Associate of Science (AS): Dental Hygiene Degree Overview

Oct 15, 2019

An Associate of Science (AS) in Dental Hygiene program prepares a student to enter the dental field as an assistant or hygienist. Find out more about these programs and what students can do when they finish.

Essential Information

In AS in Dental Hygiene programs, students are taught techniques pertinent to assisting dentists in the care of patients. They also learn to teach patients proper tooth and gum care. Prior to graduation, students are expected to get real-world experience though fieldwork. Most programs take about two years to complete. After finishing a program, a graduate needs to meet state requirements, which often includes passing a national examination to obtain a license.

Students need a high school diploma or equivalent for admission. Applicants may also have to complete special testing in the areas of spatial perception and manual dexterity. Some schools may require students to have documented proof of observation hours spent with a dental hygienist or work experience in a dental office.

Associate of Science in Dental Hygiene

Programs typically cover how to remove deposits from tooth surfaces, provide oral physiotherapy, work with dental radiographs and educate patients in oral health care. Dental hygienist programs typically include a large number of laboratory courses. Students may also complete a practicum and/or an independent research project. Topics studied in a program may include:

  • Dental biology, radiation, practice principles and hygiene concepts
  • Periodontics and pharmacology
  • Medical law and ethics
  • Oral pathology
  • Dental materials and equipment
  • Dental care concepts

Popular Career Options

Most students, upon completing a dental hygienist associate program, become dental hygienists working in dental care offices. A graduate may also decide to become a dental assistant. However, students may also find careers in the following areas:

  • Research
  • Military service
  • Educational facilities
  • Public health programs

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an 11% growth rate for dental hygienists from 2018 to 2028. This rate is much faster than average and is partly due to demand for the services hygienists can provide. As of May 2018, the median wage for a dental hygienist was $74,820, according to the BLS.

Continuing Education Information

Most programs give students the needed instruction to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination and meet state requirements for licensing as a dental hygienist. Students may decide to advance their education in the area of dental hygiene to expand their job possibilities in the field. Students can pursue work outside of dental offices in public health, teaching or corporate business by obtaining a bachelor's or master's degree in dental hygiene.

Aspiring dental hygienists can get the general education and basic dentistry training they need by completing an AS program in dental hygiene. Graduates of these programs can pursue dental hygienist licensure as well as bachelor's degrees in relevant fields.

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