How to Become a Dental Hygienist in Tennessee

What is a Dental Hygienist?
A dental hygienist works under the supervision of a dentist in providing dental services and guidance in the maintenance of good oral health. The duties of a dental hygienist may include cleaning and polishing teeth, taking and developing X-Rays, screening patients, and giving local anesthesia. Unlike a dental assistance that works directly under a dentist and has less training, dental hygienists are highly trained and often work on their own sometimes organizing clinics in the community to promote better oral health.

In the early 1800’s interest perked regarding the fight against tooth decay by training dentists in prophylaxes treatment. In 1913, the first school for dental hygienists opened in Connecticut, and in 1914 graduated the first students. Connecticut was the first state to regulate dental hygienists in the practice of their work. Today, there are more than 330 accredited dental hygienist programs in the United States. In 2012, there were 192,800 dental hygienists in the country.

Dental hygienists are trained at community and technical colleges, dental schools, and universities. Community colleges offer a two-year associate degree. Universities offer more advanced degrees, requiring four years of training. These advanced degrees are often necessary for employment in teaching and for clinical practice in school or public health programs. A person contemplating entering the field will benefit from taking biology, psychology, chemistry, and math while still in high school. Some advanced college dental hygienist programs require two years of college before enrollment in their school. The typical dental hygienist program includes academic courses in basic sciences, anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and chemistry. Clinical courses include dental hygiene, radiology, and dental materials. Training would also include supervised practice with actual patients. Accredited dental hygienist schools in Tennessee which offer a two-year program are Chattanooga State Community College and Concorde Career College in Memphis. Four-year schools include East Tennessee State University and the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Persons desiring a license as a dental hygienist in Tennessee must be a graduate of an accredited Dental Hygiene program. They must pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, and one of the following examinations given by the Local Southern Regional Testing Agency, the Western Regional Examining Board, the Northeast Regional Board, or the Central Regional Dental Testing Service. Any applicant failing any of the examinations three times must complete a remedial course at an accredited school. Tennessee requires certification in CPR for all dental hygienists, obtained by taking a Healthcare Provider course with a certified instructor. Further information about licensure may be obtained from Division of Health Licensure and Regulation in Nashville, Tennessee.

Continuing Education
All dental hygienists in Tennessee are required to complete thirty hours of continuing education in two years and have a current CPR card. Two of the 30 required hours must be in an area of chemical dependency.

Job Description
The main purpose of a dental hygienist is to promote dental health by providing prophylaxis, oral screening, and performing other practices in keeping with good dental practice. In accordance with this, the dental hygienist may specifically prepare the treatment room to provide helpful information to the patient and maintain a clean and safe environment. There are some duties which the dental hygienists must do under the direct supervision of the dentist, meaning the dentist should be present. Some of these include using local anesthesia root planning and removing dressings.Things the dental hygienist may do under general supervision, meaning the dentist does not have to be present, include X-Rays, and prophylaxis. There are some procedures which are strictly prohibited such as comprehensive examination, diagnosis and treatment planning, and issuing prescription medications.

Dental Hygienist Salary in Tennessee
The general job outlook for a dental hygienist is predicted to grow at 33%, which is higher than the average. The growth in attempting to link general health to oral health will result in the need for more dental hygienists. The median salary for the country, meaning one-half of employees are above the figure and one-half below, is $68,939. Here are some median salaries in Tennessee: Chattanooga, $62,507, Nashville, 65,134, and Knoxville, $61,149. The average salary in the United States is $51,000. Here are some average figures in Tennessee: Nashville, $48,000, Chattanooga, $44,000, and Knoxville, $52,000. The median and average salaries for Tennessee are slightly below the national average. Beginning salaries might be lower than these.

Summary and Review
Dental hygiene is a career which holds promise for anyone looking for a reputable and stable occupation with a comparably good salary. With proper training and experience, the possibility for advancement is promising.

American Dental Hygienists Association, 444 North Michigan Ave. Suite 3400, Chicago, Ill 60611
Tennessee Dental Hygienists Association, P.O. Box 22870, Nashville, TN 37202

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