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

Majors Overview June 30, 2014

Keeping gums and teeth healthy is called dental hygiene. Professional dental hygienists are in very high demand because the modern-day world is very health-conscious. The Associate of Science (A.S.) degree program in Dental Hygiene will provide students with the education needed for a career in this field.

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

Students enrolled in an associate’s degree in dental hygiene program are provided with training and education in preventive care for gums and teeth. It generally takes about two years to complete these degree programs that combine classroom lectures and clinical laboratory research.

For instance, the clinical portion is devised to teach students the basic job responsibilities of hygienists, such as the administration of cleanings and performance of fluoride treatments in addition to the conducting of x-rays and provision of periodontal therapy.

Some additional practice is featured in some programs, thereby allowing students to gain experience performing supervised work alongside a dental healthcare professional, such as a dentist. Enrolled students can also expect to become adept in educating patients on the care of their own gums and teeth.

Educational Requirements

Admission criteria typically require applicants to hold a GED certificate or high school diploma. Additionally, students have to satisfy minimum age and GPA norms before they are allowed to enter the program. In some programs, passing grades are required to be accomplished in specific high school classes, including social studies, science, math, or English. In some degree programs, prospective students are expected to complete general education classes in college-level sociology, psychology, physiology, and anatomy before they can begin core coursework.


Apart from being taught about dental materials and gaining the professional skills needed in the field, students enrolled in an associate of dental hygiene degree program may commonly undergo classroom lectures in the following subject areas:

•Tooth structure
•Dental pharmacology
•Clinical and dental hygiene
•Dental and oral anatomy
•Oral pathology

Job and Wage Outlook

A faster-than-average job growth of 36% has been predicted for dental hygienists during the decade of 2008 to 2018 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)). The optimistic projection is based on the assumption that people are becoming increasingly aware of the appearance of their teeth and the importance of maintaining dental health, thereby leading to a rapid growth of the field of dental hygiene (BLS). Increasing numbers of hygienists are being hired by dental offices to handle cleanings and x-rays, whereby dentists are left free to concentrate on patients with serious dental problems.

About 51% of dental hygienists do part-time work and boost their income by working for more than one office (BLS). In 2012, dental hygienists took home average annual wages of $70,210, with the highest 10% in earnings making over $96,280 annually. In 2012, more hygienists in the United States than anywhere else were employed in California, where dental hygienists earned an average annual wage of $90,220, the second-highest in the country after Alaska.

Continuing Education and Licensing Choices

Passage of the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, administered by the American Dental Association, will enable these professionals to obtain licensure, which is mandatory for employment. Skills and knowledge of dental hygiene are covered in the exam that can be taken by those aspiring for careers in the field. Additional licensing requirements may have to be satisfied in some states.

Additional education is often pursued by dental hygienists seeking advancement in their careers. They can accomplish the goal by earning advanced degrees, such as a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or Master of Science (M.S.) in Dental Hygiene. These programs would be found valuable by hygienists seeking entry-level careers as dentists, teachers, researchers, or even management professionals. Completion of an advanced education program could lead to greater career prospects, including higher responsibilities and income levels.

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