For those who want to become a dental hygienist, there are a few paths available. An associate degree in Dental Hygiene is the minimum requirement and prepares students for an expeditious entry into the dental hygiene profession. This three-year degree covers topics in periodontology, oral anatomy, and more. An associate degree prepares students for the board licensing exams they’ll need to pass in order to become Registered Dental Hygienists.
However, many students choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Dental Hygiene instead. These students are eligible to add a minor to their bachelor’s degree path which can increase their post-graduation job opportunities. After they’ve graduated, students who have earned a bachelor’s degree may be qualified to work as dental office managers as well as dental educators.
If you are deciding on your next step, and weighing the prospect of dental hygiene school, it can be useful to learn a bit about what the experience entails. Here is a brief overview of what to expect during the first year of dental hygiene school for those interested in enrolling in a four-year, bachelor’s degree!
How to Prepare for Your First Year
Before matriculating into your Dental Hygiene program, it’s important to make sure that you’re fully prepared for the experience. It’s likely that your dental hygiene school will give you a welcome packet or orientation folder. Start by closely reading these materials. Then, you can begin your preparations. Make sure that you schedule any wellness check-ups your program asks you to complete and receive the required vaccinations, as well. Then, purchase the tools and clothing your program asks you to have on hand for your classes and clinical rotations. You should also make sure that you take time to recuperate and rest before classes begin. College can be stressful and it’s important that you start your studies well-rested and mentally healthy.
You may also want to schedule a shadowing day at a dental office, just to get your feet wet in the industry. Lastly, if you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you can also get ahead of the game by learning the tooth numbers and surfaces. With most bachelor’s in Dental Hygiene programs, you’ll need to fulfill your general education requirements in a Pre-Dental Hygiene program before you begin your career-focused coursework. With that in mind, this last suggestion can sometimes wait. But, when it comes to a specialized degree like this, it’s never too soon to start preparing.
Dental Hygiene Classes You’ll Need to Take
While every dental hygiene school is different, as a student in a bachelor’s degree program, you’ll be required to complete general education credits in addition to program-specific classes. At University of Bridgeport, you’ll be required to complete 50 general education hours as well as 73 hours of program-required courses. Working with your academic advisor, as well as the director of your program, you’ll be able to fill your schedule in an effective and efficient way.
During the These courses are largely science-focused, to prepare you for this in-demand healthcare field. Some of the courses you’ll take in the first year include:
- Introduction Chemistry
- Anatomy and Physiology I and II
- Elementary Microbiology
- Humanities I and II
- Intermediate Algebra
- Composition and Rhetoric
- Principles of Sociology
- Intro to Dental Hygiene
- Bio Study Skills
After your prerequisites have been fulfilled, you’ll be able to begin taking your Dental Hygiene career-focused courses, which are taken in an outlined sequence. At University of Bridgeport, dental hygiene students must achieve a cumulative GPA of 2.50, with a prerequisite GPA of 2.75, in the one-year Pre-Dental Hygiene curriculum in order to move into their second year.
What Comes Next?
After your first year, you can begin your entry level clinical program. Dental hygiene courses taken during this year include:
- Oral Anatomy and Embryology
- Dental Radiology
- Pharmacology for the Dental Hygienist
- Clinical Practice I and II
- Intro Periodontology
- Nutritional Biochemistry
- Dental Hygiene Practice Management
During year three of your clinical coursework, you will take a variety of courses, the completion of which will make you eligible to take board examinations and apply for licensure. Your last years of study will also include an internship, research course, and your final general education credits.
While it’s possible to become a dental hygienist as an associate degree holder, many students choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree in the interest of increasing their employability and career opportunities. For those interested in progressing in their career and perhaps, one day, managing a dental office, a bachelor’s degree is a great choice. Perhaps, with these insights into the first year of dental hygiene school, the decision will be easier to make.