Mentor Advice Forumfurthering-my-career-in-dental-hygiene
Kristin R Forte Staff asked 3 years ago

How many different options do I have to further my career in dental hygiene?  With receiving a dental hygiene Bachelors degree does my pay increase from that of my Associates degree?  What is the most prestigious job title for a dental hygienist?

8 Answers
Christine Nathe, RDH, MS Staff answered 3 years ago

How many different options do I have to further my career in dental hygiene? There are a variety of options, including clinical (which you are already aware of private practice); clinical in settings such as school based dental clinics and mobile clinics; temporary positions within private and public health practice; military; VA hospitals; in-home care for patients with disabilities or in hospice; nursing homes; assisted living facilities; Federally Qualified Health Centers; primary care clinics; hospitals; cancer centers; research; teaching in a dental hygiene program; sales and marketing; writing; speaking; and entrepreneurial opportunities, to name a few. The higher your degree, the more options you have.
Also, if you are interested, the University of New Mexico has a fast track BSDH Degree Completion and a MSDH program available online if you are interested in advancing your education! Click here to learn more:

Alice M. Horowitz, RDH, MA, PhD Staff answered 3 years ago

Earning a bachelor’s degree in addition to your RDH certificate opens doors to many different positions, rather than just clinical dental hygiene. For example, you can pursue a career in city, county, or state public health where you may organize and implement community-based programs; provide training to community health workers, home visitors, Head Start personnel, or WIC personnel. You might be eligible in some communities for a faculty position in a dental hygiene associate’s degree program. Or, you could work for a dental or medical organization. Or, you might qualify for a position for a state coalition. In addition, you could get an entry-level position in research in some agencies or organizations. All of these options will depend on your experience and what courses you have had while obtaining a bachelor’s degree. Having provided those possible options, I must add, you would likely be a better qualified candidate if you also have a master’s degree.
Will you earn more money with a bachelor’s degree? My best guess is, it all depends. If you mean in clinical dental hygiene, I would say no, you will not earn more than with an associate’s degree. It also will depend on where you live, what jobs are available, and how much competition there is for position “X.”
Regarding the “most prestigious” title for a dental hygienist… I have no idea. I suspect the answer is in the eyes of the beholder and what kind of position you yearn for. I would be more concerned about the position description rather than the title. Good luck.

Tammy Filipiak, RDH, MS Staff answered 3 years ago

There are many roles of the dental hygienist and they are defined with some detail on the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA )website (I’ve included the link below). With regard to pay, this can vary depending on the role and responsibilities. In clinical practice, you may see one level of salary and you could expect something different within another role such as administrative, sales, executive leadership in an organization etc…
In addition to education, it is important to recognize the value of both communication and leadership skill sets, which can open other doors in positions where the knowledge and education you have as a dental hygienist can be valuable.  Job titles can vary depending on roles and the level of “prestige” that one sees with each will vary based on personal values and responsibilities.

Nancy Kiehl, RDH, MS Staff answered 3 years ago

How many different options do I have to further my career in dental hygiene?
I think you have as many options as your mind can dream up. What is it that you want to do? Education/academia, political spokesperson/lawmaker/lobbyist, independent business owner of dental hygiene practice (s). You don’t have to be chairside to be a dental hygienist but you might have to practice clinically a specified number of hours to keep your license, depending on the state which granted you permission to practice. A master’s degree would be the highest graduate degree possible in dental hygiene, as I am unaware of any PhD programs available in dental hygiene.
With receiving a dental hygiene bachelor’s degree does my pay increase from that of my associate’s degree?
A clinical salary/pay commensurate with experience or degree is something I rarely came across in my 34 years as a clinical dental hygienist. I did have ONE sub job where the dentist told me he was paying me more than his other hygienists because of my teaching experience and advanced degree. That was ONCE in 34 years.
Good luck with this one! Perhaps if you add extra clinical skills such as local anesthesia, endoscopy, expanded function, or dental therapy, you could negotiate a higher pay. You’d have to convince the dentist that your bachelor’s degree will provide advanced skills/care to the patients, which would in turn, increase productivity/profits for the practice.
What is the most prestigious job title for a dental hygienist?
That all depends on who you ask. I know of many prestigious job titles for dental hygienists: program director of a dental hygiene department, dental hygiene authors who write textbooks for dental hygiene, entrepreneur dental hygienists and also high-tech clinical hygienists who use an endoscope to root plane. Perhaps president of the United States would be the ultimate job title for a dental hygienist? Add a law degree and poof you could become president!

Lucinda B. McKechnie, RDH, BS Staff answered 3 years ago

Career options abound depending on your interests! For example, I predominately focused on clinical dental hygiene and pursued a bachelor’s degree several years after receiving my associate’s degree in dental hygiene. While my hourly wage did not increase in clinical dental hygiene with a bachelor’s degree, I started an additional career in public speaking. The focus of my presentations was review of the current periodontal literature and evidence-based practice. As I was still seeing patients, the wealth of information derived from the clinical experience relative to evidence-based practice was well received. The notoriety lead to requests to join corporate councils and review product lines for various companies, a nominal compensation but a wealth of payback in places I was sent and colleagues who have remained friends to this day.
As far as the most prestigious job title, one of my colleagues furthered her career by attending Wharton Business School. With an MBA and background in dental hygiene and health sciences, she started working for a pharmaceutical company and has worked her way up to an executive position. Academia is, of course, another strand for achievement, with PhD dental hygienists pursuing research and top positions in universities.
I have never regretted pursuing dental hygiene as a career. From clinical practice, to publishing, to corporate boards, to presentations, to traveling to Vietnam for Operation Smile, the options are endless and diverse if you just look for them.