When you've been to the dentist, you've probably noticed that the dentist doesn't do all the work. Usually another person is working alongside the dentist--the dental hygienist. The dentist focuses on diagnosing and treating tooth and gum conditions, while the dental hygienist acts to prevent problems by scaling or polishing teeth, applying fluoride and fissure sealants and doing other things to help the patient have healthy teeth and gums. Here are some steps to take if you want to become a dental hygienist in the United Kingdom.
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Get a solid education before dental hygienist school. For example, before applying to dental hygienist school, you must have received good grades at school in academic subjects such as English language, English literature, math, biology, chemistry and at least one foreign language. Also, it helps if you have attained a recognised dental nursing qualification. However, schools may differ slightly in terms of what qualifications they prefer applicants to have, and so it is a good idea to read the specific requirements of the dental hygienist school in the UK that you intend to apply to in order to get a clear sense of what that particular school requires.
Take a dental hygienist course at a dental school in the UK that is approved by the General Dental Council (GDC). This will enable you to register with the GDC, which you must do in order to practice. There are a number of dental hygienist programs in the UK, such as those at the University of Sheffield, the University of Liverpool, the University of Bristol and Cardiff University. Training to be a dental hygienist usually takes two years of full-time study. The training will emphasise anatomy, physiology, preventive dentistry, dental pathology and educating patients about good dental care. Training will also include supervised clinical work, during which you work with patients.
Register with the General Dental Council. Do this after completing all dental hygienist training; it's required for you to begin practicing. Get an application from the GDC and fill it out. If it's approved, register with the GDC.
Find work as a dental hygienist in dentist offices, hospitals or community dental service programs. After working as a dental hygienist for a few years, you might be eligible to become a dental practice manager, or you may be ready to become a dental hygienist instructor or orthodontic therapist.
Maintain your skills. Some dental hygienist training programs offer continuing education or post-registration update courses for dental hygienists.
Tips and warnings
- Read as much as you can about the career of a dental hygienist to get a sense of whether this career will work for you. Interview a dental hygienist to learn more about the job.
- Having good eyesight and good manual dexterity is important. Also, you should have a friendly and calm personality. Good communication skills and good teamwork skills are also helpful.
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