How Dental Hygienist Schools Lead to a Career in Oral Care

If you're pursuing a career in dental hygiene, the first thing you'll do is look into dental hygienist schools. And with over 345 across the U.S., you'll find them located in community colleges and in dental schools alike. Whether current students are pursuing an associate or a bachelor degree in dental hygiene, they tend to enroll in both types of programs as small groups. Are you interested in pursuing this profession? Be sure to consider the following three things:

What You'll Receive

The majority of community college programs take about two years to complete. Upon completion, graduates receive an associate's degree, affording them the means to take a licensure examination – national and state – and, with the right score, work in a dental or specialty office as a provider of preventative oral care. University-based dental hygiene schools also offer bachelor degrees, which certain states deem necessary for a career in teaching, research, professional sales and employment in various public health programs. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), dental hygienist schools typically offer a clinical education in the form of supervised patient dental care treatment.

What You'll Study

Course-wise, those pursuing a career in dental hygiene take general education or liberal arts classes in subjects like english and psychology, basic sciences like anatomy and chemistry, as well as applied sciences such as radiology and dental materials. Each one complements the more specific lab experiences your curriculum is built on, allowing you to become the most well-rounded healthcare professional you can be.

What You'll Invest

According to data gathered by the American Dental Hygienists' Association, the average associate's degree costs $22,692, whereas the average bachelor's costs $36,382. Of course, a smaller community school might charge less than a city-based dental hygienist school. Aside from tuition, consider the cost of instruments and clinical lab supplies to which you'll have regular access, as well. This may include hand mirrors, scaling tools, a cart with drawers, safety glasses, lab coats, disposable gloves and face masks, a handpiece and dental typodonts.

These upfront cost may sound a bit overwhelming, but the doors a degree in dental hygiene will open for you make all the hard work and saving worthwhile. Not only do dental hygienists do well for themselves long-term, but they also get to help people just like them. You won't just be responsible for cleaning your patients' teeth, but for their oral and overall health, too. Hand a little girl her first toothbrush or recommend a product like Colgate Sensitive Maximum Strength® Toothpaste with Whitening to someone with sensitive teeth, and you're making a lasting impact on someone's life – not just their smile.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Each tooth has several distinct parts; here is an overview of each part:

  • Enamel – this is the outer and hardest part of the tooth that has the most mineralized tissue in the body. It can be damaged by decay if teeth are not cared for properly.

  • Dentin – this is the layer of the tooth under the enamel. If decay makes it through the enamel, it next attacks the dentin — where millions of tiny tubes lead directly to the dental pulp.

  • Pulp – this is the soft tissue found in the center of all teeth, where the nerve tissue and blood vessels are located. If tooth decay reaches the pulp, you usually feel pain and may require a root canal procedure.