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Are you looking for a career that offers excellent pay and a wide range of opportunities? Consider becoming a dental hygienist! With the right education and training, you can embark on a fantastic career in the dental field. In this article, we’ll explore the options available to you with an associate degree in dental hygiene.
Dental Hygienist Responsibilities and Duties
A dental hygienist’s main objective is to provide preventative oral healthcare to their patients. They play a vital role in maintaining oral health and preventing dental issues. Here are some of the duties performed by dental hygienists:
- Cleaning teeth using specialized tools to remove tartar, plaque, and stains
- Applying preventative treatments like fluoride and sealants
- Examining gums and collecting medical history
- Educating patients on oral healthcare practices
- Taking and developing X-rays
- Administering anesthesia
Associate Degree in Dental Hygiene
To become a dental hygienist, you’ll need to complete a formal postsecondary education program. Most dental hygienist programs offer either an associate or bachelor’s degree. For those looking to enter the field quickly, an associate degree is a great option.
All states require a minimum education and training at the associate degree level, through a program approved by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). These programs cover essential areas such as general education, biomedical sciences, dental sciences, and dental hygiene science. While some coursework may be available online, hands-on clinical experience is a crucial aspect of the program.
After graduation, you’ll need to obtain a license to practice as a dental hygienist. This typically involves passing the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam (NBDHE) and possibly a state-specific exam. Once licensed, you’ll be recognized as a Registered Dental Hygienist (RDH).
Jobs Available With an Associate Degree in Dental Hygiene
An associate degree in dental hygiene can open doors to a variety of career opportunities. Here are two examples of jobs you can pursue:
Community Health Worker
As a community health worker, you’ll be responsible for collecting data and addressing oral health concerns within specific populations or communities. This role offers a median annual salary of $47,000.
As a dental hygienist, you’ll examine patients for signs of oral disease, provide preventive care, and assist dentists in various procedures. Dental hygienists earn a median annual salary of $76,000.
Take Your Career Further with a Bachelor’s Degree
If you’re eager to expand your education and earning potential, a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene is a great choice. These programs often offer specialized focuses like research, leadership, or working with specific patient populations such as children or the elderly.
Additionally, if you already have an associate degree and a dental hygiene license, you may consider a degree completion program. These programs can be completed entirely online.
Jobs Available with a Bachelor’s in Dental Hygiene
With a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene, you can explore a range of exciting career paths. Here are a couple of examples:
As a health educator, you’ll teach people about behaviors that promote oral health and wellness. This fulfilling role comes with a median annual salary of $47,000.
Dental Hygienist, Federal
Working for federal organizations like the Bureau of Prisons or the Department of Defense, you’ll examine patients, provide preventive care, and ensure dental health. This position requires a bachelor’s degree and offers a median annual salary of $76,000.
Pursue Excellence with a Master’s Degree
For those interested in teaching, research, or administrative positions in the dental hygiene field, a master’s degree is an excellent choice. This advanced degree typically takes 1-2 years to complete and significantly increases earning potential.
Jobs Available with a Master’s in Dental Hygiene
A master’s degree in dental hygiene can open doors to various exciting opportunities. Here are a couple of careers you can pursue:
Dental Hygiene Instructor
As a dental hygiene instructor, you’ll teach postsecondary dental hygienist programs. This rewarding role offers an average annual salary of $83,000.
Postsecondary Education Administrator
In this role, you’ll plan and coordinate student instruction, administration, and other research and educational activities. Postsecondary education administrators earn an average annual salary of $112,000.
Start Your Dental Hygiene Journey
If you’re ready to pursue a career in dental hygiene, check out these excellent programs available at our partner schools:
- Farmingdale State College: Offering an Associate of Applied Sciences and a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene, Farmingdale State College prepares students for licensure in dental hygiene. They also provide online completion options for those continuing their education from an associate degree.
- Lone Star College: With an Associate of Applied Sciences in Dental Hygiene, Lone Star College offers a unique dual enrollment program in collaboration with Texas Woman’s University. This allows students to earn a bachelor’s degree while concurrently completing the associate degree program.
Remember, dental hygiene offers a fulfilling career with excellent job prospects. So why wait? Start your dental hygiene journey and make a difference in people’s lives today!
*All statistics and calculations from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.