Dental hygienists help people maintain good oral health. Working with patients of all ages, hygienists clean teeth, take x-rays, conduct oral cancer screenings and attend to other tasks as requested by a dentist. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, every state requires licensing and the most common training is at an associate degree level. While in high school, you can begin preparing for a career as a dental hygienist by taking courses in science, math, health and social sciences.
Science and Health
Understanding the basics of chemical and biological sciences will give you an advantage when entering college-level science courses. Take courses in chemistry, organic chemistry, health and biology while in high school. Health classes will give you the basics of human anatomy and physiology, a requirement in most dental hygienist programs. In addition, health classes will help you understand how nutrition relates to dental health.
Working with x-ray machines, dental tools and measuring compounds requires knowledge of mathematics. Knowledge of measuring equivalents and geometry will help you make the calculations necessary for the job. For example, a dental hygienist may have to measure the correct amount of sealant for a tooth. In addition to your duties as a hygienist, you may be asked to help with office tasks such as inventory, billing and scheduling.
Working with dental patients requires a compassionate demeanor. Understanding what causes people to react in different ways to stress will give you a better handle on difficult or stressed patients. Classes in psychology and sociology will provide you with a basis for understanding human behavior and societal influences on behavior.
According to the American Dental Hygienists Association, admission to most dental hygienist programs requires at least a “C” average in high school. Also, consider shadowing or interviewing a dental hygienist for a day to gain a better understanding of their job responsibilities. Find a local college offering a dental hygiene program and speak to an admissions representative about how to best prepare yourself for entry into the program.
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