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What Are the Different Types of Dental Hygiene Colleges?

By YaShekia King
Updated May 17, 2024
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A dental hygienist is a health care professional who cleans teeth and teaches patients how to maintain healthy gums and teeth. To become a dental hygienist, an individual must complete at least two years of college training, but can end up achieving six years of instruction. A wide variety of dental hygiene colleges are available for students depending on how long they wish to attend classes or what their long-term career goals are.

One type of the several dental hygiene colleges available is a college that offers associate degrees in dental hygiene. These degree programs last two years and typically are the minimum requirement to acquire a dental hygiene job. To get into this type of program, a student must have a high school diploma or the equivalent certification, as well as submit a transcript of past courses and an application for admission. He or she also has to complete prerequisite courses, such as anatomy and physiology, as well as communications and psychology. Dental hygiene-specific courses cover topics including oral anatomy, pharmacology, and dental radiography.

Dental hygiene colleges also include institutions that award four-year bachelor’s degrees. Four-year programs prepare students to not only become practicing dental hygienists, but also to work in roles that allow them to prepare health plans, perform research, or teach at the college level. Enrolling in a four-year dental hygiene program is possible if you have a high school diploma or the equivalent certification. In addition, some schools offer what are considered bachelor’s degree completion programs, which allow dental hygienists who have only an associate degree to earn their bachelor’s degrees in just a couple of years. Topics such as dental materials and the proper way to administer local anesthesia are topics in four-year degree program courses.

Master’s degree programs additionally are an option for aspiring dental hygienists. Dental hygiene colleges that offer these two-year programs prepare students to enter high-level roles in college education, research, and administration. Requirements to enter a master’s degree program in the dental hygiene field include having a bachelor’s degree and submitting an essay explaining why graduate school is important. Students also usually must present recommendation letters and a current resume, along with a current dental hygiene license and transcripts of past courses taken. Graduate colleges in dental hygiene require students to complete a research thesis project and take classes in pain control and classroom instruction.

Online colleges are yet another type of the many dental hygiene colleges in existence. A student at the master’s degree level or a pupil who is doing a bachelor’s degree completion program and has already finished the clinical requirements can complete an online program. Class topics such as periodontology — the study of gum disease — and nutrition are part of an online program. Distance education colleges allow students to access coursework 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and thus work at their own pace. Pupils interact with classmates and instructors via online discussion boards and e-mail.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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