Dental Care and Hygiene

The following resource is designed to provide you with an overview of the dental care and hygiene field and includes information about educational options and licensing. Read on to learn more about job growth and salaries for dental hygienists, dentists and lab technicians.

Is a Career in Dental Care and Hygiene For Me?

Overview of the Field

Professionals who specialize in dental hygiene or care provide patients with routine cleanings and check-ups or treat them for more serious diseases, like gum and tooth diseases. They may also provide patients with information about oral health and preventative measures. In addition to dental hygienists, the dentistry field includes technicians who create crowns, dentures and other related materials.

Employment and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has projected a much-faster-than-average increase in employment of 33% for dental hygienists nationwide from 2012-2022. While employment of dentists is expected to grow by a faster-than-average rate during the same period, dental lab technicians will see a slower-than-average increase in job openings of only 3% through 2022. As reported by the BLS in May 2013, dentists earned a mean annual salary of $164,570, while dental hygienists earned an average of $71,530 a year. During the same period, the mean annual salary for dental laboratory technicians was $30,780 (www.bls.gov).

How Can I Work in the Dental Field?

Education

It can take you as little as two years to complete an Associate of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene and gain the skills and knowledge necessary to work as a dental hygienist. Alternatively, it could take you more than six years to earn a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) and become a dentist. As a dental student, you may take courses in anatomy, health and wellness, biology and pathology. You might also study dental hygiene and law, anxiety and pain control, preventative treatment and medical emergencies. Areas of concentration found in a Doctor of Dentistry program might include oral surgery, orthodontics or periodontics.

Licensing

Both dentists and dental hygienists must be licensed by the state in which they intend to practice before they can begin working. Licensing requirements include completion of an accredited dental program, as well as a passing score on written and clinical exams. Dentists must also complete a 2-year residency program. A license may not be required to work as a dental laboratory technician; however, continuing education may be needed to stay up-to-date on the latest practices.

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