If you’re looking to pursue a career in dental hygiene, you’ll want to find the right school to help you achieve your goals. California is home to several accredited dental hygiene schools, each with its own strengths and specialties. In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at some of the top dental hygiene schools in California and what makes them stand out.
What is Dental Hygiene?
Before we dive into the specific schools, let’s first define what dental hygiene is. Dental hygienists are licensed oral health professionals who work alongside dentists to provide preventative and therapeutic services for patients. Some common tasks performed by dental hygienists include:
- Cleaning teeth and removing plaque and tartar buildup
- Examining patients for signs of oral diseases such as gingivitis or periodontitis
- Educating patients on proper oral hygiene techniques
- Taking x-rays and impressions
- Administering local anesthesia
- Applying fluoride treatments
Dental hygienists must have strong communication skills, as they often work directly with patients to educate them on proper oral care habits.
When researching dental hygiene schools, it’s important to ensure that they are accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). This organization ensures that programs meet certain standards of quality and rigor. Attending an accredited school will also be necessary for licensure after graduation.
Top Dental Hygiene Schools in California
Now let’s take a look at some of the top dental hygiene schools in California.
Loma Linda University School of Dentistry
Loma Linda University School of Dentistry offers both undergraduate and graduate programs in dental hygiene. Students can choose from two tracks: traditional bachelor’s degree or degree completion for licensed registered dental hygienists with an associate’s degree. The program emphasizes hands-on learning experiences, including clinical rotations at community clinics throughout Southern California. The school also offers an accelerated bachelor’s degree program for those with a non-dental hygiene bachelor’s degree.
University of Southern California Ostrow School of Dentistry
The University of Southern California (USC) Ostrow School of Dentistry offers a dental hygiene program that includes both classroom instruction and clinical experience. Students can earn either a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene or a Master of Science in Craniofacial Biology with an emphasis in Dental Hygiene. USC is one of the few schools in the country to offer a dual-degree program that allows students to earn both a master’s degree in public health and a doctorate in dental medicine.
West Coast University
West Coast University, located in Los Angeles, offers an accelerated bachelor’s degree program that can be completed in as little as 32 months. The program includes both classroom instruction and hands-on experience through clinical rotations at partner dental offices throughout Southern California. Students will also have access to state-of-the-art equipment and technology.
Carrington College has several locations throughout California, including Sacramento, San Jose, and Pomona. The dental hygiene program at Carrington College emphasizes hands-on learning opportunities through on-campus clinics and externships at community clinics. Students can earn either an associate’s degree or a certificate in dental hygiene.
Pacific Union College
Located in Angwin, Pacific Union College offers a traditional four-year bachelor’s degree program in dental hygiene. In addition to classroom learning, students will gain hands-on experience through clinical rotations at partner clinics throughout Northern California.
Admissions requirements for dental hygiene programs will vary depending on the school, but most will require applicants to have:
- A high school diploma or GED
- Completed prerequisite courses such as biology, chemistry, and anatomy
- A minimum GPA (usually around 2.5)
- Letters of recommendation
- A personal statement or essay
- Test scores (such as the ACT or SAT)
Some schools may also require an interview or a shadowing experience with a dental hygienist.
Attending dental hygiene school can be expensive, but there are several financial aid opportunities available to students. These may include:
- Scholarships and grants from the school or outside organizations
- Federal student loans
- Private education loans
- Work-study programs
It’s important to research all available options and apply for financial aid early to ensure that you receive the maximum amount of funding possible.
Career Paths in Dental Hygiene
After completing a dental hygiene program and obtaining licensure, graduates can pursue a variety of career paths. Some common options include:
- Working in private dental practices as part of a dentist-led team
- Working in public health settings such as community clinics or schools
- Pursuing research opportunities in academia or industry
- Becoming educators themselves by teaching at dental hygiene schools
Pursuing a career in dental hygiene can be both rewarding and challenging. By selecting the right dental hygiene school for your needs, you’ll be setting yourself up for success in this growing field. Consider factors such as location, accreditation, and program requirements when researching potential schools. And don’t forget to look into financial aid opportunities so that you can achieve your goals without breaking the bank. Good luck!
What are the qualifications to be admitted into a dental hygiene program?
To be admitted into a dental hygiene program, you must have a high school diploma or GED, completed prerequisite courses such as anatomy and microbiology, and pass an entrance exam.
Can I attend a dental hygiene program part-time?
It depends on the school. Some schools offer part-time programs while others require full-time attendance. Check with each school for their specific requirements.
How long does it take to complete a dental hygiene program?
Dental hygiene programs typically take 2-3 years to complete, depending on whether it’s an associate’s or bachelor’s degree program.
Are there online dental hygiene programs available in California?
Yes, there are several online dental hygiene programs available in California. However, keep in mind that some hands-on training will be required on campus or at affiliated clinics.
What is the cost of attending a dental hygiene program in California?
The cost of attending a dental hygiene program can vary greatly depending on the school and whether you’re an in-state or out-of-state student. Expect to pay anywhere from $10,000-$50,000 per year for tuition and fees.
Is financial aid available for dental hygiene students?
Yes, many dental hygiene schools offer financial aid to students who qualify based on need or merit. Additionally, federal student loans may also be available through FAFSA.
What kind of classes will I take in a dental hygiene program?
You’ll take classes such as anatomy, physiology, microbiology, radiology, periodontics (gum disease), pharmacology (drugs), public health and community dentistry among others along with clinical practice courses.
Do I need to have any prior dental experience to enroll in a dental hygiene program?
No prior dental experience is required to enroll in a dental hygiene program. However, some schools may require you to shadow or observe a dental hygienist before applying.
Can I work as a dental hygienist with just an associate’s degree?
Yes, you can work as a dental hygienist with just an associate’s degree. However, having a bachelor’s degree may open up more job opportunities and career advancement options.
What is the job outlook for dental hygienists in California?
The job outlook for dental hygienists in California is strong, with employment projected to grow 6% from 2019-2029 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is due to an aging population and increased awareness of oral health.