Dental hygienists belong to one of the most rapidly growing professions in the world and dental hygienist schools experience an increasing interest in the education and career opportunities for dental hygienists. But where exactly are the dental hygienist schools and what can you learn there?
Dental Hygienist Schools
In the US dental hygienist schools mostly include community colleges and technical colleges that offer 2-year programmes in dental hygiene, leading to an associate’s degree. It is also possible to take a 4-year bachelor degree at the university and some dental hygienist schools even offer a master’s degree. The difference between the 2- and the 4-year programme is that the bachelor degree includes courses in e.g. psychology, sociology, chemistry, biology, nutrition and more. While the associate’s degree is adequate for landing a job in a clinic, the bachelor also opens opportunities to work within dental education, administration, research etc.
After completing an education at a Dental Hygienist School, a dental hygienist earns the right to add ‘RDH’ (Registered Dental Hygienist) before his or her name. A hygienist must be licensed in the state that she or he wishes to practice.
Dental Hygienist Schools’ requirements for admission
- Minimum age 18
- High school diploma or GED
- High school courses in English, math, biology and chemistry
- Minimum grade average: C
- College entrance exam scores
Dental Hygienist qualifications
The clinical qualifications gained through an associate’s degree (minimum) at dental hygienist schools include:
- Oral examinations in the clinic (incl. gathering information about patients’ oral and medical health history).
- Teeth cleaning and polishing
- Oral profylaxis (adding sealants and fluorides to teeth)
- Taking, developing and assessing oral x-rays
- Dental hygiene instruction (teaching patients how to care for their teeth)
- Taking impressions and making models of teeth
In some American States as well as in many European countries the qualifications of dental hygienists (and thus the programmes at dental hygienist schools) are expanding to include disciplines such as:
- Polishing fillings and metal restorations
- Administering anesthetics
- Preparing laboratory and clinical tests for the dentist to assess
- Removing and placing fillings and periodontal dressings
There are many resources on the Internet offering lists of Dental Hygiene Schools. The American Dental Hygienist Association is also an excellent source of information for dental hygienists and others interested in information about dental hygiene education.