Dental hygienists are
licensed oral health professionals who focus on preventing and treating
oral diseases-to protect teeth and gums as well as protect patients'
"RDH" means “Registered Dental Hygienist.” The RDH credential
identifies a dental hygienist as a licensed oral health professional.
State licensure requirements typically require that a dental hygienist
must graduate from a nationally accredited dental hygiene education program,
successfully pass a national written examination, and a state or
regional clinical examination.
Dental hygienists are graduates of accredited dental hygiene education
programs in colleges and universities, and must take written and
clinical exams before they are allowed to practice. In addition to
treating patients directly, dental hygienists also work as educators,
researchers, and administrators. At UAMS, dental hygiene graduates can
receive either a Bachelor of Science or an Associate of Science degree.
Students must complete a minimum of 34 semester credits of prerequisite
college coursework prior to being admitted into the UAMS dental hygiene
Each state has its own specific regulations and the range of services
performed by dental hygienists vary from one state to another. As part
of dental hygiene services, dental hygienists may:
perform oral health care assessments that include reviewing patients'
health history, dental charting, oral cancer screening, and taking and
recording blood pressure;
expose, process, and interpret dental X-rays;
remove plaque and calculus (tartar)-soft and hard deposits-from above
and below the gumline;
apply cavity-preventive agents, such as fluorides and sealants, to the
teach patients proper oral hygiene techniques to maintain healthy
teeth and gums;
counsel patients about plaque control and developing individualized
at-home oral hygiene programs; and
counsel patients on the importance of good nutrition for maintaining
optimal oral health.
Arkansas, hygienists can administer local anesthesia.
Dental hygienists can work as clinicians, educators, researchers,
administrators, managers, preventive program developers, consumer
advocates, sales and marketing managers, editors, and consultants.
Clinical dental hygienists may work in a variety of health care settings
such as private dental offices, schools, public health clinics,
hospitals, managed care organizations, correctional institutions, or
Employment of dental hygienists is expected to
grow much faster
than average for all occupations through 2014, ranking among
the fastest growing occupations, in response to increasing demand for
dental care and the greater utilization of hygienists to perform
services previously performed by dentists. Job prospects are expected to
Population growth and greater retention of natural teeth will stimulate
demand for dental hygienists. Older dentists, who have been less likely
to employ dental hygienists, are leaving the occupation and will be
replaced by recent graduates, who are more likely to employ one or even
two hygienists. In addition, as dentists’ workloads increase, they are
expected to hire more hygienists to perform preventive dental care, such
as cleaning, so that they may devote their own time to more profitable
2008, the national median hourly earnings of dental hygienists were
$36.00. Earnings vary greatly by
geographic location, employment setting, and years of experience. Dental
hygienists may be paid on an hourly, daily, salary, or commission
basis. A four-day work week is very common in the dental profession.
The average starting salary for a new graduate in Arkansas is
approximately $60,000 to
$65,000 (4-day work week). Benefits vary substantially by practice
setting and may be contingent upon full-time employment. Dental
hygienists who work for school systems, public health agencies, the
Federal Government, or State agencies usually have substantial benefits.
How Can I Get More
Information about RDHs?
Please contact the American Dental
Hygienists' Association-the largest national organization representing
the professional interests of the more than 120,000 licensed dental
hygienists nationwide at
I Get More Information about the UAMS Dental Hygiene Program?
Please check the UAMS Dental Hygiene webpage at
www.uams.edu/chp/dentalhygiene. You may request an
information packet by visiting the website or by calling (501) 686-5730. For more
information, please call the UAMS Dental Hygiene Administrative Office
at (501) 686-5734.