Keeping the teeth clean is a full-time occupation, and this is why dental hygienists are always in demand. A bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene can help you become a full-fledged dental hygienist, and it also gives you the opportunity to advance your studies and become a dentist.
This degree, however, already gives you a lot of training so you can be immediately employed even without proceeding to dentistry. You’ll know how to examine and clean the teeth and gums of your patients, evaluate conditions and identify diseases, and teach people how to care properly for their teeth and gums at home. It has a lot more responsibility than being a dental assistant or a dental lab technician.
To enter a dental hygiene university program, you need a high school diploma although if you have an associate’s degree then it can also help. Subjects you should take and should be good at include algebra, chemistry, and laboratory biology. Some universities may also require you to have some observation hours or actual experience in a dental office before you can be accepted.
As a university student, you’ll study dental science along with other science courses. You’ll also get some clinical and laboratory training. After taking some basic science courses, you’ll study dental subjects like dental specialties, periodontology, dental morphology, and oral radiology. Other subjects include local anesthesia, pharmacology, anatomy, and physiology.
The vast majority of graduates tend to think about working as a dental hygienist in a clinic. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs in the field of dental hygiene is expected to grow by 38% from 2010 to 2020. That’s because of the increase in population, better dental care that leads to more elderly people retaining their teeth, and a growing realization among the population about the importance of dental hygiene.
In 2011, the mean income for dental hygienists was just a little less than $70,000. However, to be a dental hygienist you need to graduate from an accredited school and you need to pass the licensure exams to be fully certified. Each state has its own licensure requirements.
You can also work for government health departments or in research for private companies which produce dental products. For example, a private company that manufactures dental medicines or dental cleaning tools can benefit from your expertise.
Best Schools to Get a Dental Hygiene Degree
Arguably the best university in the US that offers a Bachelor’s Degree in Dental Hygiene is the University of Southern California (USC). Its School of Dentistry was founded way back in 1897. Next on the list is University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, where a master’s degree is also possible to get afterwards.
Other notable schools for dental hygiene include New York University, the University of Maryland – College Park, the University of Tennessee, the University of North Carolina, the University of Oklahoma – Norman, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Ohio State University.