Pediatric Dental Hygienist: Career Summary, Job Outlook, and Education Requirements

Explore the career requirements for pediatric dental hygienists. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements, salary and job outlook to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Dental Hygiene degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Pediatric Dental Hygienist?

Pediatric dental hygienists clean children's teeth and teach them how to properly brush and floss. They also take x-rays to determine whether a child has a cavity and relays this information to the dentist. They also are generally present while the dentist performs a check-up or while the dentist is filling a cavity or doing an extraction to provide assistance and keep track of records. To learn more about this profession, take a look at the following table:

Degree Requirements Associate's degree
Education Field of Study Dental hygiene
Key Responsibilities Cleaning teeth, applying fluoride treatments, administering anesthesia
Licensure State licensure is required
Job Growth (2014-2024) 19% (for all dental hygienists)*
Average Salary (2015) $72,330 (for all dental hygienists)*

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Do as a Pediatric Dental Hygienist?

You'll work in the office of a pediatric dentist, who specializes in children's dentistry. While performing some of the tasks of regular dental assistants, such as cleaning teeth and taking x-rays, you will also provide child-specific care, like applying fluoride treatments. You may also administer anesthesia to children in the form of Novocain or nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas. Your job requires you to teach children how to maintain good oral health, emphasizing the importance of brushing and flossing. You'll need to follow proper procedures and use safety equipment, like gloves, masks and glasses.

What Is the Job Outlook?

Demand for dental hygienists in general was expected to be excellent, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Dental hygienists were projected to experience 19% job growth between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). This outlook was based primarily on a growing demand for preventative services and the need for treatment among an aging baby-boomer population. As of May 2015, dental hygienists earned an average salary of $72,330.

What Education Requirements Do I Need to Meet?

The BLS says that all dental hygienists must be state licensed in order to practice. You'll need to graduate from an accredited dental hygienist program and pass a national board exam, according to the American Dental Hygienists' Association (www.adha.org). You can consider many types of programs accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation, although most are associate's degree programs. You'll likely take courses in dental anatomy, oral radiology, restorative dentistry and periodontics. Some colleges offer on-campus dental clinics, allowing you to get real experience.

The written part of the exam is administered by the American Dental Association's Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations. Each state administers its own clinical examination, so you'll need to check with your state to find out if you satisfy its requirements.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Dental assistants perform very similar tasks to those performed by hygienists, though some of their duties and abilities will vary by state. Hygienists may also be interested in completing more school and becoming dentists. If an individual is interested in a different field entirely, then they may wish to look into careers in medical assisting or radiation therapy.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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