How Long Does Dental Hygiene School Take?

Dental hygienists are healthcare workers who examine a patient’s teeth and undertake such procedures as removing plaque and stains, teaching patients the proper way to brush and floss and giving other forms of preventative dental care. Because of the tremendous employment opportunities in the coming years and the decent wages offered by this profession, those who are interested in a healthcare career will find working towards a dental hygienist degree to be very promising.

There are various educational paths that can prepare one for this career. Many dental hygienists are able to get entry-level work with an associate’s degree in dental hygiene. This normally takes two years to complete and is the most common path to break into this profession. Although less common, taking up a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene is another educational preparation for this career. A bachelor’s degree takes four years to complete. Those who are interested not only in having their own clinical practice but in teaching students enrolled in dental hygiene programs or even doing their own research in the field can proceed to take a master’s degree in dental hygiene. This can take an additional one to two years to complete. Those who wish to work in public health agencies or public schools may need to obtain at least a bachelor’s degree.

Dental hygiene programs cover general education courses in addition to lessons about gums, teeth and dental procedures. Some of the courses taken in dental hygiene school include general and oral pathology, dental hygiene theory, clinical dental hygiene, dental histology, periodontal studies, dental radiology, pharmacology and pain management in dental hygiene practice. Dental hygiene schools don’t only teach students theory but also enable them to get exposed to actual practice by giving them laboratory and clinical experience as well.

While dental hygiene programs provide intensive and thorough preparation, those who are intent on becoming dental hygienists can start preparing while they are still in high school. Strengthening one’s science background is highly-recommended so taking up courses in biology and chemistry would provide ample preparation for dental hygiene school. Courses in math are also recommended.

After completing a dental hygiene program, graduates still need to work towards obtaining their license so they can practice the profession. To be able to do so, they need to pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, clinical exams and a state exam. They also need to comply with other requirements such as obtaining letters of recommendation from practicing dentists and proof of training for cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The entire licensing process can take anywhere from three to six months to finish. Since each state has their own specific requirements, a dental hygienist who is already licensed in one state may need to follow the licensing process in another state when he decides to move his practice there. The health or medical board of each state provides more specific licensing requirements.

Career Spotlight: Dental Hygienist

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