Associate of Applied Science (AAS) programs in dental hygiene offer classroom study and clinical training in basic dental care techniques. Students receive training in X-ray procedures, oral examinations and teeth cleaning. Those who want to become dental hygienists should be sure to enroll in programs accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). In order to apply to one of these two-year programs, students must have a high school diploma or the equivalent, and they usually need to have taken previous coursework in biology, anatomy, physiology, chemistry, and English, although specific prerequisites vary by program.
Associate of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene
Students pursuing the AAS dental hygiene degree learn the basics of dental care, as well as how to use diagnostic technology related to dental hygiene. Graduates are often prepared to provide dental cleaning services, educate patients on healthy dental habits, diagnose problems related to the teeth or gums and communicate effectively with patients and dental staff. Basic courses in an associate's degree program include:
- Preventative dentistry
- Dental radiology
- Dental pharmacology
- Anatomy and physiology
Popular Career Options
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected the employment of dental hygienists to rise by 19% from 2014-2024, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. Demand is expected to grow because more patients are becoming interested in preventive dental care, primarily due to recent scientific research findings that link oral health to general wellness. These professionals earned a mean wage of $72,720 in May 2015. Dental hygienists can find career opportunities in:
- Hospital dental clinics
- Nursing homes
- Pharmaceutical sales
- Private dental offices
- Military installations
Licensure and Continuing Education Information
All states require dental hygienists to be licensed. The American Dental Association (ADA) provides licensure though a clinical and written exam. Associate's degree holders may also choose to further their education by enrolling in bachelor's degree and master's degree programs in dental hygiene. A bachelor's degree program usually expands on dental hygiene subjects and includes coursework in psychology, epidemiology and health education. Some bachelor's degree programs incorporate liberal arts coursework to improve the critical thinking skills of dental hygienists. A master's degree program provides students the advanced coursework and research skills to teach in dental hygienist programs.
To summarize, an AAS in Dental Hygiene program provides the scientific education and technical skills students need to work in began a career as a dental hygienist. CODA-accredited programs prepare students to earn licensure through the American Dental Association, which is required in all states.