Can a dental hygienist become a dentist?

Yes. However, hygienists first need to acquire a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene and then apply for a four-year doctoral program to pursue a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD).

Once you have completed the doctoral program, you must get a license in your state by sitting for the American Dental Association’s National Board Dental Examinations. Usually, this is the most common path that dental hygienists use to become fully-fledged dentists.

Some dental programs make it easy for hygienists

Some programs allow students to undertake a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene while still working toward a doctorate in dentistry. The University of Southern California’s USC dental program is one such program. Typically, these programs take six years to complete, as opposed to eight years it would take to earn your doctorate and bachelors separately.

Selecting the right dental school

Picking the right dental school is a crucial career step when thinking of making a switch. Remember, the factors that make a school an ideal fit for somebody can be different from another person. Consider what matters to you, such as tuition cost, campus activities, and location. Research the program’s structure, including the curriculum, whether classes are pass/fail, and opportunities in the student dental clinic.

Dental specialties

When you complete the dental program and get licensed, you may opt to get additional training to become a specialized dentist. Below are some specialties to consider:

  • Pediatrics
  • Endodontics
  • Orthodontics
  • Prosthodontics
  • Oral & maxillofacial
  • Periodontics

While it can be costly to study dentistry, the issue of whether to transition from being a hygienist or not is more of a personal decision. That said; the dentist profession is highly lucrative, and there is always a demand for their services in any area. Again, the most notable advantage that hygienists have in this career switch is that they are well-versed with dentistry and other typical dental processes. This itself makes the switch straightforward and, in this context, it is a career transition which is worth considering for any ambitious hygienist.


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