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How to Become a Dental Hygienist in Oklahoma

Dental Hygienists improve teeth health, hygiene, and appearance. This is one of few occupations that require only about 2 years of training, has a strong career outlook and high salary. All states, including Oklahoma, require dental hygienists to obtain accredited training and a license to practice professionally. The Oklahoma Board of Dentistry oversees the professional practice of dental hygienists.

Required Education
This occupation generally requires an associate’s degree in dental hygiene. Clean and healthy teeth require knowledge of a variety of subject matters, which dental hygienists study. This includes nutrition, chemistry, biology, physiology, and anatomy. General mathematics, communications, and English are also required. Along with general and medical coursework, students learn about periodontology, radiology, and anesthetics. Coursework includes classroom, laboratory, and clinical training. Oklahoma requires those interested in dental hygiene to attend training approved by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. The Commission approved three educational programs in Oklahoma. They include Rose State College, the University of Oklahoma College of Dentistry and Tulsa Community College.

Licensing and Credentials
After successfully completing an accredited education program, a license is required to practice professionally in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Board of Dentistry provides access to the application to become licensed on their website. Certification is not required. To obtain a license, applicants must submit an application and fee, interview with the Board and pass a theoretical, written and clinical exam. For dental hygienists who wish to administer anesthesia, additional coursework is required and to be approved by the Board. Oklahoma also requires continuing education to maintain a license.

Job Duties
Dental hygienists work under the supervision of a dentist. They take and develop x-rays for dentists, clean patients’ teeth, which includes removing tartar, plaque and stains, and teach patients dental hygiene to assist them in maintaining healthy teeth and gums. Dental hygienists also document and monitor patients’ care and treatment plans. The main responsibility of a dental hygienist is cleaning a patient’s teeth. They use a variety of tools, such as manual, sonic and ultrasonic scalers. These tools require precision because cleaning teeth include removing build-up along the gum line. Some procedures are invasive and can be painful if not done properly, which is why dental hygienists are trained and highly-skilled.

Dental Hygienist Salary in Oklahoma
The average salary for dental hygienists was $71,530 per year in 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These professionals can work for many employers, including dentists, government agencies, physicians, outpatient care centers or be self-employed. Salaries vary based on experience, the cost of living in specific geographical areas, type of employer and the need for dental hygienists in different areas of the country. Salaries ranged from $47,880 to $90,690 per year. The highest salaries were paid in Washington D.C., where the average salary was $93, 940 per year. Employment estimates are expected to increase 33 percent, more than the average for other occupations through 2022. Contributing to the outlook for job growth is the need for dental care for an increasing baby-boomer population, and federal legislation that expands health insurance coverage.