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Dental Hygienist Training Programs

Under the supervision of a licensed dentist, dental hygienists provide routine dental care and educate patients on proper oral hygiene. Dental hygienists review patient histories, take x-rays, clean teeth, make dental impressions, keep records and counsel patients on dental health and nutrition.

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Training Requirements and Recommendations

Dental hygienists must hold at least an associate's degree from an accredited institution before they are eligible for employment. Some hygienists pursue further education in dental hygiene or a related field. Dental hygienists must be regionally licensed in order to work legally.

Formal Education

The majority of dental hygienists begin their career by completing an associate's degree in the field. Others may enroll in bachelor's or master's degree programs that can open up a wider range of career opportunities.

Associate of Science Degree Program

An Associate of Science in Dental Hygiene introduces students to a variety of dental topics. Students may take courses that address subjects that include dental radiology, oral pathology and public health. An associate-level course typically contains less experiential elements than a higher-level degree program, but can be completed in two years or less.

Bachelor of Science Degree Program

The Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene is a 4-year undergraduate degree program that offers a comprehensive dental hygiene education. Courses are available in a number of topics, such as periodontology, dental materials and oral anatomy. Students are also required to complete general education courses to earn a baccalaureate degree.

Master of Science Degree Program

The Master of Science in Dental Hygiene is a 2-year graduate degree program that is geared towards dental hygienists who wish to pursue a career in education. Many students are already working professionals who wish to increase their knowledge of the field. Students may take courses in scientific dental hygiene writing, local anesthesia and research methodology.

Job Experience

Most dental hygienists engage in some sort of formal training program while completing their degree. Many colleges offer students the chance to pursue supervised clinical internships at local dentist offices or clinics. Hygienists often receive on-the-job training and should be comfortable working closely with patients.

Licenses and Certifications

Dental hygienists must hold a degree from an accredited institution and be licensed by the state in which they plan to work. The American Dental Association (ADA) administers the written portion of the dental hygienist exam. Candidates must also pass a state or regionally administered clinical examination. Only Alabama, which has its own licensing requirements, does not require dental hygienists to take the written ADA exam.

Workshops and Seminars

A variety of dental organizations and local colleges offer workshops for dental hygienists. One example if the National Workshop, which was conceived in 2000 to update professionals on dental public health issues. Workshops and seminars may address topics related to technological advances in the field or improved hygienist tools.

Additional Professional Development

Dental hygienists can pursue continuing education courses at community colleges or local universities. Hygienists with a great deal of experience may choose to apply to dental school to become a licensed dentist.

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  • Minimum eligibility requirements:
    • Must live within close proximity to school locations
    • Must be graduated from high school by 2011
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