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The Educational Requirements of a Dental Hygienist

Majors Overview November 8, 2012

The removal of deposits such as tartar and plaque from patient’s teeth, taking of x-rays and application of fluoride treatments are among the responsibilities required to be fulfilled by dental hygienists. To be licensed and work as a dental hygienist, a person must have either an associate degree in dental hygiene or certification. Once licensed, a dental hygienist can choose to educate themselves further to ensure career success.

Educational Qualifications Needed to Become a Dental Hygienist

A potential dental hygienist must either have earned an associate degree in dental hygiene from a college enjoying accreditation by the Commission of Dental Accreditation, or have successfully completed a 2-year certification program (source: the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). This is the minimum level of qualification needed by a dental hygienist seeking state licensure and applies to all states.

A high school education is the minimum qualification required for a potential dental hygienist to take part in a certification program. If a dental hygienist seeks employment in public health programs or wishes to do research work relating to dental hygiene, they need to obtain an advance degree.

Dental Hygiene Certificate Program

Dental Hygiene Certificate Program normally spans from two to three years. In a typical course, classroom work is combined with clinical laboratory experience. This ensures that students are given practical experience before they embark on their careers. Thus, students are taught about the correct treatment of tooth decay and sensitive gums. They learn how to maintain records of patient’s histories and how to convey information to patients on proper care of teeth. Classroom work helps students learn about the dental techniques that are most commonly employed and about dental science in general.

Curricula in dental hygiene certification programs typically include theory and practice of dental hygiene, periodontology, administration of local anesthesia, dental pharmacology, general and oral pathology, and associate of science in dental hygiene, among others. Students in the associate degree programs in dental hygiene are given clinical experience in which they work under the watchful eye of a dentist. The courses include opportunities for students to learn about specialty dentistry such as preventive oral care and periodontal dentistry, to facilitate this learning the students get to observe dentists in real-time action. Clinical experiences given to students include the sealing of cavities using lubricants, application of tooth fluorides, conducting of x-rays and imparting of improved oral care to patients.

An associate of science in dental hygiene degree program requires a student to study for two years, the course involves classroom work combined with lab training.

The classroom work involves regular curricula including dental materials, nutrition in dentistry, oral biology, community dental health, and legal liability in dentistry, among others.

Advanced Degree Choices

A potential dental hygienist who wishes to pursue a career in clinical care needs just an undergraduate degree before they can embark on this career path.  There are some advanced degree choices for dental hygienists that they are able to obtain. These are usually the preference for students who seek careers in academia and research. Alternatively, they might want to practice in public health programs or schools. Bachelor degree programs in dental hygiene can either be entry level clinical programs or completion programs. Many master degree dental hygiene programs target management, education and research.

Dental Hygiene Statistics

Dental Hygiene Statistics

Top Schools with Dental Hygiene Programs

School Name Tuition Size Degrees Granted Degrees Granted By Type
St. Petersburg College
Largo, FL
$10,897 29,282 98 Associate (33), Bachelor’s (65)
Eastern Washington University
Cheney, WA
$15,295 9,995 83 Bachelor’s (81), Master’s (2)
University of Bridgeport
Bridgeport, CT
$27,330 2,248 79 Associate (48), Bachelor’s (30),Master’s (1)
West Liberty University
West Liberty, WV
$13,140 2,599 69 Associate (34), Bachelor’s (35)
New York University
New York, NY
$38,765 21,759 69 Associate (60), Bachelor’s (9)
Oregon Institute of Technology
Klamath Falls, OR
$22,212 3,803 67 Associate (18), Bachelor’s (49)
University of New England
Biddeford, ME
$30,500 2,382 63 Associate (36), Bachelor’s (27)
Northern Arizona University
Flagstaff, AZ
$20,364 20,750 63 Bachelor’s (63)
Careers Unlimited
Orem, UT
Unknown 119 60 Bachelor’s (60)
Massachusetts Pharmacy & Health
Boston, MA
$26,455 1,358 60 Bachelor’s (60)

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