How long does it take to become a dental hygienist?

dental hygienist

How long does it take to become a dental hygienist?

If you go to a dental practice with multiple staff members, you may have noticed that the dental professionals aren’t all dentists. Some of the people who work on your teeth or provide dental care at your dentist’s office might actually be dental hygienists. 

A dental hygienist is a term most people are familiar with, yet many don’t know what the profession entails. Here’s what you need to know about dental hygienists. 

What is a dental hygienist?

A dental hygienist is someone who works alongside other dental professionals, generally in a private dental office, and performs teeth cleanings and preliminary oral exams on patients. 

Dental hygienists might also take patient x-rays, update patient dental history records, complete patient screenings, administer anesthesia, and more, depending on the practice. 

Becoming a Dental Hygienist

As you might expect, the process for becoming a dental hygienist is not the same as the one to become a dentist. Dental hygienists can choose between completing an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree program, with a bachelor’s degree generally offering greater opportunities in the field. 

Those are not the only educational requirements for dental hygienists, though. After completing a degree program from an accredited college or university, the prospective dental hygienist must then get a license to be able to practice in most states. 

Dental hygienists need to pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam to get their licenses. This exam tests their knowledge of teeth cleaning, oral health, and other relevant components of a dental hygienist’s job. 

Becoming a dental hygienist also involves getting some practical experience in the field. Dental hygienists are generally responsible for cleaning patients’ teeth and noticing any potential problems with their oral health to point out to the dentist. 

For someone starting right out of high school, the entire process of becoming a dental hygienist could go as quickly as about 2.5 years or take as long as five years or more. It all depends on the education path that the dental hygienist pursues and the kind of dental hygienist work they want to do. 

See Dental Hygienists in Action

Next time you head to the dentist’s office, you can determine whether there are any dental hygienists on staff and learn more about what they do. Dental hygienists play a vital role in the work we do at Crossroads Family Dentistry, and they’d be happy to help you with your dental care needs. Schedule an appointment today!