If you're a dental hygienist looking to advance your career, then you should consider obtaining a Master of Science in Dental Hygiene, which will allow you to become an advanced dental hygiene practitioner. These professionals can work in education or research in addition to a clinical setting.
Advanced dental hygiene practitioners are state licensed professionals who hold a master's degree in dental hygiene. Many advanced dental hygiene practitioners work within rural or underserved communities. In addition to providing oral care to patients, these professionals can work within education or research facets of the field.
|Required Education||Master of Science in Dental Hygiene|
|Other Requirements||State licensure|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||19% for all dental hygienists|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$72,330 for all dental hygienists|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Job Requirements for an Advanced Dental Hygiene Practitioner
The first step toward an advanced dental hygiene practitioner role is to become a licensed dental hygienist. Aspiring dental hygienists must complete an American Dental Association (ADA) approved undergraduate dental hygiene program. Following licensure, dental hygienists commonly need a minimum number of years of work experience to enter into a master's program for advanced study of dental hygiene.
A Master of Science in Dental Hygiene program prepares licensed dental hygienists for mid-level leadership positions. In addition to education methods and theories, graduate students conduct extensive research and build advanced skills in providing oral healthcare through clinical experience. Graduate dental hygiene programs might provide concentration options, such as dental hygiene education or community oral health.
All dental hygienists are required to be state licensed. Each state has its own prerequisites for licensure. Common licensure requirements include completion of a dental hygiene degree program, and passing both the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination and any regional or state clinical exams. Some states also have jurisprudence exams on state laws and regulations. Continuing education courses are typically needed to renew a license.
Job Duties for an Advanced Dental Hygiene Practitioner
The title of advanced dental hygiene practitioner is relatively new, although dental hygienists have pursed advanced degrees for years. The advanced dental hygiene practitioner is trained to provide oral healthcare beyond a general dental hygienist's duties. The advanced practitioner might work in rural regions or with populations that don't have ready access to dentists. These professionals can provide some basic restorative services, such as applying temporary crowns and prescribing antibiotics or painkillers.
In addition to oral health cleanings and preventative services, advanced dental hygienist can perform diagnostic examinations. In addition to providing oral healthcare, some advanced practitioners choose to teach aspiring dental hygienists within academia or conduct research to advance oral health science.
Career Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates a 19% job growth for dental hygienists in the years 2014 through 2024. The BLS also reported that dental hygienists earned $72,330 as a median annual wage in May 2015.
Advanced dental hygiene practitioners are experienced dental hygiene practitioners who would like to advance their careers by earning a master's degree. They are allowed to examine teeth, provide basic restorative services and prescribe medications. Teaching in college dental hygiene programs or working in research are other options.