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Dental Hygienist Course and Class Descriptions

Dental hygienists assist dentists in performing routine oral maintenance tasks and educating patients about dental health. An associate's degree is normally what aspiring dental hygienists earn; however, some pursue a bachelor's or master's degree if they want to teach dental hygiene, work in management or do research.

Essential Information

Programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels typically incorporate a practicum, such as supervised clinical practice for undergraduate programs or student teaching for a master's program. Upon completion of an undergraduate dental hygiene program, students should be qualified to apply for state licensure. Graduate students normally possess licensure and are studying for career advancement.

Undergraduate dental hygiene programs include introductory coursework that teaches students about the equipment they will use and the procedures they will perform as dental hygienists. Hands-on practice will teach students to clean teeth, apply substances like fluoride and provide patients with instruction on oral hygiene.

Students in bachelor's and master's programs in dental hygiene normally take additional courses on practice management, statistics and dental research. Master's programs may have concentration coursework in a field like education or public health.

Some common topics covered in courses for dental hygienists might be:

  • Contemporary issues in dental hygiene
  • State licensing requirements
  • Leadership
  • Oral anatomy
  • Radiography
  • Nutrition and oral health

List of Dental Hygienist Courses

Theory and Practice Course in Dental Hygiene

A course in the theory and practice of dental hygiene is typically required at the beginning of a dental hygienist program as an introductory or overview course. Students learn about dental equipment, sanitation issues and the procedures performed by dental hygienists. Data collection and infection control are also covered. This course might be comprised of both lecture and laboratory work.

Oral Physiology and Anatomy Course

All dental hygiene programs require students to study the anatomy and physiology of the oral cavity. In this course, students learn about teeth and supporting structures, including roots and primary and permanent teeth. Other topics covered include nomenclature, annotation, calcification and exfoliation patterns. Some dental hygiene programs offer anatomy and physiology courses that integrate classroom and laboratory work, providing students with hands-on opportunities.

Oral Pathology Course

An oral pathology course teaches future dental hygienist about the diseases and disease symptoms that are commonly found in the oral cavity. The course covers microorganisms, inflammation and immunology. Students also learn identification techniques for recognizing abnormal oral conditions. A pathology course for dental hygiene students might also cover patient diagnosis and treatment methods.

Periodontal Course

Students learn about the periodontal structure and the diseases and infections commonly encountered by dental hygienists. Topics covered include gingivitis and bacterial-induced oral afflictions. Through lectures and lab work, students learn how to diagnosis and treat periodontal disease. Measures that patients can use to prevent the onslaught of disease are also covered. Some courses examine the dental hygienist's role in the treatment of periodontal disease, including surgical and chemotherapeutic treatments. This course is sometimes taken concurrently with anesthesia and dental nutrition courses


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