Most people tend to get a bit nervous at the thought of going to the dentist. Even if they’re not getting any kind of major work done, like surgery or fillings, they know that there will at least be a lot of scraping and discomfort. The person responsible for these unenjoyable teeth cleanings are not the dentist, but the dental hygienist. Not only do they clean your teeth, they’re also responsible for taking x-rays, administering anesthesia, and providing education for patients on proper dental care, among other things. If this is a job you’re interested in, and you’re curious as to how long the process would take to become a dental hygienist, then you’ve come to the right place.
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Becoming a Dental Hygienist
There are a few steps to breaking into this line of work, and requires more from the prospective dental hygienist than simply taking a few classes. Because this is the health field, there is some intensive schooling involved, as well as some post-education steps that are necessary. Below, these steps are detailed, along with how long they usually take the average person. If you’d like to go back to school for a new career, but are afraid you might be a little rusty when it comes to studying, this course on how to pass exams will give you some pointers on how to ace those tests.
- Education (2-6 years)
This comprises the bulk of the time spent that is required to become a dental hygienist, and there are several different avenues available to you. The most basic and widely found degree in this profession is an Associate’s Degree, which takes two years to complete, and must be from an accredited school in order to become licensed. This degree is the minimal amount of education that is necessary to break into this line of work, but some have Bachelor’s Degrees, and even Master’s Degrees in dental hygiene. Though these longer degrees are unnecessary for an entry-level position, they do help in edging out the competition, as well as allowing for more opportunities in sales, administration, and teaching. A Bachelor’s Degree can take anywhere from three to five years, and an MS in dental hygiene takes another year or two, depending on the program.
- Licensing (~3-6 months)
After the education is complete, the next step in becoming a dental hygienist is to become licensed in the state. This process can take several months, depending on the state. No matter where they wish to be licensed, all prospective hygienists must pass a written exam called the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, as well as clinical exams. Finally, each state administers a test specific to them that must be passed in order to earn a license. Other steps that may be necessary for this step include letters of recommendations from practicing dentists, and proof of CPR training. If a licensed dental hygienist moves states, they must become licensed in their new state.
- Job Search (~1 month)
The job market for dental hygienists grows faster than average compared to other occupations, and the overall job outlook is very good. New insurance regulations, a growing population, and the fact that more and more people know to take care of their teeth all have resulted in a 33% increase in dental hygienist jobs from 2011 and 2012. It’s now widely known that keeping your teeth healthy is part of keeping your entire body healthy, and this course on cutting your age in half will show you how to keep you teeth, skin, eyes, and all other parts in shape.
The job of dental hygienist isn’t for everyone, especially if you don’t have particularly good interpersonal skills. Some might say it’s a perfect job for the sadists out there, and while this caricature may have some basis in truth, it is a job that’s necessary for people to stay healthy, and one that pays well, too. It can vary how long you spend to enter this line of work, but if you’re passionate, and have at least two and a half years, you should go for it. If you’re considering getting into this, or any other medical field, this course on what to expect while studying medicine might be a good investment before investing several years of your life in school.