Pediatric Dental Hygienist Overview
|Degree Level||Associate degree|
|Degree Field||Dental hygiene|
|Licensure||Required in all states|
|Experience||1-2 years of experience; pediatric positions require experience working with children|
|Key Skills||Strong interpersonal skills; compassion; attention to detail; stamina and manual dexterity; enjoy working with children; proficient with dental charting software; knowledge of digital x-ray machinery and the ability to use hand and power tools for teeth cleaning|
|Salary||$72,720 (2015 average for all dental hygienists)|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Online job postings (October 2012)
Pediatric dental hygienists work under the supervision of pediatric dentists in taking care of children's dental needs. They also teach children about oral hygiene and good healthcare habits. Pediatric dental hygienists stand for most of the day, and some children can be challenging patients. But the job can prove rewarding, when hygienists help kids improve their dental health. Many dental hygienists work part-time and some work for several dentists to gain full time employment.
An associates degree in dental hygiene is typically required to work as a dental hygienist. These professionals also must meet state licensing requirements and have CPR certification. Dental hygienists seeking positions with pediatric dentists should be able to show experience in and a passion for working with children. They also should display strong interpersonal skills, compassion, stamina, attention to detail, and manual dexterity. And finally, they must be proficient with dental charting software and digital x-ray machinery, and able to use hand and power tools for cleaning teeth.
As of May 2015, dental hygienists made a mean annual salary of $72,720, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Let's look at how you can become a pediatric dental hygienist.
Complete a Dental Hygiene Program
Step 1: complete a dental hygiene program. An associates degree is the most common education for pediatric dental hygienists. However, certificate and bachelor's degree programs in dental hygiene are also available. As a student in a dental hygiene program, you can expect to take courses in anatomy and physiology, dental radiography, general and oral pathology, dental materials and periodontology. Programs also give students the opportunity to gain laboratory and clinical experience. Through these experiences, students learn about removing plaque deposits, administering nitrous oxide, examining patients, exposing radiographs and planning and implementing a care plan.
It's essential that students take courses specific to pediatric dentistry. These classes can teach students about instructing children on oral health techniques, assessing children's needs, and recognizing signs of child abuse and neglect.
Additionally, students might take advantage of courses in speech and psychology to develop strong interpersonal skills and become effective communicators. Because some employers prefer candidates who have previous experience with children, students might strive to assist children during their time doing clinical work. Students can also consider volunteering or working part time in a pediatric dental office.
Step 2: become licensed. Although requirements can vary by state, all pediatric dental hygienists must meet licensing requirements. Most states require that pediatric dental hygienists have completed three steps: graduate from an accredited dental hygienist program, pass the written National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, and complete a regional or state clinical board examination.
Other requirements might include showing proof of CPR certification, submitting letters of recommendation from dentists, completing a jurisprudence exam, and providing high school and college transcripts.
Find a Job
Step 3: find a job. The majority of pediatric dental hygienists work in dentists' offices. They work closely with dental assistants and dentists. Many employers prefer to hire pediatric dental hygienists who have previous experience, although some will hire new graduates. Pediatric dental hygienists have a variety of job duties. They deliver direct patient care, which consists of applying fluoride and sealants, taking and developing x-rays, performing scaling procedures and tracking treatment plans. They also educate children and parents about how to prevent common dental problems through proper nutrition and oral hygiene.
The requirements for license renewal vary by state and range from one to five years. Each jurisdiction has different specifications for continuing education credits and some designate courses that must be taken in areas like infectious disease control, clinical science, CPR and anesthesia.
To enhance their knowledge and skill set, pediatric dental hygienists might choose continuing education courses specific to the dental needs of children. Examples of course topics include cavity recognition in children, providing dental care to children from diverse backgrounds, management of children with asthma, and program planning.
In summary, to become a pediatric dental hygienist, you'll need to earn an associate's degree in dental hygiene, gain experience working with children, and attain and maintain state licensure.