What Is an Advanced Dental Hygiene Practitioner?

An advanced dental hygiene practitioner gains advanced education to provide oral healthcare to individuals. Read on to find out about the common tasks and responsibilities, educational requirements, and licensing information for this career. Schools offering Dental Hygiene degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Defined

The position of advanced dental hygiene practitioner (ADHP) was created by the American Dental Hygienists' Association (ADHA) in 2004 in an attempt to provide access to primary oral care to individuals and communities with previously limited oral health services. It took until 2009 for the first state law to be passed, allowing people with an adequate dental hygiene education to become licensed as ADHPs. The ADHA defines the advanced dental hygiene practitioner, also known as an oral health practitioner, as a mid-level provider of oral healthcare.

Important Facts About a Career as an Advanced Dental Hygiene Practitioner

Median Salary (2018) $74,820 (for all dental hygienists
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 20% growth (for all dental hygienists)  
Similar OccupationsDentists, dental assistants, registered nurses, medical assistants, physician assistants, radiation therapists
Key SkillsCritical-thinking, compassion, detail-orientation, dexterity, interpersonal skills

Source: United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Duties and Responsibilities

As an ADHP, you're responsible for many of the same preventative dental hygiene procedures common to registered dental hygienists. This may include cleaning and examining patients' teeth and gums, checking for oral abnormalities, and educating patients on how to maintain proper oral hygiene between visits. However, as an ADHP, your typical daily tasks may also extend to minimally invasive restorative procedures, and you may also be given the ability, though limited, to write prescriptions.

Advanced dental hygiene practitioners work in a variety of settings, such as schools, hospitals, and long-term care facilities, as well as dentists' offices. While a registered dental hygienist typically works under the supervision and direction of a dentist, ADHPs work collaboratively with dentists or independently. As an ADHP, you will be expected to consult with general dentists and specialists and refer patients to them as the need arises.

Education and Licensing Requirements

To become an ADHP, you need to complete a master's degree program in dental hygiene. This is considerably more education than it takes to become a registered dental hygienist, which generally only requires completion of a certificate or associate's degree program. Most master's degree programs in dental hygiene require you to have completed a bachelor's degree in dental hygiene first. However, some programs are available that allow you to go straight to a master's degree program with only an associate's degree.

A master's degree program in dental hygiene comprises courses in areas like healthcare leadership, clinical administration, and epidemiology combined with more specialized dental hygiene courses in advanced oral health, pharmacology, health assessment, and dental emergency administration. An internship may be required. In order to practice as an ADHP, you need to become state-licensed, which requires passing the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination and the clinical board examination for your state or region.

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