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How Long Does IT Take to Become a Dental Hygienist?

Many dental hygienist graduates may find jobs with as little as an associate's degree or, in some cases, a certificate. However, depending on the type of advancement someone wants in his or her career, a bachelor's or master's degree might be more desirable.

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Becoming a Dental Hygienist

Training Information

A dental hygienist needs to graduate from an accredited school. Most dental hygienist programs grant associate's degrees, but some offer bachelor's and master's degrees. Training requires anywhere from 2-3 years of school, including prerequisites and any licensing examinations.

Prerequisites

A high school diploma and college entrance tests are required for admission into a dental hygiene program. In high school, students are advised to take courses in mathematics, chemistry and biology.

Curriculum

In addition to coursework, the dental hygienist school curriculum involves laboratory and clinical practice. Anatomy, chemistry, physiology, pharmacology, microbiology, radiography, periodontology, pathology, dental materials, histology and other courses make up the coursework. Depending on the program and the amount of prerequisites taken, a student can become a dental hygienist within four years; however, master's degree programs may take six or more years.

Licensure

In order to practice as a dental hygienist, one needs a degree from a dental hygiene school and a state license. To become licensed, dental hygienists need to pass a clinical and written exam. The written exam is typically administered by the American Dental Association's (ADA) Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations, and the clinical exam is administered by state or regional testing agencies.

Career Requirements

To work as a dental hygienist in a private dental office typically requires an associate's degree, though a certificate may be accepted in some cases. In order to go into research, public health or teaching, dental hygienists usually need to hold bachelor's or master's degrees.

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