Dental Hygienist are IN DEMAND! Be Well-Paid While Working Your Way Up
Dental hygienists clean teeth, examine patients for signs of oral diseases such as gingivitis, and provide other preventive dental care. They also educate patients about oral health.
Duties Dental hygienists typically do the following:
- Remove tartar, stains, and plaque from teeth
- Apply sealants and fluorides to help protect teeth
- Take and develop dental x rays
- Assess patients' oral health and report findings to dentists
- Document patient care and treatment plans
- Educate patients about oral hygiene techniques, such as how to brush and floss correctly
Dental hygienists use many types of tools to do their job. They clean and polish teeth with hand, power, and ultrasonic tools. In some cases, they use lasers. Hygienists remove stains with an air-polishing device, which sprays a combination of air, water, and baking soda. They polish teeth with a power tool that works like an automatic toothbrush. Hygienists also use x-ray machines to take pictures to check for tooth or jaw problems.
Dental hygienists talk to patients about ways to keep their teeth and gums healthy. For example, they may explain the relationship between diet and oral health. They may also advise patients on how to select toothbrushes and other oral care devices. The tasks hygienists may perform, and the extent to which they must be supervised by a dentist, vary by state and by the setting in which the dental hygienist works. A few states allow hygienists with additional training, sometimes called dental therapists, to provide some restorative services, such as extracting primary teeth and placing temporary crowns.
Why Dental Hygienists?
One of the biggest perks of working as a dental hygienist is the flexible scheduling. In this field, many different types of work schedules are common, including full-time, part-time or just weekends. Many dental hygienists are even employed at multiple offices, working one or two days per week in each one. While you might occasionally have to tweak your personal schedule to fit the demands of a busy dental office, most dental hygienist are able to set their own work hours to meet the needs of their hectic lives.
Another perk is the job stability of being a dental hygienist. Due to the population increases and preventative care being placed at a higher priority, this career path is ranked as one of the fastest growing occupations. What this means for you: a continuously high demand for your services, whether you are just finishing a certification program or in the midst of your career as a dental hygienist.
The number of Dental Hygienist jobs are expected to increase by 20 percent from 2016 to 2026 with an annual job opening over 200 in the Gulf Coast region.
Dental Hygienists are found in a wide range of Dental Clinics and even educational institutions!
Earning Your Degree: Where Dental Hygeniest Begin
Step 1. Graduate from an Approved Dental Hygiene School
All dental hygienists in Texas must graduate from a school that is approved by the American Dental Association's (ADA) Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). These programs result in an associate's or bachelor's degree in dental hygiene, both of which satisfy the requirements for licensure in Texas. Programs include a clinical training component as well as didactic coursework that includes:
- Pharmacology for the dental hygienist
- Oral pathology
- Contemporary dental hygiene
- Anatomy and physiology
- Preventative dental hygiene
- Dental radiology
- Dental nutrition
- Sociology, psychology, and communication
- Dental hygienist clinical experience
Step 2. Pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE) The National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE) is sponsored by the ADA's Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations (JCNDE) and offered at locations across Texas and in neighboring states. You can register to take this exam once you complete or are near completion of an ADA-approved dental hygiene education program. The NBDHE content is made up of 350 multiple-choice questions that focus on the theory of dental hygiene and hypothetical patient scenarios that may involve:
- Professional responsibility
- Obtaining and interpreting x-rays
- Supportive treatment
- Preventative agents
- Performance of periodontal procedures
- Patient assessment
- Supportive treatment services
- Community health
- Research principles
Step 3. Pass an Approved Regional or State Dental Hygiene Clinical Examination You will also need to pass a dental hygienist clinical examination. The Texas State Board of Dental Examiners recognizes the following agencies as valid sponsors of clinical exams:
- Western Regional Examining Board
- Central Regional Dental Testing Service
- Northeast Regional Board
- Southern Regional Testing Agency
- Council of Interstate Testing Agencies
A typical clinical exam will include segments that focus on:
- Intra- and extra-oral assessment
- Supra-gingival deposit removal
- Scaling and sub-gingival calculus removal
- Periodontal examination and probing
Step 4. Apply for a Dental Hygienist License with the Texas State Board of
Dental Examiners Before you will be eligible to apply for licensure with the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners you must meet three additional requirements:
Background Investigation Anyone wishing to become a dental hygienist in Texas must complete a fingerprint criminal records check. This will confirm an absence of any serious state and national criminal violations.
Basic Life Support CPR Certification You must also have a current Basic Life Support CPR certification from an agency that offers hands-on training. This training should also include a demonstration of skills on a manikin and a written assessment.
Texas State Board of Dental Examiners Jurisprudence Assessment You can take the Jurisprudence Assessment online. This exam covers the rules and regulations that pertain to dental hygienists and the field of dentistry in Texas:
Submitting an Application Once you have fulfilled these requirements you will be ready to apply for a dental hygienist license with the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners. Make sure to include the following with an Application for Licensure as a Dental Hygienist:
- Official score from the NBDHE
- Proof of passing a regional or state dental hygienist clinical examination
- Proof of passing the Jurisprudence Assessment
- Certified or notarized copy of your ADA-approved dental hygienist school diploma
The processing time for applications usually ranges between six to eight weeks. When the Board grants you a license you will be ready to start applying for dental hygienist jobs in Texas. You may also wish to consider the following depending on your circumstances and goals:
Nitrous Oxide Monitoring Certification In order to be eligible for a certificate to monitor patients who are inhaling nitrous oxide you will need to complete an approved course of instruction in this subject area and submit an Application for a Nitrous Oxide Monitoring Certificate to the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners. You must already be a licensed dental hygienist in Texas before you are eligible to apply for this certification. The Nitrous Oxide Monitoring Certificate does not need to be renewed. Out-of-State Candidates If you are already an experienced dental hygienist from another state you have the option of applying for licensure in Texas based on your credentials. To be eligible for this you will need to forward the following information to Professional Background Information Service (PBIS). The Texas State Board of Dental Examiners contracts with this agency to verify that all information is accurate:
- Proof that you have passed the Jurisprudence Assessment
- Proof of completion of 12 hours of approved continuing education in the past year, according to Texas standards
- Proof that your out-of-state dental hygiene license with an official governmental body is in good standing
- Proof that you have worked as a dental hygienist for three of the past five years, or as a dental educator for the past five years; if you cannot meet this requirement you may apply for a temporary dental hygienist license
- Results of a background check
- Proof that you have graduated from an ADA-approved dental hygienist education program
- Proof of current Basic Life Support CPR certification
- Proof that you have passed the NBDHE
- Proof that you have passed a state or regional dental hygiene clinical examination
PBIS will collect and verify this information, then send you a verification letter confirming that your information is full and complete. Once you receive this letter you can submit it along with an Application for Licensure Based on Credential to the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners.
Temporary Dental Hygienist License for Out-of-State Candidates If you are an out-of-state candidate you have the option of applying for a temporary dental hygienist license that will allow you to work while you complete any outstanding work experience requirements. Aside from this outstanding requirement you will need to meet all other eligibility requirements for a normal dental hygienist license based on credentials. In addition to these requirements, for you to work with a temporary license your employer must accept Medicaid patients and be classified as a nonprofit corporation To apply for the temporary license you will need to submit an Application for a Temporary License. The temporary license expires annually and may be renewed until all requirements for full licensure are met.
Step 5. Maintain Your Dental Hygienist License Your initial dental hygienist license will be pro-rated and expire between 6 and 18 months after it is issued. After this initial period you will need to renew your license every year. To be eligible to do this you must earn at least 12 annual hours of continuing education. Continuing education should be selected from an approved provider. There are at least 22 approved providers of continuing education, including:
- American Dental Association
- Academy of General Dentistry
- American Medical Association
- National Dental Association
- National Dental Hygienists' Association
- American Academy of Dental Hygiene
- American Heart Association
- Dental Laboratory Association of Texas
If you earn more than 12 hours of continuing education you are allowed to carry this over to the next year. Coursework that is taken to fulfill the continuing education requirement should adhere to the following conditions:
- Eight hours must be technical or scientific and relate to clinical care
- Up to four hours may be in risk management courses
- Up to six hours may be self-study courses
- OSHA and CPR courses do not count towards fulfilling the continuing education requirement
You will also need to retake the Jurisprudence Assessment once every three years, and the time spent doing this does not count towards yearly continuing education. You can find more information about continuing education, professional development, and career opportunities with agencies such as Texas Dental Hygienists' Association (TDHA) and the approved providers of continuing education. Dental hygienists work throughout Texas and are distributed as follows across the state:
- 4,210 in the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metropolitan area
- 2,910 in the Dallas-Plano-Irving metropolitan area
- 2,650 in the Houston metropolitan area
- 1,300 in the Fort Worth-Arlington metropolitan area
- 820 in the Austin metropolitan area
- 380 in El Paso
- 220 in the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission metropolitan area
- 180 in the Beaumont-Port Arthur metropolitan area
- 150 in Corpus Christi
- 140 in the Fort Hood metropolitan area
- 130 in Lubbock
- 120 in Longview
Is being a Dental Hygienist right for you?*
These skills, interests, and knowledge areas are recommended for a career as an LVN. The following data describes the relative importance of each knowledge/skill area from the opinion of those in the industry.
|Top Relevant Knowledge Areas||Relevant Importance Levels|
|Medicine and Dentistry
Knowledge of the information and techniques needed to diagnose and treat human injuries, diseases, and deformities. This includes symptoms, treatment alternatives, drug properties and interactions, and preventive health-care measures.
|Customer and Personal Service
Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.
*Source: Texas Career Check.
Helpful Tech to Get Ahead
- Medical Software: Medical procedure coding software, MEDITECH software, or Telephone triage software
- Scheduling Software
- Microsoft Office Suite: Microsfot Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Excel
Gulf Coast Region Licensed Dental Hygienist Programs
- Alvin Community College
- College of the Mainland
- Galveston College
- Houston Community College System
- Lee College
- Lone Star College System
- San Jacinto College District
- Wharton County Junior College
If you have questions about our Industry/Occupation Profiles or are an organization in the Gulf Coast Region, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
|*Includes the following counties: Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Colorado, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Matagorda, Montgomery, Walker, Waller, and Wharton.|