Dental hygienists clean teeth, instruct patients in proper dental hygiene, offer temporary fillings, polishing procedures, and even anesthesia, depending on the state laws that regulate dentistry where they work. They enjoy good salaries and extremely flexible working hours ? an enticement of the occupation. More than half of the nation's 174,100 dental hygienists work part-time. Employers are interested in hiring dental hygienists that are trained to assume more of the dentist's routine tasks.
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How to Prepare for a Dental Hygienist Career
A dental hygienist degree from an accredited college or trade school and a state license are the principal requirements for beginning your career. Following training, you must pass the written exam administered by the American Dental Association's Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations. With additional dental hygienist degree work at the bachelor's or master's degree level, hygienists can advance to roles in teaching, research, or in a corporate setting.
You can earn an associate's degree, bachelor's degree, or master's degree in addition to a two-year certificate. Dental hygienist classes may include training in:
- Clinical Dental Hygiene
Career Outlook for Dental Hygienists
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports there are more than 300 accredited dental hygiene programs across the country. The median salary for dental hygienists in 2008 was $66,570, with top earnings at $91,470. The BLS predicts a 36 percent increase in dental hygienist jobs between 2008 and 2018.