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How to Become a Dental Hygienist in South Dakota

If you live in South Dakota and are interested in becoming a dental hygienist, there are several things you should consider. Whether you are new to the workplace or looking for a career change, dental hygiene can be a good choice. Following are some things to consider when researching this career field.

Dental Hygienist Requirements

The education requirement for a dental hygienist is a certificate or associate’s degree in dental hygiene from a school that is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. This certificate typically takes two to three years to complete based on course load. A high school diploma is required to enter this program.

Students learn techniques commonly used in dental practice as well as a good foundation of classroom knowledge in dental science. Core courses include:

· Dental pharmacology-This practice provides an important part of a dental hygienist’s education. All dental patients must have a medical history and chart that are regularly monitored so that proper drug therapies are administered. This particular duty must be maintained through a hygienist’s career in order to be update on new medications as well as possible drug interactions.

· Oral and general pathology-It is important to have a good foundation in pathology in order to recognize possible symptoms of oral or systemic diseases. Learning to recognize key conditions and treatment options is invaluable, and most students learn from both photographs and animations to illustrate exactly what the student needs to know in order to best take care of their patients.

· Local anesthesia-Giving a patient anesthesia to deaden their pain should never be taken lightly. A hygienist needs to be able to discuss the risk factors of a local anesthetic with the patient, especially if that patient has a history of adverse reactions. The patient must also be told that they may still feel pain even with the numbing. Side effects include brain fog that can last for 24 hours after the procedure. Patients should be aware of this in case they need someone to drive them home. Students will learn how to approach such situations that require communication skills for better patient understanding.

· Periodontology-Periodontal disease affect the supporting structure of teeth. A dental hygienist needs to be aware of the symptoms of bacterial infections that can accumulate and cause gingivitis(gum disease). This course of education is a specialty in itself and often requires a dental degree. Hygienists can apply to specialize in this field and become a periodontist.

· Dental hygiene practice and theory-This course provides the foundation for all other courses in the field of dental hygiene. Students will learn how to assess patients and begin to familiarize themselves with basic instruments. They pass through a succession of course work that provides education in patient processing, from taking a medical history to performing X-rays. Most schools offer schoolroom courses as well as both lab and clinic experience so that students receive the best combination of hands-on instruction and material from dentistry journals and books.


In order to be certified as a dental hygienist in South Dakota, one must complete the course work required from an accredited school. Most schools require a minimum grade of c in the schoolwork. Students also have to pass the clinical and written examinations in order to receive their state license.

Job Duties

A dental hygienist’s basic duties are to clean patients’ teeth and examine their gums. It is their duty to maintain patient records, call in prescriptions and prepare patients for the dentist. They can perform tooth X-rays, administer fluoride as well as topical anesthesia, and perform root planing. Other duties, such as local anesthesia and N20 (laughing gas), can only be administered when the dentist is present.

Legal Parameters

As with medical doctors, malpractice suits can happen in a dentist’s office. It is imperative that a dental hygienist perform only the duties that don’t require the dentist to be present. The hygienist is also in charge of keeping their license current. In South Dakota, a dental hygienist must earn 75 hours every five years. They must also stay current in CPR. One hour every year is required in radiography, and volunteer work up to 6 hours is allowed.

Dental Hygienist Salary in South Dakota

Across the U.S., dental hygienists earn an average of $71,000 per year. South Dakota hygienists earn somewhat under that at $29 per hour or $$60,000 per year. However, their earnings are much higher than the lowest rate of $46,000 per year.

The dentistry field in South Dakota is becoming more popular as it offers a workplace that allows room for growth and advancement. Getting a license as a dental hygienist is a great way to embark on a new and exciting career.