Dental Hygienist Education Requirements

Once deciding on a career in dental hygiene, it is important that you understand the educational requirements you will need to enter the clinical program, as well as what is required after graduation. Your education in oral healthcare is one that will continue to evolve throughout your career as a student and as a licensed clinician. Here is what you can expect:

Requirements to Enter the Dental Hygiene Program

Prerequisites

The dental hygiene curriculum often requires a candidate to have completed a high school degree and provide a favorable score on the standardized college entrance exam. They will also require collegiate level courses in Mathematics, Anatomy, Biology, Chemistry, Biochemistry and English, usually completed before applying to your school of choice. Each school has a different set of educational prerequisites and should be referenced before taking courses and applying. Talking with the program director or program associates about the prerequisites needed would be ideal in planning your future dental hygiene career.

Entry-Level Curriculum Basics

The curriculum during the entry-level dental hygiene program will give you basic and specialized skills that will help in becoming a licensed dental hygienist. The coursework includes head and neck anatomy, oral pathology, radiography, periodontology, and dental materials. You will also be completing supervised clinical time, where you will be working directly on patients. Both are needed in order to complete your education and continue seeking your licensure. Some facility will require outside clinical time, such as working in community health or other types of clinical rotations.

It is important to note that your clinical time involves semester goals involving specific types of patients. Each semester, you will need to complete specific clinical procedures on patients for credit. This will include: a certain number of subcalculus, supracalculus, specific teeth instrumented, as well as special needs patients and those whom are medically compromised. You should also be aware that meeting these clinical requirements are the student’s responsibility. This means, you are in charge of finding your own patients to meet the clinical requirements that particular semester.

Throughout your clinical education, there will certain evaluations that will need to be completed in order to pass each semester. Your clinic instructor will be supervising you directly as you perform these evaluations during your clinical education. These evaluations are to be completed by direct supervision before performing the procedure on your clinical patients. The evaluations include: proper instrumentation, using the correct instrument in all areas of the mouth, clinical charting, periodontal evaluations, radiography and specialized instruments and techniques.

Completion of Dental Hygiene Prerequisites

Once you have successfully completed all class and clinical requirements, you will be ready to apply for your regional board exam and national board exam. You will have to have specialized documentation that states these prerequisites are completed in order to apply. The regional board exam and national board exams have different criteria for documentation regarding your completion of the dental hygiene program. It is important to note that the documentation should be thoroughly evaluated before exams are to be taken. Missing documentation or requirements on the day of the exam could mean you are ineligible to proceed and will need to apply for a different exam date.