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How to Become a Dental Hygienist

Ashwini Kulkarni Sule
Dental hygienist has been touted as one of the most promising careers in the US. This story discusses this profession.
Everybody knows that dental hygienists are one of the highest paid individuals in the country. Most job aspirants and youngsters find this career most lucrative. Flexible timings and fat salaries are some of the factors that most people find attractive. However, one must take into consideration that getting into this profession is not an easy task.
You have to go through several entrance exams, complete years of formal education and training, and again clear exams to obtain a professional license. But, if you are really determined to go for a dental career without the pains of going through rigorous education and training, then becoming a dental hygienist could be your best option.
However, that does not mean that anyone can opt for this profession. Before we find out how to get into this profession, let us take a look at its job description.

Job Description

A dental hygienist mainly deals with education and implementation of basic dental care. His job exceeds beyond the common conception of 'cleaning teeth'. Sure he cleans teeth and gums but most importantly, he educates people on proper dental care.
Removing plaque and tartar, stains, and other visible blotches from the teeth are some of the primary duties of such professionals. Taking X-rays, diagnostic tests, filling and removing dental fillings, periodontal dressings, and taking dental molds are some of the additional responsibilities of these professionals.
Dental hygienists usually work in a dentist's office rather than practicing on their own. They often have flexible working hours and can work for more hours than a dentist. Their median hourly wage is about $36, however, their salary varies from state to state.
During the first 4 years of their practice, they can earn anywhere between $35,000 - $74,840 annually. Once, a candidate becomes experienced, he can expect to earn much more. You can also opt for teaching and research careers in the same field upon successful completion of the program.

How to Become a Dental Hygienist

If you are serious about becoming a dental hygienist, you should start preparing for it from the 9th grade itself. You need to take biology, chemistry, and mathematics as your subjects for high school graduation. After that, you need to enroll at a dental hygiene school for an accredited dental hygiene program.
Although some institutes do not mind admitting students who have completed high school diploma, others may insist upon at least 1 year of college studies. In that case, you might have to take a college entrance examination. Requirements for this profession include 4 years of formal education from a recognized school.
This will enable you to apply for a job in research, education, clinical practice, etc. This bachelor's degree program is extensive with a syllabus including varied range of subjects like pathology, nutrition, chemistry, sociology, biology, English, and speech.
However, if you are only interested in practicing in a dentist's office, then you may go for an associate's degree. Associate degree programs are offered by community colleges as well as technical colleges. Thus, it takes anywhere between 2 - 4 years, depending upon the option you choose, to fulfill the educational requirement for this profession.
After the successful completion of the program you need to obtain a license which will enable you to practice on your own, or at a dentist's office. Hence, the last hurdle in your course towards this profession is clearing an examination for obtaining the professional license.
This career offers growth opportunities along with good pay. Hence, it is one of the most sought after careers this year.