Becoming a Dental Hygienist in Tennessee
Becoming a dental hygienist requires going to school for at least two years and passing exams to get licensed. The efforts are well worth it, though, because demand for licensed professionals in dental hygiene is high in Tennessee and elsewhere. It’s also a rewarding career that you can enjoy for years without getting bored and while enjoying a great salary. Find out about dental assistant schools in Tennessee
Requirements for Dental Hygienist in Tennessee
In Tennessee, you need to achieve state licensure to work as a dental hygienist. There are a few different paths to getting licensed, but all begin by completing a post-secondary dental hygiene program that has been accredited by the American Dental Association (ADA). Once graduating from a program, you will need to apply with the Tennessee Board of Dentistry and get passing scores on certain exams. An accredited program will have prepared you to pass those tests.
Dental Hygienist Schools in Tennessee
The ADA’s Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) is the entity that approves dental hygiene programs at colleges across the country. To become licensed in Tennessee, you must have completed one of these programs. There are several offered within the state, and these are just a few examples:
- Chattanooga State Community College, Chattanooga. In Chattanooga, you can earn a two-year associate’s degree in dental hygiene. The program is popular, so admissions are selective. Completion rates are high at 99 percent, and 100 percent of graduates are licensed on their first attempt. The program also has a 100 percent job placement rate for students.
- East Tennessee State University, Johnson City. East Tennessee uniquely offers a four-year bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene. Admissions can be selective here, so it is important to have good grades in high school and know what all the requirements are. The program includes standard classroom work as well as clinical experience working with real patients on campus.
- Tennessee State University, Nashville. At Tennessee State in Nashville, you have the option to choose a two-year or a four-year degree. To be admitted, you must first gain admission to the University and successfully complete general education coursework. Then you can apply to the very selective dental hygiene program.
Dental Hygienist Licensure in Tennessee
Once you have completed an approved dental hygiene program, you will be prepared to take and pass the required exams for licensing in Tennessee. You must pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination and at least one clinical examination approved by the Board. These include demonstrating skills in such areas as X-rays and teeth cleaning.
With passing scores, you are prepared to apply for licensing through the Tennessee Board of Dentistry. You will need to complete an application and include all the evidence of your degree and exam scores. You also have to show you have CPR certification and that you have cleared a background check. If you are already licensed in another state and have worked for at least three years, you may not have to take the exams to apply.
Once approved and licensed in Tennessee, you will also have to maintain that license. This requires that you complete 30 hours of continuing education every two years and renew CPR certification. The Tennessee Dental Hygienist Association is a useful resource for finding opportunities for continuing education.
Dental Hygienist Salary in Tennessee
Job growth in dental hygiene is very strong in Tennessee. The growth is predicted to be 23 percent through 2028. This means that by that year there will be more than 890 new jobs added in the state for dental hygienists. Qualified individuals will be in demand for years to come and should be able to find jobs easily.
The salaries in Tennessee are competitive for dental hygienists. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2020 the average salary for the profession was $32.28 per hour and $67,150 per year. Higher earners can make up to $82,660 and more by earning more qualifications, taking on leadership positions in dental offices and having years of work experience.
Where to Find Work as a Dental Hygienist in Tennessee
Far and away the most common place for a hygienist to work is in a dental office. Minor alternative employers include hospitals and community clinics. Look for the greatest number of job openings in big cities and suburbs such as Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga. Of course, dental hygienists in Tennessee are also needed in rural and more sparsely populated areas, and with such high demand, you should have your pick of jobs once you get licensed.
How Much Does a Dental Hygienist Make in Tennessee?
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the average annual salary for dental hygienists in Tennessee as $65,820, while Indeed.com reports Tennessee dental hygienists can earn an average hourly wage of $31.79.