Dental hygienists help prevent dental problems by inspecting and cleaning patients’ teeth and educating them on proper oral hygiene. There are three main types of dental hygiene programs that train candidates to work as hygienists. These include an associate degree program, a bachelor’s program, and a master’s program. While these dental hygiene programs share many fundamental characteristics, they vary in their typical length, number of hours required to complete, variety of classes taken, and possible career paths after graduation.

In most cases, an associate’s degree is the minimum qualification required to work as a dental hygienist. Dental hygiene programs leading to an associate’s degree typically last about two years and are offered by universities, technical institutes, and community colleges. These programs typically combine classes in a variety of relevant topics, such as biology, anatomy, histology, and periodontology, with clinical sessions in which students practice techniques they have studied in class. Most associate degree dental hygiene programs only accept applicants with a minimum of a high school diploma or its equivalent.

Bachelor’s dental hygiene programs are usually offered by universities, and typically take about four years to complete. In addition to the subjects studied during an associate’s program, a bachelor’s degree program may require a series of liberal arts or humanities classes, and generally involves a greater number of clinical hours. Some bachelor’s degree programs may only require applicants to have a high school diploma or its equivalent, while others may require the completion of certain college-level prerequisite classes. While a bachelor’s degree dental hygiene program takes longer to complete than an associate’s program,

Master’s programs in dental hygiene are offered by universities and typically take around two full-time years to complete. Many of these programs are open only to those who have already completed a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene, and therefore do not include the core courses and clinical practice hours required by associate’s and bachelor’s programs. In general, the goal of dental hygiene programs at the master’s level is to prepare students for the research, educational, or administrative aspects of the field of dental hygiene. Students typically choose one of these pathways, and then complete a series of courses in appropriate subjects, such as research skills or educational psychology, as well as a final project or thesis.