Helping Patients With Their Oral Health Needs: Dental Hygiene

Does the thought of helping people to prevent or treat oral diseases sound like an appealing career to you? Would you like to work as part of a team and experience the personal fulfillment of providing a valuable health care service to patients? If so, then a degree in dental hygiene could put you on the track for a career as a dental hygienist. This career doesn't just mean that you can become a respected and valued member of an oral health care team, but typically also provides a lot of variety and flexibility.

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Dental Hygiene Degree Information

Associate of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene

This type of associate degree program is typically the minimum requirement for anyone interested in working as a dental hygienist. This type of degree typically takes about two years to complete. Courses for this degree may include Dental Health Safety, Dental Radiography, Dental Hygiene Process, Nutrition and Dental Health, Dental Materials, Dental Pharmacology and Community Dental Health.

Bachelor of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene

The Bachelor of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene is a degree program that can be completed online and is useful for licensed dental hygienists who would like to progress from their associate to a bachelor's degree and enhance their career opportunities. This type of degree can typically be completed in about 24 months and major core courses may include Dental Hygiene Educational Concepts, Contemporary Issues in Dental Hygiene, Advanced Periodontics, Advanced Ethics in Dental Hygiene and Dental Hygiene Practice Management. This degree usually also requires the completion of a dental hygiene capstone.

Master of Science in Dental Hygiene

Students with a bachelors degree who would like to enhance their career prospects, conduct research or work in administrative positions can also complete a Master of Science in Dental Hygiene degree. This type of degree can be done primarily online and may include core courses in Research Methods in Health Sciences, Instructional Strategies for Effective Teaching And Grant Writing for Health Professionals as well as courses from an education track curriculum or management track curriculum.


While the requirements might vary by state, all the states in America require dental hygienists to be licensed. In general, you need to have a degree from an accredited dental hygiene program as well as pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination in addition to the specific board examination of your state. Further requirements, such as letters of recommendation, CPR certification and a background check may also be needed depending on your state.

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Dental Hygiene Degree FAQ

Is It Possible To Earn A Dental Hygiene Degree Online?

Earning your dental hygiene degree online is a convenient option for students who are already working and unable to take time off to attend a campus based class or for people who have other obligations, such as their families. There are a number of dental hygiene degree completion courses as well as degrees in dental hygiene and related disciplines that can be completed online. Many of these degrees are also designed to assist licensed dental hygienists to expand their knowledge and enhance their career prospects. To access course materials for online degree programs you typically only need a computer or laptop with an internet connection. Online degrees are also much easier to fit into your personal schedule compared to campus based classes. Online learning experiences for this type of degree may be synchronous and asynchronous.

Who Is An Ideal Candidate To Study Dental Hygiene?

In addition to being interested in a career as a dental hygienist, there are also a couple of vital qualities that are required for this type of profession. One of the most important of these is fine motor skills as you may be required to not only use precise tools and instruments, but typically have to do so in tight quarters. Your interpersonal skills should also be very good as many patients are anxious about dental treatment and will need reassuring. This is also why your communication skills should be good as you'll not only talk to patients about the status of their oral health, but will also have to communicate with dentists. Finally, you need to be very detail oriented for this line of work and must also have good critical thinking skills for performing evaluations and assessments. If you are still in high school, then courses in math, chemistry and biology can be very beneficial for this career path.

What Type of Career Options May Be Available With This Type of Degree?

Most students who complete a dental hygiene degree go on to become dental hygienists. However, apart from private dental offices, dental hygienists may also find employment at hospitals, dental schools, as well as research facilities and advanced practices. Although you typically only need an associates degree in order to become a dental hygienists, some people also go on to earn a bachelor's or even master's degree for career paths such as researchers, program directors or oral disease prevention specialists.

What Type of Responsibilities Might I Have?

Dental hygienists typically have a number of different responsibilities. In addition to advising patients about proper oral care, they also tend to use different tools. These tools are used to perform actions such as removing stains from teeth or for polishing the teeth. In addition, dental hygienists might be required to take and develop x rays of patients in order to scan for problems with their tooth or jaws. Finally, dental hygienists might have to assess the oral health of patients in order to convey this information to dentists.

How Much Can I Potentially Earn With A Dental Hygiene Degree?

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that dental hygienists earns a median annual wage of about $72,910. While the lowest 10 percent of people employed in this occupation earned less than $50,70, this number can be in excess of $100,170 for the highest ten percent. In general, dental hygienists who work in the offices of dentists earn the most, followed by those working in offices of physicians and then those employed by the government.

The job outlook for dental hygienists is generally quite positive as the BLS estimated a projected growth of 20 percent for this occupation until 2026, which is faster than the average of other occupations. This demand is driven by the aging population of baby-boomers. Thanks to links between general health and oral health, people are also more likely to opt for oral hygiene services, which can further drive demand. While the demand for dental hygienists are growing, so is the number of new graduates, which means a degree can be a big advantage in this competitive environment. Dental hygienists who are willing to work in rural areas will also have better job prospects as these places typically have less access to dental care.

What Are The Other Advantages of Earning A Dental Hygiene Degree?

Earning your dental hygiene degree and working as a dental hygienist is a great choice if you enjoy interacting with different people on a daily basis while helping them to improve their oral health. In addition, this type of career comes with a lot of personal fulfillment as you'll be providing a valuable service to patients.

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