Should I Become a Dental Hygienist Instructor?
Dental hygienist instructors train new hygienists at universities, community colleges and other technical institutions. In classrooms and lab settings, they instruct students in techniques to remove stains and tartar, apply sealants and fluorides, take and develop x rays, teach oral care to patients and track patient care and treatment plans. Some classes might be offered during evenings and weekends.
|Degree Level||Bachelor's or master's degree|
|Degree Field||Dental hygiene|
|Experience||3 to 5 years typically required|
|Licensure and Certification||Dental hygiene license required; CPR certification needed|
|Key Skills||Interpersonal, dexterity and detail-oriented skills, compassion, physical stamina|
|Salary||$50,047 per year (2015 median salary for all dental hygienist instructors|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET OnLine, Online Job Postings (July to August 2015), Payscale.com (July 2015)
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
Dental hygiene instructors typically need to have at least a bachelor's degree, usually in dental hygiene. Before being admitted to a dental hygiene program, which often begins in a student's junior year, some 4-year schools require incoming students to have previously passed college-level courses in chemistry, biology, microbiology and nutrition. Once enrolled, students will receive instruction in such courses as oral anatomy, periodontics and pain management.
Step 2: Become Licensed as a Dental Hygienist
Anyone who plans to work as a dental hygiene instructor must first gain experience as a dental hygienist. To be employed as a dental hygienist, an applicant needs to be licensed by the appropriate state or regional board. Most states require individuals to have graduated from a dental hygienist program recognized by the Commission on Dental Accreditation before taking written and clinical exams. Additionally, applicants need to show proof that they're CPR certified. The American Dental Association's Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations administers the written component, which all states accept. Some states also may require or accept different exams.
- Keep dental hygienist license current. Requirements vary by state, but common requirements for license renewal include completing continuing education hours and paying a fee every few years.
Step 3: Gain Work Experience
Through clinical practicums, dental hygienists gain experience in performing standard tasks. Once hired, they may shadow a more experienced hygienist until they develop proficiency to work one-on-one with patients. For prospective instructors, employers typically require 3 to 5 years of experience as a dental hygienists. Some employers may prefer applicants who also have a background in education or teaching experience.
- Join a professional association. Participation in a professional association, such as the American Dental Hygienists Association, and becoming active in a local chapter is a great way to network and learn about job leads.
Step 4: Pursue Additional Education for Career Advancement
Instructors can find graduate programs at a university's dental school, such as a Master of Science in Dental Hygiene. Graduate study typically allows students to complete more fieldwork experiences, which involve hands-on practice and research. Some programs allow students to complete fieldwork at public or government health facilities or dental educational programs. Employers may also prefer applicants with a master's degree in health education. Programs such as these can be completed online to accommodate working professionals.