How Do I Become A Dental Hygienist?

How to become a dental hygienist

Learning how to become a Dental Hygienist can lead to a profitable and rewarding career!

how to become a dental hygienistA dental hygienist is trained to carry out a range of simple dental jobs to assist the dentist. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of job opportunities for dental hygienists is expected to grow by as much as 36% in the next two decades. Learning how to become a dental hygienist is a relatively simple process and it is very lucrative for a talented candidate. The exact requirements to become a dental hygienist are as follows.

Entry level requirements to become a Dental Hygienist

Start preparing the dental hygienist course from high school. Take additional courses in math, biology, chemistry, health, medical ethics, and psychology. Once you have completed your high school diploma, sit for your college entrance test. The high school diploma and the college entrance test scores are usually required for entry into the dental hygienist program. You might have to sit for one to two years of college depending on the program that you have selected in order to become a dental hygienist.

Recommended Dental Hygienist Courses

There are a range of dental hygienist courses that you can choose from. For example, degree completion programs may include certificate programs or associated degree programs to become a dental hygienist. These are the bare minimum degrees that are required to work with dentists on patients. Please note that along with a theoretical training, each course will also have a practical clinical rotation which will teach you the basics of dental hygiene and patient management. A few colleges also offer a masters degree in dental hygiene which is usually stated as a Master of Science in Dental Hygiene (MSDH).

With basic masters in dental hygiene, the student can also opt into related areas of dentistry like community dentistry, preventive health dentistry, corporate practice etc. Masters programs are usually full time and are offered by a few colleges like the School of Dentistry, University of California, San Francisco, and the Fones School of Dental Hygiene, University of Bridgeport. The certificate and associates course will usually run anywhere from 12 months to 18 months. The bachelor’s degree is usually for 4 years and the master’s degree will mean 2 more years of study. If you are already working as a dental hygienist or a dental assistant, you can opt for online courses from approved universities. A few approved universities offering approved and accredited online courses include the Northern Arizona University, Loma Linda University and the University of Bridgeport. Check the accreditation of each university at the American Dental Hygienists Association (, before enrolling as employers will prefer approved degrees and accredited candidates.

How To Become Licensed As A Dental Hygienist

Every states requires trained dental hygienists to sit for the American Dental Association’s (ADA) Joint Commission on National Dental Examination which involves a written and a clinical examination.  Passing the exam means that the candidate can work in the US but individual states may have additional licensing requirements. Check with the state that you intend to work in to get clarification. If you’re in your last semester of a baccalaureate dental hygiene program, then a letter from the dental hygiene program director verifying that you will be graduating within 5 months is one way around having to get licensed in most States.

What Is the Job Outlook for a Dental Hygienist?

In the last decade, the Allied Dental Health Professionals (ADHP) has stated that there is a severe shortage of trained dental hygienists and assistants in the US. Even though dental colleges have increased the number of dental hygienist courses, the actual student intake has decreased due to a serious lack of trained faculty to teach new students. According to a conservative estimate by the organization, more than half of the patients who come to a dentist require simple scaling and polishing procedures which could have been completed by a trained dental hygienist. The shortage of dental hygienists means that there is a serious backlog of patients which also reduces the time that the dentist can spend on each patient. Job prospects in private practice, hospitals and in corporate settings are extremely favorable for talented candidates.

How Much Money Does A Dental Hygienist Make?

Wages depend on the area you live in, but generally anywhere from $20-$50 per hour is about right. Many of hygienist work on a commission basis of 30-35% of their production. Of course, this also depends on your area and from dentist office to dentist office. I’ve heard about hygienist that pulled down more then $75 per hour on commission.

As for the profession. In my opinion the best out there for a female. You can work part time and still make excellent money. In many areas, there’s a shortage of people to fill vacancies and you may be able to set your own hours and pay! You’ll also be able to take extended time off and return at about the same pay as you did when you left. It’s a very flexible career. In this economy, it has more and more people asking ‘how do I become a dental hygienist’! Is there any reason why?