What Is a Dental Hygienist? A Step-By-Step Journey To Pursue and Succeed in the Field

Being a dental hygienist can be a rewarding career choice for many reasons. You’ll help people every time you go to work, and you’ll get to build a wealth of relationships with colleagues and patients. You’ll also be pursuing a stable career that’s increasingly in demand throughout the USA.

Kwikly is in the business of helping hygienists succeed. We connect dental hygienists, dental assistants, and other temporary dental experts with offices that need their help. Using our cloud-based platform, you’ll be able to find available shifts using your mobile device. You’ll be able to read reviews from other professionals, enjoy competitive pay, and have access to ongoing support while working temporary dental hygiene jobs. Ready to learn more about a career as a hygienist? In this article, Kwikly offers you a guide to becoming a dental hygienist, from education requirements to working style, and finding success in the field.

Step 1: Understand Exactly What a Career as a Dental Hygienist Involves in the United States

Before deciding on a career path, it’s important to understand exactly what the job title entails. Here’s a brief overview of a dental hygienist career.

Dental Hygienists Perform Routine Cleanings

Hygienists care for patients’ teeth by cleaning them on a regular basis. You’ll typically start with an oral examination, and then you’ll remove any buildup from the teeth. Keeping plaque and tartar to a minimum will help to prevent tooth decay and keep your patients healthy. You’ll likely also perform a deep cleaning using professional equipment, floss patients’ teeth, and apply fluoride or other treatments designed to promote oral health.

Dental Hygienists Provide Vital Patient Education

Part of a hygienist’s role is to educate patients about proper dental care and oral health. You’ll answer patients’ questions, show them how to properly brush and floss their teeth, recommend products, and more. You’ll also help them to understand how their oral health can affect their total well-being.

Dental Hygienists Perform Imaging to Help Dentists Effectively Diagnose and Treat Patients’ Teeth

Hygienists help dentists to identify and treat dental problems by taking X-rays (bitewings, periapicals, full-mouth series and/or panoramic). This requires an understanding of radiology, X-ray safety, dental/head and neck anatomy, and more. You’ll also need to be skilled at providing guidance to patients, helping them cooperate successfully to achieve clear imaging.

Dental Hygienists Perform a Variety of Other Tasks in a Dental Office

As a hygienist, you’ll perform a wide variety of tasks in a typical workday. You may need to sterilize dental instruments, clean and prepare exam rooms, maintain dental equipment and order supplies, or provide a helping hand to a dentist at your practice. You may also perform healthcare responsibilities like obtaining medical histories, taking and recording vital signs, administering topical and local anesthetic or nitrous oxide (if you’ve obtained the proper licensing and certification to do so), and more.

Step 2: Obtain All the Education Required To Become a Dental Hygienist in the USA

If being a dental hygienist sounds like a good fit for you, you can start pursuing your goal by meeting the education requirements. This will likely involve:

  • Completing prerequisite science courses designed to prepare you for coursework in dental hygiene
  • Applying to dental hygiene school and being accepted
  • Obtaining an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene
  • Ensuring all coursework is taken at an accredited institution
  • Satisfactorily meeting all clinical requirements in your dental hygiene program
  • Passing a national board exam

Once you’ve achieved all education requirements to become a dental hygienist, you’ll be ready to pursue licensure.

Step 3: Dental Hygienist License: Become a Professional in Your U.S. State

The requirements for licensure are different, depending on which state you’ll be practicing in. You will be required to pass an ethics and jurisprudence exam and a state licensing exam as part of the dental hygienist license process. Research the guidance from your state’s dental board to find out what your process will entail.

Recently, the Dentist and Dental Hygienist Compact was enacted in seven states. This agreement allows hygienists in participating states to work across state lines with fewer barriers. While it will take some time for these new privileges to be issued, this is very exciting news for dental hygienists and opens up many new possibilities!

You may also wish to obtain extra certifications other than a general dental hygienist license, which can prepare you to handle specific situations like administering nitrous oxide or local anesthetic. Certification can help you become a more flexible, highly skilled dental hygienist.

Step 4: Determine Your Preferred Working Style as a Dental Hygienist

Once you have you dental hygienist license, you’re ready to begin your first dental hygiene job, and you’ll have some important decisions to make. You could pursue employment on staff at a single dental office. However, temping in the USA has become an increasingly popular option, due to all the benefits it provides. Let’s take a brief look at a few of those perks.

Temping With a Dental Staffing Company, Like Kwikly, Allows You To Enjoy a Flexible Work Schedule

Today, more dental professionals are beginning to prioritize work-life balance. As a result, temping is becoming more popular among dental hygienists and other professionals. When you temp with Kwikly, you’ll be able to choose shifts that fit your desired parameters. You can set location preferences and choose the shifts you want to work. You can even “favorite” the offices you’ve enjoyed working with, so they’ll be easy to find next time. And dental offices love the platform, too, since Kwikly makes hiring a temporary dental hygienist more seamless than ever before.

Temping Allows You To Build a Strong Professional Network Across the United States

Professional networking is an important factor to ensure your long-term success as a dental hygienist. Joining an organization like the American Dental Hygienists’ Association is one great way to stay connected. But working with a temp agency like Kwikly can also help you network with other professionals in your area.

Temping With the Right Dental Staffing Agency Offers Secure, Seamless Compensation

When you work with Kwikly, you won’t have to worry about filling out tax paperwork every time you get started at a new office. Kwikly handles your tax and insurance needs, and offers you the security of W-2 employment status. Kwikly also provides you with competitive pay, so you can enjoy the flexibility of temping without the hassle of negotiating pay rates. And with Kwikly, you’ll be protected from financial loss if a dental office has to cancel your shift last minute.

Jumpstart Your Career as a Dental Hygienist With Kwikly in the U.S.

Kwikly is the perfect dental staffing platform for new and experienced dental hygienists alike. Find out how convenient temping can be with our state-of-the-art mobile app. Sign up for Kwikly today to get started!