Dental Tech Hygiene: Overview of Adult School Programs

Jan 02, 2019

Dental hygiene programs are most commonly available at the associate's degree level at technical schools, community colleges and universities. Completing a program is required for licensure to work as a dental hygienist. Learn about degree program components, licensure and career prospects.

Students wishing to become dental hygienists can find program information here. We also explore a couple of school options and some of the common courses available.

Program Information

In order to work as a dental hygienist, you'll most likely need an associate's degree in dental hygiene and get licensed in your state. Adult learners who do not wish to enroll in a full-time degree program can also choose from certificate programs, which can be completed in a year or even less. These programs are primarily offered on-campus, as much of the training and coursework requires hands-on learning.

In an associate's degree program, you'll typically spend two years taking coursework in general education and dentistry, as well as participate in several clinical experiences to gain hands-on practice performing the tasks of a dental hygienist. For example, you'll learn to take x-rays, clean teeth, show patients how to floss and brush their teeth, manage patient treatment plans and apply sealants. The programs featured below highlight a certificate and an associate's degree program.

Programs At a Glance

Dental hygiene associate's degree

  • This undergraduate degree program takes about two years to complete.
  • The program is offered on-campus.

Pre-Dental Hygiene Certificate

  • This is a one-year undergraduate program.
  • The program is available on-campus.

Fairfax County Public Schools

Located in Northern Virginia, this public school system offers dental training as part of its ACE Certificate Programs. The Dental Assistant Comprehensive program focuses on dental terminology and theory, and also provides students with clinical skills. Students can register online at any time and must be 18 years or older for adult education classes.

First Aid Course

This course teaches students about the basics of medical care in the event of a medical emergency in a clinical setting. Students will learn techniques for children and adults, and receive their American Heart Association Certification card that is valid for 2 years.

Dentrix Basics Course

Students in this course will receive an introduction to Dentrix, one of the leading software programs used in a dental practice setting. Students learn to use this program to schedule, chart, order supplies, print reminders and more.

Heartsaver CPR Course

Continuing the theme of being prepared for medical emergencies, this course supplements techniques and ideas learned in the first aid course by teaching students how to perform CPR on an ill or injured patient. This course also includes practice with Automatic External Defibrillation (AED) and choking training.

Harrisburg Area Community College

This Pennsylvania-based school offers an Associate in Arts degree in Dental Hygiene. Graduates from this program will be become eligible for licensing exams to become Registered Dental Hygienists (RDH). The school also provides continuing education courses for licensed dental hygienists in various topics, such as local anesthesia, that are offered on weekends.

Clinical Experience Course

As important as understanding theory can be, hands-on experience is a valuable part of dental hygienist training. This course provides students with valuable work experience in a clinical setting. Students learn how to do things like offer nutritional counseling, work with sealants and provide other preventative oral care.

Dental Materials Course

This course examines the uses and applications of the various tools and implements that dental hygienists are expected to work with throughout their careers. This includes constructing sportsguards/fluoride trays/bleaching trays, taking impressions and making models and placing and removing rubber dams.

Pain Control Techniques Course

This course instructs students on how to help patients manage pain and discomfort during or resulting from potentially uncomfortable dental procedures. Students also learn about the physics of radiation, proper exposure techniques and infection control.

Aspiring dental hygienists can pursue certificate or associate's degree programs in the field, but these programs are primarily offered on-campus as they require extensive hands-on training and clinical work. Graduates of these programs are eligible to sit for certification in the field.

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