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

Majors Overview March 1, 2014

Students will be prepared to enter the dental field as a hygienist or assistant. They will learn the techniques, knowledge, and skills necessary to assist the dentist. Upon completion of the program, graduates will need to have state requirements met to work in a dental care clinic, facility, or office.

A.S. Programs in Degree Dental Hygiene

Students enrolled in an Associate of Science in Dental Hygiene can expect to become adept at treating injuries, problems and diseases of the mouth. They are also taught about educating patients about how to conduct proper tooth and gum care. Programs typically teach about removal of deposits from tooth surfaces, providing oral physiotherapy, working with dental radiographs and educating patients in oral health care. It takes about two years to complete most programs.

Education Requirements

With a limited number of admissions usually accepted into dental hygiene programs, special requirements may have to be satisfied by students seeking enrollment. Science and general education courses ay have to be completed before being fully admitted into some schools. Special testing in the areas of manual dexterity and spatial perception may also have to be completed. Students enrolled in some programs may need to have documented evidence of work experience in a dental setting or observation hours spent with a dental hygienist.


Coursework in a dental hygienist program typically includes a substantial amount of lab studies. An independent research project or practicum may also have to be completed by students. Coursework may include topic areas such as:

•Dental hygiene concepts
•Dental practice principles
•Dental care concepts
•Dental materials and equipment
•Dental radiation
•Dental biology
•Oral pathology
•Medical law and ethics

Career Choices

The majority of graduates of dental hygienist associate programs become dental hygienists employed in dental care office settings. Some may on completion of the program decide to become dental assistants. However, students may also choose from job areas such as:

•Military service
•Public health programs
•Educational facilities

Continuing Education Choices

Students in most programs can use the coursework to prepare for the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam and satisfy state requirements to obtain licensure as a dental hygienist. Students may choose to continue their education in dental hygiene and thereby enhance their job prospects in the industry. Apart from occupations in dental offices, jobs are available to students with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in dental hygiene in corporate business, teaching or public health.

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