Becoming a Dental Hygienist: How Long it Takes and What Your Day-To-Day Could Look Like
Working as a dental hygienist is a rewarding career that makes a positive difference in people’s lives. Here’s what you need to know about the career!
Working as a dental hygienist is a rewarding career that allows you to make a positive difference in people’s lives. It’s a sought-after career, with U.S. News & World Report ranking #1 in Best Healthcare Support Jobs. Employment for dental hygienists is strong, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicting 11%growth adding as many as 23,100 new jobs between 2020-2030.
If you’re interested in pursuing this career, here’s what you need to know:
Generally, dental hygienists are responsible for caring for patients’ oral health, examining them for signs of oral diseases while providing preventative care under the supervision of a dentist.
Typically, dental hygienists perform the following duties on a regular day:
Report findings of patients’ oral health to dentists
Apply sealants and fluorides to teeth
Remove stains, tartar and plaque from teeth
Take and developed dental x-rays
Administer local anesthetics to patients
Your day-to-day as a dental hygienist may vary depending on your state and your work setting. Each state has its specific regulations regarding the range of services dental hygienists can provide.
Work schedules can vary as well. Some dental hygienists work part-time and for more than one dentist. When it comes to the work environment, dentist offices are the most common workplace for dental hygienists, but a small percentage work for the government or in physicians’ offices according to the BLS.
Annual wages will also depend on experience, state and work environment, but according to the BLS, the median annual wage for dental hygienists was $76,220.
Ways to Become a Dental Hygienist
The amount of time it will take to become a dental hygienist depends on the institution you attend as well as the degree pathway you choose. Most dental offices require at least an associate’s degree in dental hygiene to practice in a dental office. Herzing offers an Associate Degree in Dental Assisting that can be completed in as little as 24 months. However, while dental assistants have some of the responsibilities as dental hygienists, the two careers are different.
At Herzing University, students can be ready for a career as a dental hygienist in as few as 36 months, by earning their Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in both dental hygiene and dental assisting, Herzing’s Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene - Bridge program allows you to complete your associate's degree and continue towards your bachelor's degree. The bridge program allows you to work and gain real-world experience while earning your degree.
Requirements to be a Hygienist
Dental hygienists must also be licensed by the state in which they wish to work. Herzing's curriculum prepares you to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination.
In addition to a degree and licensure, it’s important for dental hygienists to have strong manual dexterity, as they must be able to work with precision in a very small area of the body. Other important skills to work on include communication and critical thinking as well as problem-solving.
* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2020. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.