What Can You Do With A Dental Hygienist Degree?

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What is a dental hygiene? Dental hygiene, also known as oral hygiene, is the practice of proper upkeep of the teeth and gums. Most people who attend higher education facilities for dental hygiene typically become dental hygienists. So, what’s involved in becoming a dental hygienist? In this article you will find everything from schools that offer particularly noteworthy dental hygiene programs to places where you can get a job as a dental hygienist.

Services Provided by Dental Hygienists

When you study dental hygiene, you will learn the ins and outs of all the services provided by dental hygienists.  The basics are briefly covered here.

Maintenance – upkeep of patients’ oral health; includes professional cleaning services (brushing, flossing, fluoride treatments, plaque removal)

Education – teaching patients proper oral care techniques for at-home cleaning and why it needs to be done

Therapeutic – treating patients in order to stop oral diseases and attempt to restore healthy teeth and gums

How to Get a Degree to Become a Dental Hygienist

If you decide to pursue a degree in dental hygiene, you should begin looking for dental schools before you graduate high school. You can become a dental hygienist by earning an associates degree in dental hygiene, but in order to do so, you need to find a reputable dental school. Here, you will find just a few suggestions to get you started on your search for the school that’s right for you.

New York University, or NYU, offers a dental program which provides its students with hands-on experience in the field of dentistry, working alongside other students and faculty members who specialize in dentistry and dental hygiene. Students studying to be dental hygienists will be educated in preparation for joining any of many areas of dentistry, including but not limited to pediatric dentistry, implant dentistry, and orthodontics. The university’s College of Dentistry offers students the opportunity to earn an Associate in Applied Science in Dental Hygiene and, if they prefer, a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene.

The University of Michigan School of Dentistry in Ann Arbor, MI, also offers students a particularly high-rated dental hygiene program. Faculty involved in this program provide students with the experience in education and research necessary to become successful dental hygienists. Students learn how oral health impacts everyday life, how to identify the stages of oral diseases, and about theories and applications related to dental hygiene. The university offers a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene as well as an opportunity to earn a Master of Science Degree in Dental Hygiene.

The School of Dental Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh offers opportunities to earn a bachelors degree in dental hygiene and a certificate program to become a certified dental hygienist. The certificate program is a two-year process in which students learn the ins and outs of dental hygiene practices and perform dental hygienist duties on patients of the university’s School of Dental Medicine. The certificate program is the only one in the state of Pennsylvania located in an actual dental school that is part of both a research university and medical center. Students only qualify for the bachelors degree program if they have completed a certificate program or have earned an associates degree in dental hygiene, and students have the opportunity to choose full-time or part-time status to earn their bachelors degree in dental hygiene. For more information on the individual programs and their qualifications, refer to the school’s website.

Career Paths For Dental Hygienists

Once you become a certified dental hygienist, there are a handful of fields you can enter in order to contribute your knowledge and developed skills to people in need of proper oral care. Some of these areas and potential jobs are described here.

Clinical Dental Hygienist

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Clinical dental hygienists spend some of their time diagnosing patients and analyzing ways to help treat diseases to improve patient health. They also devote much of their time to documenting the conclusions they reach on how to prevent or treat oral diseases. They possess excellent written and verbal communication skills as well as the ability to perform productive research. Many clinical dental hygienists work in private practices, hospitals, and even prisons.

Clinical dental hygienists can earn a salary of around $46,000 or more a year depending on their location.

Public Health Dental Hygienist

Entering the world of public health care will allow you to provide people with dental care to those need it but do not have the means to afford it in the clinical or corporate field and do not have insurance to cover the cost. Positions available in public health dental care that you may qualify for can range anywhere from clinicians to researchers.

Dental hygienists in public health can make an average annual salary of around $49,000, depending on the intensity of their responsibilities.

Dental Hygiene Researcher

Dental hygienists who pursue careers in research spend much of their time performing surveys and gathering, recording, and assessing the results in order to find ways to improve dental health care. They also may take the path of performing tests in order to determine the quality and effectiveness of new products and tools to help advance the world of oral care. It is important that researchers have excellent analyzing and interpretative skills in order to perform their tasks accurately and effectively.

Dental hygiene researchers can make around $65,000 or more a year.

Corporate Positions for a Dental Hygienist

With enough practice and experience, a dental hygienist may qualify for a corporate position of a clinic or related business. Corporations in the dental field often look for dental hygienists to take positions as educators for the corporate field or even product researchers. Corporate educators are responsible for representing the companies they work for while giving presentations at conferences and schools in order to promote services and jobs. Many also continue to work as dental hygienists part time and choose to advance their education by pursuing a masters in dental hygiene.

Corporate dental hygienists can make close to $80,000 annually.

Companies that Hire Dental Hygienists

Hospitals, research universities, health clinics, and more places are always searching to find experienced and talented dental hygienists, so you are bound to find a job even if you have no more than an associates degree in dental hygiene. Some companies with job opportunities available are listed below.

Rutgers Biomedical Health Sciences – locations throughout NJ; university hires positions for dental hygienists, dental assistants, financial coordinators, etc.

Heartland Dental, LLC – locations throughout the U.S.; hires positions for dentists, dental hygienists, etc.

Harbor Health Services – community health centers; hire corporate positions, dental hygienists, dentists, etc.

DentalOne Partners – locations throughout the U.S.; hires corporate positions, dental hygienists, dentists, financial positions, etc.

Many more private practices and public health clinics are looking for people with dental hygiene degrees in order to expand their businesses and build their client bases. When applying to dental school, keep in mind that you should always apply to at least three schools. The information provided here should help to get you started on the journey of the rest of your life.

Author: Rose Boettinger

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