Can a Felon Become a Dental Hygienist?

Circumstances in life can lead people away from goals that might otherwise have been significant. A debt, an accident, or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time can be all it takes to lead to a criminal conviction. A conviction of any kind might derail someone’s life plan. The more serious the conviction, and the more severe the consequence, the more off track a person’s life stands a chance of becoming.

For a felon, release from prison represents an opportunity to resume progress on major life goals. For many, that might involve a career in the field of health care. It is one of the fastest growing fields of work, both globally and nationally. While schooling can be lengthy and difficult, there are also easier routes to take for people looking to establish a steady income without significant time or debt.

Becoming a dental hygienist may be an option worth considering for people looking for regular hours and a consistent wage in a fulfilling work environment. As with any line of work following incarceration, there may be obstacles to overcome on the way to obtaining employment. For those with the motivation and interest in exploring this field, it may be worth it.

This post will examine the duties a dental hygienist might have at work, how to go about obtaining employment as a dental hygienist, and how felons can overcome obstacles and find success in the field.

Dental Hygienist Job Description

Dental hygienists are responsible for an array of duties in their position, be that in a dentist’s office or in the field. Each state has its own bylaws and regulations regarding the profession, so a few particular tasks may vary. However, most of the skills and expectations for dental hygienists will be the same, regardless of where you might be employed.

Patient interaction is key for hygienists. A hygienist may be asked to screen patients prior to exams and procedures, in which they collect information on dental history, personal habits, overall health, basic oral cancer assessments, and collecting vital physical information such as pulse and blood pressure.

Hygienists may also have to instruct patients on how to practice effective and healthy habits on their own.This might include simple tasks such as brushing and flossing, or might pertain to more complicated circumstances that follow from procedures like crowns, root canals, or oral surgeries.

This requires a hygienist to establish rapport with their patients. Skills in communicating and interacting with people help build trust between the patient and dental professionals, and better care will be provided as a result.

Some of the duties of a dental hygienist might overlap with those of the dentist themselves, including teeth cleaning, capturing x-rays of the jaw and tooth structures, and taking molds of a patient’s teeth. For those interested in the more technical and procedural aspects of dentistry, these responsibilities would allow a hygienist to acquire and apply skills in direct patient care.

Dental hygienists have the opportunity to work in a variety of locations. These include dentist offices and public health agencies, but can also include prisons and detention facilities, schools, and even international work through the military or aid agencies.

Wages And Job Growth For Dental Hygienists

The most recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates median pay for dental hygienists at $74,820 per hour, making this a well-compensated profession. Over the next ten years, job growth is estimated at 11%, considerably higher than growth in the average line of work. This is linked to the number of people who over that time period who will reach an age at which they need more regular dental care.

There is also a high need for skilled dental professionals within the prison system. Many inmates will have received dental care from either dentists or dental hygienists over the course of their incarceration. The roles played by dentists and dental hygienists often overlap. This can allow a skilled hygienist to play an important role in the outcome of patient care. Hygienists who enter their career after spending time in prison can also serve as mentors to other members of the prison population.

Dental Hygiene Coursework And Licensing

A dental hygienist’s license is required in all 50 states, and can be earned through an associates degree. Coursework to earn this degree is generally between 2 to 3 years. Classes include general education courses, general science courses such as biology, chemistry, and anatomy, and classes specific to dental health.

There are a number of options available to those interested in this career, including community colleges, private schools, trade schools, and dental universities. These will all vary in cost, prerequisites, and time, so research is recommended. All schools must be accredited in order to issue degrees in dental hygiene. Supervised clinical time is included in these programs.

Once coursework has been completed, a dental hygienist’s final step towards employment is to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination. This assessment will encompass the entirety of material covered in coursework, and asserts that a student is prepared to enter the workforce as a dental hygienist.

Are There Restrictions On Felons Becoming Dental Hygienists?

A criminal record is not necessarily an obstacle when gaining admission to a dental hygiene school program. However, there are several states that do not allow felons to receive dental hygienist licenses.. Florida, for example, has a firm policy of not granting licenses to applicants convicted of a felony. Nearly all states will conduct background checks on license applicants. Whether or not a license is granted can be determined on a case by case basis.

If possible, the best option is to expunge a criminal record of a felony conviction, or to have a criminal record sealed by court order. These courses of action allow a felon to move forward with their life in as ideal a way as the justice system allows. Your state of residence may not have any restrictions against felons entering this career, so your prior criminal record should not be a discouraging factor.

The potential for higher than average job growth and wages makes dental hygiene an attractive option for felons making life choices after prison. The constant patient interaction, and the importance of a hygienist’s role in patient care should also be considered. If those aspects of the job sound interesting, this may be a career worth exploring.

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