If you have a passion for oral health, a career as a dental hygienist is the thing for you. You will be responsible for preventing oral disease and promoting oral health in the community. You will work alongside dentists and other health-care professionals to sensitize the public and patients about dental oral health. Note that today’s patient not only expects to be treated when he/she visits a dental clinic but also to be taken through how to maintain proper dental hygiene to prevent recurrence or exercitation of the problem. So, what does it take to become a dental hygienist?
Education and Exams
You first need to get a bachelor’s degree or a diploma from a dental hygienist school. The university or college you pick for the course should have Commission on Dental Accreditation of Canada accreditation. Go for top schools like those that fall under the National Association of Career Colleges (NACC).
You can always get funding from the provincial government for the course. As an example, the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) offers zero-interest loans while studying. You could also get a loan from a financial institution.
To join the rank of the 20,000 odd dental hygienists, you must pass the National Dental Hygiene Certification Board (NDHCB)-administered written exam and the college-administered entry-to-practice exam.
Registration and Continuous Professional Development
Once you are done with college, you will need to be registered with the relevant regulatory authority in your province or territory to practice as a dental hygienist. As an example, the regulator in Ontario is the College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario (CDHO) and the relevant laws are set out in the Regulated Health Professions Act of 1991 (RHPA) and the Dental Hygiene Act of 1991 (DHA).
Once you have been registered, you still have to complete a number of professional development initiatives for quality assurance. These are mandatory in some provinces such as the Ontario Quality Assurance Program which is an initiative of the College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario (CDHO.
Acquisition of Relevant Skills
During the course of your studies and in your professional life, important skills for a dental hygienist include ability to assess and record the overall oral condition of your clients (charting), administration of local anaesthesia, ability to perform intraoral radiology, ability to apply dental sealants and to administer fluoride, ability to provide scaling and root planning, and skills in oral disease prevention.
You may also be called upon to size and quality bands for dental braces, to remove braces and other oral appliances, and to take impressions for the construction of mouth guards and casts. Dental hygienists can even self-initiate treatment in Ontario and perform minor procedures like curettage surrounding tissues.
Acquisition of People Skills
You need people skills to thrive as a dental hygienist. These are skills you will not learn in dental schools in Canada and they include client communication skills and motivation skills, process and outcome evaluation skills, and oral care intervention planning and implementation skills.