Aug 02, 2015


Career Spotlight: Dentistry and Dental Hygiene

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Career Spotlight, Dentist, Hygienist, Dentistry

Today’s Career Spotlight is on Dentistry and Dental Hygiene. 

What do dentists and hygienists do?

Along with giving advice and administering care, to helping to prevent future problems, dentists diagnose and treat problems with teeth and tissues in the mouth.  They remove tooth decay, fill cavities, examine X rays, place protective plastic sealants on patients’ teeth, straighten teeth, and repair fractured teeth. Dentists also perform corrective surgery on gums and supporting bones to treat gum diseases.

Hygienists on the other hand, perform oral health care assessments that include the review of patients’ health history, dental charting, oral cancer screening, and evaluation of gum disease /health. They remove plaque and apply cavity-preventive agents such as fluorides and sealants to the teeth. Like dentists, they also administer local anesthetic and/or nitrous oxide analgesia; as
well as educate patients on proper oral hygiene techniques to maintain healthy teeth and gums.

How to do I become a hygienist?

Did you know 27% of most students pursuing a hygienist career are Latino/a?

Most hygienists pursue an associate’s degrees that are offered through community colleges and technical colleges. However there are some universities, like the University of Southern California, that offer a two year bachelor’s degree in hygiene. The prerequisites needed to apply to a hygiene career vary from math, chemistry, biology and English. Most applicants
applying range from an age of 21 to 37.

How do I become a dentist?

Did you know 7-9% of most students pursuing a dental career are Latino/a?

All dental school applicants are required to take the Dental Admissions Test (DAT). The DAT test deadline varies at different universities so checking their deadlines is a must. Typically test scores more than three years old will not be accepted. To expedite the admissions process, it is recommended that applicants take the DAT prior to completing their application.

When registering  for the DAT, applicants are encouraged to indicate the dental schools where they would like their scores to be sent. This ensures that applicants’ preferred schools will receive their DAT scores directly from the American Dental Association, in addition to their scores being reported through the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) and its Associated
American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS).

In addition to completing the the DAT and submitting test scores, applicants are expected to meet specific prerequisites that vary from types of letters of recommendation, science and lab courses, to a completed bachelor’s degree. Once all  of the prerequisites have been met the schools will select competitive applicants for an interview, with admissions offers being sent out starting December 1 of the year in which the application was submitted.

Most dental schools do not have a preferred major. In fact, most schools like a well rounded applicant and appreciate the diverse background.  The main emphasis is that the required prerequisites are completed, or will be completed, by the time the applicant has matriculated.

Competitive average grade point averages typically range from 3.40 and above. The DAT scores range is 15 to 30, and competitive averages are 19.

How much do hygienists and dentists earn?

Once students have completed their degree and have passed the state licensing exam (National Board Dental Hygiene Examination or National Board Dental Examination), they will be eligible to practice dentistry. General dentists can earn up to an average of $101,000 while practitioners can earn more than $200,000 per year. Salaries for hygienists, like dentistry, can vary between states. Hygienist’s salary can earn an average $80,000 per year.

About 70% of all dental hygienists work in private dental offices, 20% work in local public health and school programs, and the remainder work in state and federal health programs, industry settings, research positions, and teaching. Graduates have gone on to become expert clinicians, educators, researchers, health advocates, and public health professionals.



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D. Vidales

D. Vidales

Graduate of a Master's degree of Arts in English, adjunct professor, admissions counselor and National President of Alpha Pi Sigma Sorority, Inc. As a strong proponent of a Fundamental Latina movement she utilizes her various platforms to enlighten, encourage and empower the next generation of Latina leaders.

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