A career as a dental hygienist begins by getting the necessary training and obtaining a degree or certificate from an accredited school. Upon completing educational requirements, the next step is to take and pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam, which is a written test. In most cases, a regional exam is also required, which involves demonstrating clinical techniques learned in school. These exams are mandatory for completing licensing requirements.
Aspiring dental hygienists must be trained in a variety of skills, including analyzing and screening patients, operating X-ray equipment, performing teeth and gum cleanings, and teaching basic dental hygiene to others. These skills can be acquired by attending a vocational school or college that has an accredited dental-assistant program. Getting into a good dental-hygienist program requires applicants to have a high school diploma and be proficient in math, science, biology and general health studies. Many people opt to earn an associate degree in dental hygiene, while some choose to earn a four-year degree.
Working in a dental office as an intern gives the aspiring dental hygienist practical, on-the-job experience. After adequate preparation, which includes demonstrating to employers that one has the required skills and a good work ethic, it is possible to be hired as a full-time dental hygienist.