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Degree Overview: Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) Degree Program in Dental Hygiene

Majors Overview June 27, 2014

Dental hygienists educate patients about their gums and teeth and provide dental care. In order to work as a dental hygienist, a license and associate’s degree in dental hygiene are required. Both clinical experience and classroom instruction will be provided to teach students about the proper techniques for dental care.

Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) Degree Program in Dental Hygiene

Students enrolled in an Associate of Applied Science degree program in Dental Hygiene are provided with training in teeth cleaning, oral examinations, and x-ray procedures. Those that successfully complete the program can expect to become adept at providing dental cleaning services, educating patients about healthy dental habits, diagnosing problems related to the gums or teeth, and communicating effectively with dental staff and patients.

Prospective dental hygienists should ensure that the program they seek enrollment into carries accreditation by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Proper education and safe standards of dental care are usually assured within programs that carry the CODA’s accreditation.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria in a dental hygiene program typically require applicants to hold a GED certificate or high school diploma. Students enrolled in some programs may be required to have completed classes in English, chemistry, physiology, anatomy, and biology.

Coursework

Students are taught the rudiments of dental care in addition to the proper use of diagnostic technology relevant to dental hygiene. An associate’s degree program may include basic coursework, such as:

•Anatomy and physiology
•Periodontology
•Oral health
•Dental pharmacology
•Dental radiology
•Preventative dentistry
•Microbiology

Career Choices

A higher-than-average job growth rate of 36% has been predicted for dental hygienists during the decade of 2008 to 2018; some areas may be more competitive than others (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). The optimistic prediction is based on the expected ability of dental hygienists to fill in for dentists with respect to regular dental maintenance. These professionals are usually hired in:

•Pharmaceutical sales
•Military installations
•Nursing homes
•Hospital dental clinics
•Private dental offices

Continuing Education and Licensure Choices

Licensure is mandatory for dental hygienists in most states. Licensure is provided by the American Dental Association (ADA) through a written and clinical exam. Associate degree graduates may pursue continued education by earning bachelor’s or master’s degrees in dental hygiene.

Coursework in a bachelor’s degree program is usually an expansion on dental hygiene subjects and may include classes in health education, epidemiology, and psychology. Liberal arts coursework is incorporated into some bachelor’s degree programs; this is aimed at improving the critical thinking skills of graduates. Those that successfully complete a master’s degree program can expect to imbibe the research skills and advanced coursework necessary for teaching dental hygienist programs.

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