Before enrolling in a dental hygienist training program, there are a few standards that aspiring dental hygienists need to meet. These include prerequisite coursework, application requirements like a background check, and possibly some job shadowing.
Prerequisites and Admission Requirements
Students may most commonly earn an associate's degree in dental hygiene at a vocational, community or 4-year college. There are a variety of prerequisites and general admission requirements for those seeking to start at a dental hygiene school. These include prerequisite courses, standardized test scores and CPR certification, to name a few.
Dental hygiene programs, offered at both 2- and 4-year secondary schools, usually require a high school diploma or GED equivalent. Applicants may also need to have a minimum high school grade point average. Schools may also require the following application materials to be submitted:
- High school transcripts
- Letters of recommendation
- Background check
- Documentation of medical insurance
- Documentation of current immunizations
- Proof of CPR certification
Some prerequisite classes may be in order if the student has not taken them in high school or if he or she has not taken them in a certain period of time between high school and applying for dental hygiene school. Prerequisite courses often require a 'C' average, though some schools may require a 'B' average. Classes usually required for students wishing to enter dental hygiene school may include'
- Laboratory biology
- Laboratory chemistry
At some schools, the student may have to observe in a dental office environment, watching the work of both a hygienist and a dentist for a certain number of hours before being admitted. The easiest way to find the possible observation prerequisites for different schools is to check out each school's official website.
College Placement Tests
Students applying for dental hygiene programs often need to take the same placement tests as those applying to other 4-year colleges or universities. This may include the SAT and/or ACT test. For those who aren't native English speakers, an ESL exam may be required. Some schools may also require the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS). This exam focuses on the skills often required of healthcare professionals.
Career Overview and Outlook
Dental hygienists are healthcare workers who assist dentists through tasks requiring some amount of skill, but less so than the work conducted by dentists. Some of the tasks performed by dental hygienists that are learned during dental hygiene school include polishing patients' teeth, applying anesthetic, performing X-rays and educating patients on how to better take care of their oral health.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of dental hygienist jobs is predicted to grow 19% from 2014-2024, which is much faster than the national average for other careers. This increase is due to the growing attention paid to oral health, as well as increased accessibility to healthcare due to federal reforms.
Aspiring dental hygienists need to fulfill high school academic requirements and prepare an application before they can apply for a training program that prepares them for the career.