Is there a career path from hygienist to dentist?

Does the prior dental experience count for anything, or do they have to start from scratch, like a 21 year old dental student?

Actually, is there any career movement possible if you’re a dental hygienist?

Sure. Go to college and get an undergraduate degree, then go to dental school.

You might have a 4-year degree in Dental Hygiene anyway but you still have to go to dental school, assuming you can get in.

It’s like if a BA Registered Nurse wanted to be a doctor. He still will have to get into med school (which may require other undergraduate core courses or may not). There’s no credit granted just because he already knows a whole bunch about medicine by virtue of being a nurse.

Of couse, a career move would be to teach dental hygiene at a college, but you would probably need to have a Master’s degree.

There is dental assisting. It may not be a step up, I’m not sure, but it is more varied. You help the dentist do the procedures, rather than clean people’s teeth. There may also be opportunities in dental anesthesia, kind of like a nurse anesthetist. I think what they can do varies by state regulation, though.

At the college where I work, it’s the reverse. Dental assisting courses transfer into the dental hygiene program.

The University of Washington dental school always has many more applicants than slots. One of the ways they decide who gets in is a volunteer program for hygienists to work free in their clinics.

The prior dental experience helps, but you still have to get your dentist degree. I have a good friend who went from hygienist to dentist. Not easy, but now she has her own practice!

I observe that there seem to be several levels in the dental field:

dental assistant (seems to be somewhat like a candystriper/junior nurse)
dental hygienist (cleans teeth, checks for cavities, teaches patients how to clean teeth, takes x-rays, runs other automated equipment. Seems to be a cross between a RN and PA)
dentist (lots of different types of degrees here)
dental surgeon (is this different from a dentist, and if so, how?)
orthodontist (is this analagous to a MD with a certification in something like cardiology, or is it a completely different program of study)

I also have a good friend who went from hygienist to dentist. Also, this is very important, a four year degree is not required to attend dental school. At least it wasn’t for her. She did have to take and do relatively well in the required predental classes, like organic chemistry. Her existing dental knowledge was a huge help in getting through the interviews. I think it may also have helped that she was considered a “non-traditional” student path, IOTW, not many hygienists try to make this jump.

She’s a mod on a dentistry board – if you’re interested shoot me an email and I can put you in touch.

At the “dentist” point you’re at the end of the line. Beyond that point, you’re into specialties. So once you’re a dentist, you can continue on into orthodontics or endodontics or other specialized fields.