HOW TO BECOME A DENTAL HYGIENIST IN SOUTH CAROLINA
A dental hygienist reveals the sunshine in a person’s smile. A dental hygienist also promotes a person’s overall well-being. Did you know there are seven diseases linked to poor oral health? Gum disease is only one of them. The following conditions are associated with the bacterial and inflammatory causes of poor dental health: rheumatoid arthritis, pneumonia, obstructive pulmonary disease, dementia, pancreatic cancer, and cardiovascular disease. You can be among the dental professionals saving lives through the services they render. How’s that for a rewarding career!
In this article, we’ll present the steps to becoming a dental hygienist in South Carolina. Get ready! You’re about to embark on a fascinating path.
AN EFFECTIVE DENTAL HYGIENIST
Certain traits are needed to become a successful dental hygienist. The most important are:
- an aptitude for science
- manual dexterity
- precise eye-hand coordination
- excellent interpersonal skills
- the desire to help people
Does this sound like you? If so, you’re well on your way to a great career!
DENTAL HYGIENIST JOB PROFILE
The responsibilities of dental hygienists are expanding, as dentists delegate more of their work. Here are some of the exciting things you’ll do:
- take, develop, and read oral x-rays
- clean and polish teeth
- apply cavity-preventing agents
- make impressions for study models
- screen for gum disease and oral cancer
- teach oral hygiene
As a licensed dental hygienist, you’ll have a wide variety of career settings to choose from. You can work in a private dental practice, hospital, marketing company, school, industrial clinic, or nursing home. With an advanced degree and experience, you can teach, perform research, and work in a government agency or public health department. You can have a career focus in pediatric, geriatric, and special needs patients. Scheduling flexibility offers the opportunity to work full-time, part-time, evenings, or weekends.
DENTAL HYGIENIST SCHOOL
To become a licensed dental hygienist, you’ll need to attend a program that awards an associate’s degree. Be sure to enroll in a school which is accredited. Many employers will only hire hygienists from a school with accreditation. This distinction indicates that a school has met the highest teaching standards. It ensures you and a prospective employer of a quality education. Graduation from an accredited school is also a requirement for licensure.
There are 9 accredited dental hygienist schools in South Carolina. All of them confer an associate’s degree. They are:
Florence-Darlington Technical College – Florence
Greenville Technical College – Greenville
Horry-Georgetown Technical College – Conway
Midlands Technical College – West Columbia
Orangeburg Calhoun Technical College – Orangeburg
Trident Technical College – Charleston
York Technical College – Rock Hill
Aiken Technical College – Graniteville
Central Carolina Technical College – Sumter
Schools vary according to acceptance criteria. Below is a general list of requirements:
- High School Diploma or GED Equivalent
- SAT, ACT, or COMPASS Scores
- Prerequisite Courses, such as Biology, Anatomy and Physiology, and Chemistry
- CPR Certification
These also differ between schools, but generally include:
- Clinical Observation of a Dental Practice
- Physical, Vision, and Dental Exams
- Proof of Immunization
- Criminal Background Check
- Drug Testing
- Liability and Health Insurance
- School Application
TUITION – Tuition varies by school. In South Carolina, the average annual tuition towards a degree in dental hygiene is $3,500 per year. Financial aid is available at most schools, and may include Pell Grants, FSEOG Programs, South Carolina Need-Based Grants, Federal Work-Study Programs, Institutional Work-Study, College, Foundation, and LIFE Scholarships, and South Carolina Lottery Tuition Assistance. You may also be eligible for the South Carolina Tuition Tax Credit.
Course titles and descriptions vary among schools, but overall education is the same. All programs feature two components – classroom instruction and clinical application. Following are some of the engaging courses you’ll take:
- oral anatomy and physiology
- dental materials
- preventative oral care
- smoking cessation
- nutritional counseling
- managing pain and anxiety
- medical and dental emergencies
- interpersonal communication
This fabulous aspect of your education involves patient care at a campus clinic or off-campus facility. You’ll have the opportunity to treat a variety of dental conditions while refining your skills. Clinical internship is the final component that prepares you for employment.
To practice as a dental hygienist in South Carolina, you must be licensed. To obtain licensure, you need to:
- graduate from an accredited dental hygienist program
- pass the National Board Exam and Clinical Licensing Exam by the SRTA, CRDTS, or NERB
- pass the South Carolina Jurisprudence Exam (a test of state laws and rules)
- pass the Anesthesia Certification Examination for Dental Hygienists, to administer local anesthesia
- become certified in CPR
- submit 3 letters of recommendation from dental professionals
In order to remain licensed in South Carolina, dental hygienists need to complete a minimum of 7 continuing education hours a year by the time of license renewal. CPR re-certification is required every 3 years.
DENTAL HYGIENIST SALARY
Salary varies according to the type and location of practice, your education, and experience. The median annual salary is $55,470. Now, that’s something to smile about!
YOUR FUTURE AS A DENTAL HYGIENIST
The job market in South Carolina is very promising for dental hygienists. The number of positions is expected to increase by 37% through 2018.*
Now is a great time to pursue a career as a dental hygienist! Upon licensure, you’ll be able to enjoy scheduling flexibility, job security, and financial success. Moreover, you’ll become part of a dynamic profession, promoting dental and overall physical health. Along with others on your dental team, you may indirectly save lives. As a licensed dental hygienist in South Carolina, you’ll reveal the sunshine in smile after smile.