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What are the Different Dental Hygienist Programs?

There are many great dental hygienist programs across the United States.

You can enroll in one of three options, but no matter which one you choose, it needs to be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. This means the program and faculty meet certain quality standards.

Certificate Program

Certificate programs generally take nine to twelve months to complete and are meant to supplement a student’s existing degree such as an Associate degree in a different healthcare field. You can find such a program at community or career colleges, and courses only relate to dental hygiene. They may include:

Dental Hygiene Theory and Practice – This course discusses the dental hygiene career as a concept and may include hands-on instruction in a clinical setting.

Histology – During this life science course, students learn the cellular anatomy of living organisms.

Oral Microbiology – This course centers on the study of cellular organisms such as bacteria.

Oral Pathology – This is the study of disease and it centers on diseases of the gums, mouth, and teeth.

Associate of Science in Dental Hygiene

This is the most common degree attained by dental hygienists. It takes about two years to complete and classes that focus on dental hygiene may include:

Current Concepts in Dental Materials – The physical properties of dental materials and the basic preparation principles, including manipulating impression materials and composites in a laboratory setting.

Dental Anatomy, Histology, and Embryology – This is the study of function, form, and comparative anatomy of primary and permanent teeth, tooth numbering, and definition periods. It also covers the embryologic development of the neck, face, and orofacial structures, as well as the histologic study of the oral mucosa, gingiva, and the attachment apparatus.

Dental Hygiene Fundamentals – This course reinforces clinical skills learned during the first term with a focus on patient assessment, principles of instrumentation, and radiologic technique.

Local Anesthesia and Pain Management – During this course, students study the anatomy, pharmacological and psychological aspects, systemic complications, and medical emergencies that relate to pain management in the dental environment.

Preventive Oral Health Services – This course is an introduction to dental hygiene practices including professionalism, vital signs, medical history, oral inspection, oral accretions, preventative oral health, a technique for oral prophylaxis, and medical emergencies.

Radiology – Students learn about the history and development of x-rays, their nature and properties, safety precautions, and uses of x-rays in dentistry.

dental hygienist programs


Bachelor of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene 

Most students who complete a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene intend to practice in public health or school programs or pursue academic and research careers. While courses vary by school, typical classes include:

Advanced Ethics in Dental Hygiene – This course explores the ethical behavior in different hygiene settings.

Advanced Periodontics – During Advanced Periodontics, students expand their existing knowledge of current concepts in assessment, etiology, treatment planning, and risk factors.

Dental Hygiene Educational Concepts – Designed to give students an introduction to educational concepts and theory relating to dental hygiene education. Topics include course development and design, learning styles and motivation, and principles of learning.

Health Care Risk Management – Students learn the concepts, principles, and theories of healthcare risk management.

Issues in Mental Health – During this course, students examine the concepts of mental health and mental disorders within different social contexts.

Legal Aspects of Healthcare – Students are given an overview of legal foundations in a multidisciplinary healthcare marketplace within the United States.

Substance Abuse and Family – This course gives an overview of the basic processes of substance use, addiction, abuse, treatment, and recovery.

If you would like more information regarding dental hygienist programs, please contact us. We’ll be glad to help you decide which option is right for you.