Dental Care

Dental Hygienist School Can Be Your Way

Smile, because if you choose to attend dental hygienist school you will become involved in a career that makes people look great and feel happy!

There are few careers predicted to grow faster than that of the dental hygienist, so you're well positioned for a successful professional opportunity.

Why is this field expanding so much? In decades past, people were often resigned to losing their teeth when they were not far beyond middle age-or even still in that age category!

These days, there are new technologies that allow people to keep their own teeth until their most senior years, and sometimes forever.

In addition, new efficiencies practiced in dental offices and clinics make greater use of dental hygienists.

What Will You Learn at a Dental Hygienist School?

The dental hygienist is a patient's first contact after the receptionist. If that's you, then you'll clean the person's teeth and take x-rays.

You will ask the patient questions about his past medical history and current medications. Many medical conditions and prescription medications affect a person's dental health.

You also prepare the patient for the actual examination by the dentist, and confer with the dentist about a plan of action for the patient.

It helps to be good with people, because you have to put them at ease. You also need the ability to work well with your hands. Plus, you will be working with equipment to clean the hard and soft build-up that the patient accumulates on his teeth.

Another part of this job is to educate the patient. You will demonstrate proper brushing and flossing technique. You can also provide information about proper nutrition, and you will make recommendations to the patient who has medical issues on how to overcome them for better oral care.

Specialist Hygienists

Some hygienists specialize in their field of knowledge.
  • If you work for an orthodontist, you will become knowledgeable about adjusting braces and issues associated with them.

  • Dentofacial orthopedics addresses the correction of skeletal or neuromuscular abnormalities of a patient's facial structure.

  • Periodontists treat gum disease, and they hire specialized hygienists.

  • If you work for an endodontist, you will be providing services for people who need root canals or complicated extractions.

  • Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology and Radiology are subspecialties that deal with the management of diseases affecting facial structure.

  • Pediatric dentists treat children exclusively.

  • Prosthodontics pertains to the installation of substitute teeth-dentures, implants, bridges, and so forth.

Training and Testing at a Dental Hygienist School

Being a dental hygienist requires training beyond high school. If you do not have a high school diploma, you must have a GED.

Many dental hygienist schools require you to take college entrance tests like the SAT or ACT tests before accepting you into training.

If you're still in high school, take one or both of these tests no later than your junior year; that way, when you're a senior, you can retake it for a better score. And if you have already graduated, just contact your local college for information on upcoming testing dates and locations.

While you are a high school student, your curriculum should focus on science and biology courses. Chemistry and math are also necessary, and psychology classes will help qualify you for this career. Participation in Speech helps you in your dealings with patients, and nutrition classes round out a well prepared foundation.

Two Different Dental Hygienist School Careers

Your path to this career will be either a two-year or a four-year program.

The two-year programs end with an associate's degree, and you'll find them at local technical colleges or your community college. This route is ideal for the candidate who wants a job in a private dental office.

If you prefer to expand your job opportunities and seek a career in administration, in a university clinic or setting, or assisting in research programs, you can opt for the four-year baccalaureate program at your local university.

No matter which route you choose, you will spend part of your education in the classroom and part of it in the laboratory. Ultimately, you'll be placed in an internship at a dental office or clinic with the opportunity to practice -supervised, of course- on real patients.

Some of the subject matter you will be studying includes anatomy, pharmacology, nutrition, histology (the study of cells), radiology, pathology (the study of disease processes), and behavioral sciences.

Further Dental Hygienist School Steps

Once you achieve your certificate or diploma, your next step is licensure. As you complete your training, your program director will help you register to take the national licensing exam administered by the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations.

This is called the NBDHE-the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, and you usually take this test in your final semester of training. You cannot take it without your director's recommendation.

The test includes 350 questions divided among clinical dental hygiene knowledge, community health and research, and basic science information. It is generally administered in two parts which are taken separately.

Most states also require that you go through a licensure process. Although the national test questions you on all aspects of your knowledge, there are still local legal issues and regional issues to learn.

When you reach the point of readiness for the exam, you should feel confident about your training in all the latest techniques and procedures. And once you graduate and pass your licensure examination, you will carry the credential of R.D.H.-Registered Dental Hygienist-after your name.

Applying to Dental Hygienist School Programs

You should be certain that the program you attend is accredited; there are almost three hundred accredited dental hygienist school programs in the United States. Entry into one of these is simplified by a national application service sponsored by the American Dental Education Association (ADEA).

You can complete one application through this service, the American Association of Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS), and it will be forwarded to every program that you choose.

You can reach the AADSAS at 1400 K Street NW, Suite 1100, Washington, DC 20005, or visit their web site at

If you are a licensed and certified dental hygienist, you can expect a comfortable living making $30-55,000 per year, depending on your geographical area and type of practice.

From Dental Hygienist School to our main page about Dental Schools


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