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Getting Into Dental Hygienist Schools

By: CareerFactsheet editors- Updated: Jun 21,2017

A dental hygienist is someone who works alongside the dentist to ensure that patients maintain healthy teeth and gums. He is a health professional whose responsibilities include pre-dental to post-dental oral health care. Dental hygienists are not allowed to do complicated procedures such as operations, but one of the most important aspects of his job is to ensure the timely completion of a patient's laboratory and clinical tests, which he himself can order a patient to undergo.

Dental Hygienist Educational Requirements

Entry requirements vary from school to school, but in general, dental hygiene schools require that the student applicants be :

  • At least 18 years old at the time of application.
  • Have completed a high school diploma.
  • Had taken school subjects like math, English, biology, and chemistry.
  • Have acceptable college entrance results.

In some cases, one of the requirements of several dental hygienist schools is that an applicant has already completed at least a year of college studies before gaining entrance into the program.

Dental Hygienist Schools

Following are the dental hygienist programs offered in various schools:

Certificate. The certificate program can be completed within a year. Typically, the programs teach students about the fundamentals of dental hygiene, the responsibilities of a hygienist, the dental hygiene practice, applying local anesthesia, periodontics, and pathology, among others. In addition, after completing the program, students are required to undergo internship or externship prior to actual employment.

Associate Degree. An associate degree in dental hygiene allows students to study and train under dentists during their brief internship program in order to gain clinical and laboratory experience prior to finding work as a hygienist. Aside from subjects offered in the Certificate program, students study about dental anatomy and structure, dental disorders, oral pathology, and dental hygiene practices. The course may be completed within a period of two years and normally, an associate degree makes one eligible for work already.

Bachelor's Degree. For those who prefer to complete higher education, completing an associate's degree prepares them for a bachelor's degree program that may be completed within four years. This program offers a more comprehensive educational foundation and offers more career opportunities in the fields of research, education, or office management.

For more advanced researches in the field of dental hygiene, practicing dental hygienists who completed a bachelor's degree may continue with the Master's degree.

Dental Hygienist Licensing Requirements

When choosing your school, ensure to check whether the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA), in order to qualify you later on for the licensure exams, has accredited the dental hygienist school and its program curriculum.

Schools that you might want to consider include:

  • West Coast University – campuses in Los Angeles and Orange County.
  • Missouri College – in St. Louis, Missouri.
  • Herzing University – offers on-campus and online classes.
  • Concorde Career College – offers on-campus and online classes.
  • Argosy University.
  • Sanford-Brown Institute.

Programs are available on-campus and online, thus, whether you are a full time student or a working student, you may choose whichever program is more appropriate for your situation.

Indeed, a career in dental hygiene is one of the most lucrative in the healthcare industry today. Based on the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, job prospects for dental hygienists is very bright considering that there is a projected employment growth of 19% from 2014 up to 2024. If you think this is the kind of job that you would enjoy, then prepare yourself early on to reap the benefits of becoming a dental hygienist.

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