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How to Become a Dental Hygienist in Washington

A dental hygienist position may seem appealing to a Washington resident who has a compassionate nature and an interest in the dental field. A dental hygienist is a person who works with the dentist to ensure that a patient has clean teeth and a substantial amount of education about the procedures that the dentist will perform. The dental hygienist is usually the first person the patient sees before the dentist visits. This friendly person may conduct tasks such as taking X-rays, cleaning teeth, draping patients, and educating patients on the various components of proper tooth care.

Dental Hygienist Requirements

A person who desires to work as a dental hygienist must meet several requirements. First, the individual must obtain the scholastic education to qualify for such a position. The individual must complete an educational course of which the American Dental Association approves. Alternatively, the person can take a course that the Commission on Dental Accreditation approves.

A dental hygienist program is approximately two years long. A student can obtain an entry-level hygienist position by obtaining a bachelor of science in dental hygiene. To obtain a bachelor’s degree, one must have a previous education from a two-year college in a field that is related to dentistry. The courses that a person would need to take before applying for a bachelor program are courses such as Intro to Psychology, English Composition, Nutrition, Anatomy & Physiology, Organic Chemistry, and Inorganic Chemistry.

A bachelor’s program for a dental hygienist would cover topics such as radiography, pain control, ethics, oral and general pathology, periodontology, pathophysiology, head, and neck analogy and more. The student will eventually need to take extended courses on subjects such as anesthesiology, nitrous oxide administration, and restorative procedures. The state of Washington may require a dental hygienist to take HIV training, as well.

How to Become Certified as a Dental Hygienist

Once a student obtains the appropriate dental hygienist training, he or she will need to obtain licenses to practice the craft. Licensing requires the person to take several extensive tests. The person must take a written test that the Dental Hygiene National Board administers. The individual must then take the Jurisprudence test for Washington State. Additionally, the person will have to take tests on anesthesia and restorative procedures. An applicant must pass several patient evaluation exams to obtain licenses to practice as a dental hygienist, as well.

Dental Hygienist Salary in Washington

Dental hygienist job opportunities continue to increase every year. Therefore, the field of dental hygiene is a lucrative one to enter. The salary that a dental hygienist makes depends on the person’s location, the size of the dental facility, and the worker’s education and background. The average overall wage for a dental hygienist position is more than $68,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That amount averages to more than $32 per hour. Dental hygienists in Washington State will earn approximately $47,000 per year.

Dental Hygienist Job Duties

A dental hygienist has a wide variety of job duties to perform. The hygienist usually plays the role of the console. He or she will meet and greet patients. The hygienist will often prepare patients for visits with the dentist by talking to them about the procedures, taking X-rays of their mouths and performing basic tooth cleanings. He or she may take vital signs and record the data for patients. The hygienist may apply fluoride or tooth whitening agents to the teeth. The hygienist may have backroom duties such as inventory counting and ordering. Furthermore, the dental hygienist may play a crucial role in explaining proper dental care to the patients.

Dental Hygienist Legal Abilities

Several differences exist between a dental hygienist and a dentist. The hygienist can only perform some of the tasks that a regular dentist can perform. The legal rights that a hygienist has depend on the certifications for which he or she applied. A regular dental hygienist can perform teeth cleaning, impressions and sealant fissures. Such a person cannot diagnose oral diseases even though he or she may be fully trained in various dental diseases. The dental hygienist is mostly a dentist’s support person. Patients sometimes mistake the hygienist for the dentist because of the level of intimacy that person has with the patients.

The Life of a Dental Hygienist

Most dental hygienists are happy with their positions. They can meet a variety of people and learn a great deal from a seasoned dentist. The hygienist’s work hours are usually between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. during the weekdays. Some days can be extremely busy, and other days can be extremely slow. A career as a dental hygienist can be quite rewarding because of the feeling of accomplishment that comes with helping people to take care of their teeth.