obtain 30 hours of continuing education every two years. Courses such as infection control, patient management, oral healthcare, IV line placement, laser use, medical emergencies, local anesthesia and office business operations can satisfy this requirement. 10 hours of the courses must be taken in a live interactive presentation format.
The Kentucky Board of Dentistry requires each licensee to take a Kentucky CHFS-approved 2 hour course on HIV and AIDS every 10 years. This course can be counted toward the 30 hours of continuing education.
Other Legally Authorized Procedures
A dental hygienist in Kentucky can apply for specific licenses to perform the following procedures, upon taking training courses at a CODA approved college and meeting specified requirements.
• Local anesthesia
• General supervision
• Starting intravenous access lines
• Performing laser debridement
• Practice as a public health registered dental hygienist
Salaries of Dental Hygienists in Kentucky
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistic, dental hygienists in Kentucky earned an average annual salary of $56,450 in 2013, which is below the national average of $71,530. Looking into the metropolitan area wage data by BLS, what appears is a difference in salaries between urban and rural settings. The average annual salary in the Cincinnati-Middletown OH-KY-IN area was $68,290. The Evansville IN-KY area averaged $64,940 and the Louisville area averaged $60,640. In contrast, average annual salaries in the East Kentucky nonmetropolitan Area was $49,620 and for South Central Kentucky, was $50,020.
The above process to become a dental hygienist in Kentucky may seem daunting. But once you have started the journey by enrolling in an approved school, it’s a step by step process, guided carefully by laws and procedures that protect both dental professionals and dental patients in Kentucky.