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Dental Hygienist Interview

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Dental Hygienist Career Interview

Lynn Ramer is the current president of American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA).  She has worked in a number of positions within ADHA and the Indiana Dental Hygienists’ Association (IDHA).

Dental Hygienist Career Path

Ever since she was a girl, Lynn knew that dental hygiene was the career for her.

“I knew I wanted to go into a health care field,” she says. “My childhood dentist encouraged me to consider dental hygiene.”

Dental Hygienist Experiences

Lynn has been in the dental hygiene business since she graduated 1982. She has served in many positions in the Indiana Dental Hygienists’ Association and in a number of positions within ADHA, including vice-president and now the current president.

During her training, Lynn spent time in the clinic treating patients. All dental hygienists do this, and can gain additional experience by working at care centers on their own outside of the designated time, such as working in community service projects.

“When I was in dental hygiene school,” Lynn recalls, “we traveled to a nearby county and participated in elementary school dental screenings, rotated through the dental clinic at the local state hospital several times, and had the opportunity to volunteer at a local free clinic for school credit on a regular basis.”

Lynn is also a regular volunteer in her community by educating children on the importance of good oral hygiene.

Lynn received her Associate of Science degree in dental hygiene from Indiana-University-Purdue University.

Dental Hygiene Degree Programs

“A registered dental hygienist needs to graduate from a minimum two-year college program that included classroom studies and extensive supervised clinical experience,” explains Lynn. “He or she must also pass a national written exam and a comprehensive state clinical exam to earn the RDH (registered dental hygienist) license.”

Another degree, the Baccalaureate degree in dental hygiene, allows entry into higher-up positions, such as teaching, administration, and public health.

“It may also provide a broader base in the humanities and other areas outside dental hygiene,” Lynn adds.

Dental Hygiene Job Description

Lynn is the current president of the ADHA, but before that, she worked extensively as a dental hygienist.

A dental hygienist is a licensed health care professional who works with dentists to educate and treat patients in oral health care. Job markets for dental hygienists include oral health practices, research positions, education, federal programs, and community health.

Dental Hygienist Daily Routine

“A clinical dental hygienist could work in a general dentistry practice,” Lynn explains, “providing preventative services such as: cleaning teeth, taking X-rays, providing fluoride treatments, applying sealants, and educating patients on preventative measures.”

Dental hygienists can work in a number of environments, each with a different list of duties. For example, a dental hygienist could work in a pediatric dental practice and only see children, which is completely different from working as an educator in a college or university.

Dental Hygienist: Steps to Success

As with any medical pursuit, commitment and passion for the profession are a must for successful dental hygienists. Otherwise, one would not actively pursue new knowledge, which is essential in an industry that is always changing.

“Lifelong learning is also very important for professional and personal growth,” Lynn adds.

Dental Hygienist Job Opportunities

“Although dental hygiene is very competitive,” says Lynn, “if you are confident in your skill and abilities and knowledge, you should be fairly successful in moving forward.”

Advice for Prospective Dental Hygienists

“Be passionate about your profession and the people you treat,” Lynn advises. “Recognize that you make a daily impact on the lives of the patients you serve, whether they realize it or not.”

“Never stop your quest to improve your skills and expand your knowledge base,” Lynn adds.


  • http://dentalhygienecareer Akili Brown

    Hello, Lynn my name is Akili Brown. I am currently in school at the local college completing my prerequistes, to be able to be accepted in to the Dental Hygiene program, I’ve been working as a Medical Assistant for 10 years.How I became interested in dental hygiene, I was working at a local medical center in 2000 and they had a dentist office across from the medical office, I used to walk by the the dentist dept everyday, Looking and seeing, what they do, I was getting very interested. The dentist office had a one dental hygienist. I was getting very interested in the dental field, one day when my dept was slow, I stopped in the dentist office and I started asking questions, the dental hygienist was very nice to take out time for me, to answer my questions about the dental career as a dental hygiene and I was so excited, I started looking at local colleges that had the dental hygiene program. I found the local college and started to prepare myself to back to school. Being a Medical Assistant, I had some of my classes, transfered over from the college I graduated from (Medical Assistant program). I was so excited to take my prerequistes. In 2000, I was married. My life took a 180, and I went through a bad marriage and I had to stop going to school. Now, 2010 I’m still working as a medical assistant full-time but now I live on my own, with no children, I have 2 more prerequistes to go. I see that the dental hygiene program is a two year program(full-time) and I can not quite my full time job, because I live alone, and I have bills, I wanted to know can I take dental hygiene classes, and still work full time to support myself.

  • myFootpath Advisor

    It’s great that you’re thinking about taking steps toward your dream career, and working and going to school is definitely doable. Your best bet might be to find an accredited dental hygiene program that offers night, weekend and part-time programs. This would allow you to work your full-time job during the day and complete your coursework during your off-time. Since, as you mentioned, you don’t have children, your schedule should allow you to work during the day and attend class at night. This schedule may be somewhat intense, but since this is something you’ve always wanted to do, it will be well worth it.

    For additional information, please see our dental hygienist career profile.

  • http://myfootpath.com Nicholas DuPuch

    Hi Lynn my name is Nicholas DuPuch I am a freshman currently enrolled in a 2 year college. I came in undecided but I knew I wanted to do something in the medical field. I finally decided that I wanted to go into dental hygiene. I was wondering what EXACTLY what I need to become a dental hygienist. Like what classes are needed, how long it will take, etc.

  • myFootpath Advisor

    Dental hygienists must complete an accredited dental hygiene program (that means one that is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation) and pass written and oral examinations to become licensed in the state in which they want to practice.

    Dental hygiene programs are most typically offered as associate’s degrees, which tend to take around two years to complete. Some programs also offer certificates, bachelor’s or master’s degrees—the key will be deciding what level of education you want, and what programs are offered by accredited schools in your area.

    Because dental hygiene is a hands-on field, your classes will consist of laboratory, clinical, and classroom instruction in subjects such as anatomy, physiology, chemistry, microbiology, pharmacology, nutrition, radiography, histology (the study of tissue structure), periodontology (the study of gum diseases), pathology, dental materials, clinical dental hygiene, and social and behavioral sciences.

    You may want to see if the school you’re enrolled in offers an accredited dental hygiene program. For more information on accredited programs, visit our dental hygienist association page.

    You can also request information from one of the dental hygiene programs listed below:

    Argosy University, Twin Cities – Request Information
    Everest University – Request Information
    YTI Career Institute, Altoona Campus — Request Information

    For additional information on dental hygiene careers, visit our dental hygienist career profile.

  • Jalysa

    So I am a junior in college with a major in Biology, Pre-Dental. I was looking forward to being accepted into a dental school but now I’m starting to sway towards the dental hygiene program it would only take 5 semesters to complete and I love the fact that it’s a clinical program. In one semester I will be ready to start the dental hygiene program, or I could continue to finish out what I was intending on doing at first, Dentistry, even though the extensive book work is ‘killing me’ it would be well worth it in the end. Eventually I will figure out what I want to do. But my question is if I do go the dental hygiene route and go to an accredited dental hygiene school would I only be licensed for that state or is there a test I could take where I could practice in any state? I am wondering because if I move I wouldn’t want to be stuck without a job because I only have a license in one particular state. So does going to an accredited dental school and taking the national test make it where you can practice anywhere, or would a seperate test have to be taken for licensure in every state?

  • myFootpath Advisor

    To become a dental hygienist, you will need to pass both a national exam and the individual state exam for the state in which you wish to practice, as different states administer different tests. In other words, if you are studying to become a dental hygienist in Michigan, but plan on moving to different states throughout your career, you will need to take the national exam, and then the pass the state or regional exam in each state in which you work. These steps are listed in more detail at http://www.adha.org/careerinfo/licensure.htm.

  • Kristen

    Hello, I came across your page and became very interested. I’ve heard about Dental hygienist the first time a few years ago through a yahoo career article. I have a bachelors degree in merchandising from university of north Texas and now a stay at home mom to a 20 month old boy. I’d like to become a dental hygienist in a few years when my son goes to school, do you have any recommendations as of what would be the best route for me since I already have a bachelors degree? Would it be better to get an associate or bachelor in dental hygienist. Thank you.

  • myFootpath Advisor

    It’s great that you’re considering a career in dental hygiene, which is a growing career field that offers great flexibility. To become a dental hygienist, you need to graduate from an accredited dental hygiene program, which is typically an associate’s degree (or similar) program. Although you do already have a bachelor’s degree, you’ll still need to enroll in one of these programs, since they teach the basic, hands-on fundamentals of being a dental hygienist (which will be different and more science-based than your merchandising degree). For more information, visit our dental hygienist career profile.

  • Becky

    I am interested in a career in Dental Hygiene but I work full time & my family depends on my pay check. I am looking in to a “pre-hygiene” course at my local college. Is this a good move? I live in Texas & there are only 2 other colleges that offer dental hygiene & they are full time during the day. Not sure where to turn & what to do to get started. I don’t have time or money to waste starting in the wrong place. Someone said I would need to take 1 year of pre-requistes (from my local college) then I will attend a 2 year dental hygiene program. I thought it was 2 years total. Is it 2 years total or 3 years? And what GPA must I maintain to even get accepted in to the dental hygiene program? Any advice will be helpful

  • myFootpath Advisor

    In order to become a dental hygienist, you must complete an accredited dental hygienist program, and then pass a series of written and oral exams in the state in which you wish to practice. It sounds as though the “pre-hygiene” course at your college may be something that leads up to a dental hygiene program, but if it’s not accredited, and if the credits you earn there aren’t accepted by an accredited dental hygiene program, then it may not be worth your time.

    What I would recommend you do is you find out exactly which programs in your state offer accredited dental hygiene programs, and then contact an advisor at these schools to find out exactly what you need to do and how long it will take (as different schools may have different requirements in regards to pre-requisites). For more information about which programs are accredited, visit http://www.adha.org. You can also visit our dental hygienist career profile for a list of schools that offer these programs.

  • MKArolia

    how long does it take to bucome fully qualified?

  • Aleena Cesaro

    Hi, I was wondering if I could get a bachelors in pre-dentistry and still be hired as a dental hygienist?

  • myFootpath Advisor

    It partially depends on what school you attend. In order to become a dental hygienist, you must enroll and complete and accredited dental hygiene program and then pass a state licensing exam. The length of these programs can vary, but many grant an Associate’s degree, which is usually around two years.

    To learn more and to request information from dental hygiene programs, visit our dental hygienist career profile.

  • myFootpath Advisor

    To become a dental hygienist, you must graduate from an accredited dental hygiene program and then pass the exam in your state. If the school you are attending offers an accredited dental hygiene program, you will be all set. If, however, the program only offers prerequisites for becoming a dentist, the curriculum may not be an exact match and you may need to seek additional schooling.

    To learn more and to request information from dental hygiene programs, visit our dental hygienist career profile.

  • Alisa A. Ali

    Hello Lynn,
    My name is Alisa Ali and I am 24. I have been in and out of school for the past 4 years due to being uncertain about my career choice. I realized it is time to look deep into my interests, analyze them and decide on who I want to be. After researching different areas I stopped my search at Dental Hygiene Program. The more I read about it, the more I became confident it is the best choice for me, my dream job. At this point it is all I think of. I never wanted to be in any other profession as much as I want to be in this one right now.
    My problem however, I never took related science classes such as BIO or CHEM on a college level, and it has been years since I took them in high school, which makes me doubt my abilities and chances at getting accepted. I did have a 4.0 combined GPA in college courses such as Math, English, Communications, Geography, Statistics, Accounting…
    I really want to become a RDH, but somewhat unsure if I can pull it off based on the previous areas of study.
    I am considering studying on my own to prepare myself, and also looking for volunteering opportunities at local dental clinics.
    I will be relocating to AZ where I’d like to try to get into DH program, but until then would you recommend trying to volunteer and observe at clinics? Would you say, considering my situation, I do have a pretty good chance being accepted and fulfill my dream?
    Strongly appreciate your advice. Thank you.

  • myFootpath Advisor

    There are a variety of accredited programs that can help you become a dental hygienist. I recommend you find one you would like to attend, and contact an advisor at that school to see what he or she recommends based on that schools requirements. Studying on your own and volunteering is a great idea as well, especially as it will give you experience and thorough understanding of what you’ll be doing once you graduate. You can also visit this page for national dental hygienist organizations that might be able to help with your questions. –The MyFootpath Team

  • Aleena Cesaro

    So if i start my freshman year of college this fall, what courses do you recommend i take to prepare me to be accepted to a dental hygiene program?

  • ReKina

    Hello, I am very interested into becoming a RDH. I already have earned my associates in Pre-dental hygiene and at this point I am trying to earn my bachelor’s in dental hygiene and become licensed. Currently I have been called for an interview at the school I am applying for, where I also have to take a written exam. Could you please give me some advice on what will be asked during the interview? Bascially I would like to know exactly what I need to do in order to make sure that I am accepted into this program. What do you think they are looking for? Is a GPA all that really matters?

  • Rachael

    HELLO Lynn or LYnn’s advisor! I am currently trying to get into the accredited program at the Community College of Denver and have all the prerequisites since I majored in Biology and have a BS. My cumulative GPA for the prerequisites is a 3.64. Is that going to be good enough to get into school since they only accept 24 students per year? If I got into school it would start in Fall of 2012. I am currently looking for a job in a dental office but am having no luck since I do not have the experience. Also, since I already have a Bachelor’s of Science Degree will that mean that I will qualify for teaching, administration, and public health positions once I am a RDH? Thanks!!

  • myFootpath Advisor

    It’s tough to answer your question about school admissions, since we are not affiliated with that particular school. What I would recommend is contacting an admissions advisor at that school to get a better sense of their requirements and expectations.

    It’s great that you already have your bachelor’s of science if you want to teach and seek out public health positions. However, your ability to do so will partially depend on what you earned your bachelor’s degree in, and how closely that field is related to dental hygiene. As a general rule, a dental hygienist would need bachelor’s or master’s degree in order to do research, teach, or participate in public or school health programs, as an extensive knowledge of dental hygiene is needed for these careers. For more information, you can visit our dental hygienist career profile.

  • Anonymous

    The most important thing for you to do is enroll in a program that is accredited by the American Dental Hygienistsu2019 Association (ADHA), which will ensure you take all the classes you need to prepare you for the exam in your state. If you take the classes through a non-accredited program, you run the risk of not being hired after you graduate. nnOnce you complete an accredited dental hygiene program, you’ll take an exam specific to your state. Once you pass that exam, you’ll be all set to start practicing!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000096645603 Milad Shaya

    Hi Lynn i love being a dental hygienist but the problem is English is not my first language its my 3rd and i have been in USA for 3 years so i’m scared that dental hygienist is not for me because its hard,it takes a lot of years,u00a0doesn’tu00a0make much money or if i apply theyu00a0don’tu00a0accept me,so what do you think should i go for it or study something else?

  • Anonymous

    Dental hygienists actually make a great salary and enjoy a fair degree of flexibility in their career. Since English is not your first language, I would recommend you contact the dental hygiene programs you are considering and find out what they recommend for ESL students.

  • Xxcolby1456xx

    hi lynn, im currently 17 and want to become a dental hygienist, ive been looking into alot of different colleges and i need to know just what i need to do in college to become successful in this field, so what courses do i need to take in college?

  • Anonymous

    In order to become a dental hygienist, you have to graduate from an accredited dental hygienist program. These programs are typically offered by community colleges and vocational schools. For more information, you can visit this page: http://myfootpath.com/careers/health-care-degrees-careers/dental-hygienist/

  • Tiffany

    Hi!u00a0 I am 13 (young for this, I know….:) and I am looking into this already.u00a0 Our high school has a career center where you learn the four basic subjects: science, math, social studies, English, for half of the day and for the rest of the day you can study whatever feild you want to go into.nThere is a health career class where you briefly go into dental care.u00a0 You can get a job immediately after high school as a dental hygienist, but I was wondering if I would be experienced enough.u00a0 It’s just that if you take 2 years of college you work all day on mouth care, but if you go to the career center you justu00a0work for half of the day and only briefly touch on dental hygiene.nDo you think I will “feel” experienced enough?u00a0 Thanks a million!u00a0 By the way I enjoyed reading the article too.

  • Anonymous

    It’s great that you’re already thinking about your career. You should note: In order to become a dental hygienist, you have to graduate from an accredited dental hygienist program. It is unlikely that the career center half-day class you mentioned would cover everything you would need. I would look for colleges in your area that offer dental hygiene programs and find out if they are accredited. You can also read this article for additional information: http://myfootpath.com/careers/health-care-degrees-careers/dental-hygienist-careers/

  • Anonymous

    It partially depends on the schools you are applying to and what classes you took during your bachelor’s program. If you took some math and science courses, they may count towards a few of the prerequisites for your dental program. Again, it depends on the school you are applying to and what their requirements are. However, the education you already received will help with the other skills you may need once you start your career. For a list of additional schools offering dental programs, visit this page: http://myfootpath.com/search-results/?campus_type=both&degree_name=hygiene

  • Anonymous

    You actually don’t need to worry about applying to dental school. Dental school is for those seeking a DDS degree and who want to eventually become a dentist. Most dental hygiene programs are actually two-year degree programs, so you don’t have to earn a second bachelor’s. For a list of dental hygiene programs and more information, you can visit http://myfootpath.com/search-results/?campus_type=both&degree_name=hygiene

  • Anonymous

    To become a dental hygienist, you need to complete an accredited dental hygiene program. For more information, you can view this page: http://myfootpath.com/careers/health-care-careers/dental-hygienist-careers/

  • http://twitter.com/gooz_b Zay Goosby

    i recently graduated with a b.s. in biology thinking about becoming a dental hygienist due some personal reason can anyone recommend any dental school where i can obtain an masters to become dental hygienist with my b.s. background

  • Anonymous

    In order to become a dental hygienist, you need to graduate from an accredited dental hygienist program. This page lists schools that offer dental hygiene programs (which is different than dental school): http://myfootpath.com/search-results/?campus_type=both&degree_name=hygiene

  • Anonymous

    In order to become a dental hygienist, you need to graduate from an accredited dental hygienist program. This page lists schools that offer dental hygiene programs (which is different than dental school): http://myfootpath.com/search-results/?campus_type=both&degree_name=hygiene

  • Anonymous

    Congratulations on all of your accomplishments! Where you decide to go to school will depend on what your end goals are. What degree do you want (a bachelor’s or an associate’s)? What do you want to study? The community college will offer you the chance to get an associate’s, while SIUC grants bachelor’s degrees. This section of our website might help you narrow down your choices: http://myfootpath.com/colleges/college-selection/

  • Anonymous

    Dental assistants perform many functions in a dentist office, but do not have the certification to act as dental hygienists. Dental assistants go through their own training program, which you can read about here: http://myfootpath.com/careers/health-care-careers/dental-assistant-careers/ Dental hygienists go through a separate program, which you can learn more about here: http://myfootpath.com/careers/health-care-careers/dental-hygienist-careers/

  • Anonymous

    If you decide you want to earn your bachelor’s degree, then yes, most associate’s degree programs are set up so you can transfer your credits easily to the college or university of your choice. However, depending on the program you enroll in, you may not need to earn a bachelor’s. Some associate degree programs in dental hygiene are accredited and teach everything you need to know to become a hygienist. To be sure, you can ask a counselor at your school. You can also visit this page for more information: http://myfootpath.com/careers/health-care-careers/dental-hygienist-careers/ One thing to note, each state has an exam you will have to pass in order to become a practicing dental hygienist.

  • Kimberlymcghee84

    Hello! I’m thinking about changing my degree from Radiologic Technology to Dental Hygienist. Am I able to shadow a dental hygienist? I have an interest in both and I can’t make up my mind.

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

    If you were looking to be a general hygienist, either an Associate’s degree or Bachelor’s degree could help you get started. The Bachelor’s degree is a good option for those who are looking to go into teaching or research. Restorative hygienists perform additional functions, such as placing and finishing amalgam, composite and temporary restorations, takes final impressions, cements temporary crowns and performs orthodontic procedures. This is in addition to their normal functions. Additional schooling is required for this aspect of the carer, and the length depends on the program you choose to enroll in.

  • Anonymous

    If you were looking to be a general hygienist, either an Associate’s degree or Bachelor’s degree could help you get started. The Bachelor’s degree is a good option for those who are looking to go into teaching or research. Restorative hygienists perform additional functions, such as placing and finishing amalgam, composite and temporary restorations, takes final impressions, cements temporary crowns and performs orthodontic procedures. This is in addition to their normal functions. Additional schooling is required for this aspect of the carer, and the length depends on the program you choose to enroll in.

  • Anonymous

    That is definitely a possibility! I would recommend you get in touch with a counselor at the school you plan on attending. They’ll be able to inform you of the exact options available at your school. Good luck!

  • Try something new

    Dentists are opening dental hygiene schools even when there are no dental hygienists needed. Dentists regulate their own profession and dental hygienists in most places. This gives them the incentive and opportunity to oversupply the labour market to reduce their labour cost (the highest cost item of a dental clinic).nnnThe effect is, dropping salaries, dropping work conditions, dropping benefits (not many to begin with) and general demoralisation.nDental hygiene is a noble profession being monopolized for profit by dentists and dental organisations.nnnMy guess is that there will be another decade of degradation in conditions before regulators take charge of dentistry and break their monopoly over preventative oral health care.nnnTill then. Become a dentist, they make minimum $250K through artificial rarity (limiting the number of dentists graduates) while hygienists make less and less each year.nnnCheck in again in about 10 years. Or tell your health care regulators that it’s time to act.

  • laquitiawilliams

    Would you recommend a career or traditonal college. I’ve been doing research but I still cant seem to come up with the right decision & Im also a Junior in high school.

  • zozo

    hi I am CCD college student. I’ve been asked to interview a dental hygienist. because I am planning to enroll to dental hygiene program , and I need to know more about this career? If you don’t mind answer some question.nWhat are some skills you do as dental hygienist?nHow long take you to be a dental hygienist?nDo you think dental hygienist has a high demand in the future?nIf you want to succeed in this career what the advantage that help you be on top of you job?nHow many years you were working as dental hygienist?nAfter those years, did the way you thought about you career changed or no? and why?nDid dental hygiene is the same as dental assistance?nthank you

  • Jocelyn

    Hi. I am taking a college class and i have some questions I need answered by a dental hygienist. Will you be willing to help me?

  • Sam

    I am planning to attend a Community College and they offer an Associates in Dental Assisting, but I want to be a hygienist rather than an assistant. Would it be smart to take the Dental Assisting classes, then after I receive my associates transfer to a University/Dental School that would offer an actual hygiene degree? Or what would be the best thing to do?

  • Anonymous

    Dental assisting is a different path than dental hygienist. If being a hygienist is what you really want to do, then that’s the path you should pursue. Here is some additional information about what that career and degree entails: http://myfootpath.com/careers/health-care-careers/dental-hygienist-careers/