Dental hygiene is a crucial aspect of oral health. It involves the maintenance and improvement of oral hygiene through regular cleanings and preventive care. As a result, dental hygiene programs have become increasingly popular, especially in California.
California boasts some of the best dental hygiene schools in the country, offering students comprehensive education and training to become licensed dental hygienists. However, before diving into the different programs available in California, let’s understand what dental hygiene entails.
What is Dental Hygiene?
Dental hygiene refers to the practice of maintaining optimal oral health through regular preventative measures such as brushing and flossing. These practices help to prevent tooth decay, gum disease, bad breath, and other oral health conditions.
Dental hygienists are licensed professionals who work with dentists to provide treatment for patients. They perform various tasks aimed at promoting optimal oral health such as cleaning teeth, taking x-rays, assessing teeth and gums for any abnormalities or diseases, applying fluoride treatments and sealants, educating patients on proper oral self-care techniques and referring patients to dentists when needed.
Dental hygienist jobs are expected to grow at a rate of 20% through 2026 due to an increasing demand for healthcare services in general. This makes it an excellent career choice for anyone interested in pursuing a career within the dental industry.
Dental Hygiene Programs in California
California has some of the best dental hygiene schools in America that offer comprehensive education designed to prepare students for careers as licensed dental hygienists. Some of these schools include:
University of Southern California (USC)
The USC Ostrow School of Dentistry offers one of the most elite programs for students looking to pursue a career in dental hygiene. The program offers students hands-on clinical experience working with some of Los Angeles’ top-rated dentists while earning an associate or bachelor’s degree.
University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)
UCSF’s School of Dentistry offers a comprehensive program focused on preparing students to become licensed dental hygienists. The program includes coursework in oral anatomy, radiology, pharmacology, and patient management.
West Coast University
West Coast University pairs academic education and clinical experience to create a dynamic and thorough dental hygiene program. Students at West Coast University receive hands-on training with digital radiography, allowing them to gain more practical exposure during their education.
Concorde Career College
Concorde Career College offers an associate of applied science degree in dental hygiene. This 20-month program combines classroom learning with hands-on experience in dental clinics for students looking for a quicker route into the workforce.
How to Choose a Dental Hygiene Program
Choosing the right dental hygiene program is critical if you want to excel in your career as a dental hygienist. When making this choice, you need to consider factors such as:
Ensure that the school is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. Accreditation ensures that the programs offered meet specific standards set by industry regulators.
Dental hygiene programs can be costly. Look for schools that offer financial aid options like scholarships, grants or student loans to offset some of the costs associated with training and schooling.
The importance of clinical experience cannot be overemphasized when it comes to dental hygiene programs. Seek out institutions that prioritize hands-on clinical experience as part of their curriculum.
Faculty Credentials & Reputation
Opt for schools with experienced faculty members who are knowledgeable about current advances in technology and techniques used within the industry. It is also essential to research what employers think of graduates from each respective school.
Location plays a vital role in choosing a suitable dental hygiene program. Opting for nearby schools will save you time and money throughout your educational journey.
As oral health continues to gain importance, dental hygiene programs are becoming more relevant than ever before. With some of the best dental hygiene schools in the country located in California, students have a wide range of options to choose from when pursuing a career in dental hygiene.
Choosing a quality dental hygiene program requires careful consideration of factors such as accreditation, clinical experience, financial aid options available, faculty credentials and reputation, and convenience. By keeping these factors in mind and doing proper research, aspiring dental hygienists can get their careers off to an excellent start.
What are the requirements to get into a dental hygiene program in California?
To enter a dental hygiene program in California, you must have a high school diploma or equivalent, complete specific prerequisite courses, pass an entrance exam, and meet other application requirements.
How long does it take to complete a dental hygiene program in California?
The duration of a dental hygiene program in California varies depending on the school and its schedule. Generally, it takes about two years of full-time study to complete an associate’s degree program and four years for a bachelor’s degree program.
What kind of classes will I take in a dental hygiene program?
A typical dental hygiene curriculum includes courses such as anatomy, physiology, microbiology, oral pathology, radiography, pharmacology, periodontology, and clinical practice. You may also learn about patient education and public health practices related to oral health.
Can I work as a dental hygienist in California without completing an accredited program?
No. In California, you need to graduate from an approved dental hygiene program and pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination along with additional state-specific licensing exams to become licensed to work as a dental hygienist.
Are there any online dental hygiene programs available in California?
There are some hybrid and online programs that offer didactic coursework online but require students to attend hands-on labs on campus or at off-site clinics. However, keep in mind that many clinical aspects of the profession require hands-on practice under supervision rather than just theoretical knowledge.
How much does it cost to get a degree from a dental hygiene program in California?
The cost of tuition for a dental hygiene program can vary depending on the institution you choose. Private schools generally charge more than public institutions or community colleges; however, scholarships or financial aid may help ease the financial burden.
What kind of job opportunities will be available to me after completing a dental hygiene program in California?
Graduates of dental hygiene programs in California may find employment in private dental offices, public health clinics, hospitals, research facilities, and educational institutions. Some may also choose to work as consultants or educators in industries related to oral health care.
How can I make myself stand out when applying for a dental hygiene program in California?
To enhance your chances of being accepted into a dental hygiene program, make sure to have strong grades in prerequisite courses, gain relevant clinical experience through internships or volunteer work, participate in extracurricular activities related to the field, and write a compelling personal statement.
What is the job outlook for dental hygienists in California?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of dental hygienists is projected to grow 6 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is due to an aging population and advances in technology resulting in more people keeping their natural teeth longer.
Is it possible to pursue higher education after completing a dental hygiene program in California?
Yes! After completing an associate’s degree program, you can enroll in a bachelor’s degree completion program or even pursue advanced degrees like master’s or doctoral degrees. These additional degrees can open up more career paths such as teaching or research positions.