Dental Hygienist Schools

Becoming a dental hygienist takes a lot of time, effort, and training but it is well worth the effort. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “[e]mployment of dental hygienists is expected to grow 36 percent through 2018, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.” This growth rate promises a heightened demand for skilled dental hygienists, a demand that you can fill—with the right training.

Job Description

Dental hygienists remove hard and soft deposits from patients’ teeth (plaque and tarter), apply cavity prevention treatments, and instruct patients on proper dental hygiene practices. Some of their other job duties include:

  • Inspecting teeth and gums for dental abnormalities.
  • Taking x-rays of teeth
  • Recording patients’ dental health history
  • Applying cavity-prevention treatments to teeth
  • Assisting the dentist during a dental procedure

In some states, dental hygienists may also:

  • Administer anesthetics
  • Remove sutures
  • Place temporary fillings
  • Perform laboratory tests and present the results to the dentist for analysis
  • Smooth and polish dental work

Becoming a Dental Hygienist

Successful completion of a dental hygiene program is required before you can work in this profession. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are approximately 301 such dental hygiene programs (accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation) in the United States.

Most dental hygiene programs offer 2-years associate’s degrees and are taught at community colleges and technical schools. Some universities offer 4-year bachelor’s degrees in this field as well. (A bachelor’s degree offers one a broader educational base and can lead to more and better career opportunities).

Generally, an associate’s degree is sufficient for practicing in a private dental practice. However, if you want to pursue a career in teaching, research, or administration, a bachelor’s or a master’s degree is advisable.

Entry Requirements for Dental Hygiene Programs

Although entry requirements for dental hygiene program vary depending upon the school, most require that you:

  • Are at least 18 years of age
  • Have obtained a high school diploma or a GED
  • Have taken some high school courses in math, biology, English, and chemistry
  • Maintained at least a “C” average in high school
  • Achieved satisfactory college entrance exam scores

In addition, many dental hygiene programs require that the applicant complete one year of college prior to admittance.

But how do you find a good dental hygiene program? A good first step, say experts, is to investigate the American Dental Hygienist’s Association website, which has a comprehensive listing of dental hygiene schools in (or out of) your area.

Typical Courses of a Dental Hygiene Program

Although course requirements differ from school to school, most dental hygiene programs offer such courses as:

  • Speech
  • English
  • Psychology
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Sociology
  • Nutrition
  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Radiography
  • Pharmacology
  • Periodontology (gum disease)
  • Clinical dental hygiene
  • Microbiology
  • Histology (tissue structure)

These course are taught in classrooms and also incorporated into clinical and laboratory instructional settings.

These are the courses that will prepare you to take your place proudly beside other professionals in the dental hygiene occupation.