Dental hygienists are healthcare professionals who specialize in preventive oral care. They typically hold an associate degree in dental hygiene, but some may choose to pursue a bachelor's or master's degree. With the help of organizations such as the American Association of Dental Hygienists (ADHA), the role of the dental hygienist has evolved significantly in recent years, and they now have access to a wide range of specializations. The most common specialization for dental hygienists is public health, which involves providing preventive care to individuals and groups.
Other specializations include sales and marketing, dental hygiene educator, research, consulting, and continuing education. Dental hygienists may also choose to pursue a master's degree in dental hygiene, which can open up opportunities for leadership positions. The Dental Accreditation Commission (CODA) accredits entry-level educational programs for dental hygienists. For example, UT Health San Antonio offers an online master of science in dental hygiene program that prepares graduates for leadership roles in various settings.
Oregon Tech also offers an online bachelor's degree in dental hygiene. Dental hygienists may also specialize in implantology, which involves helping dentists gain a clinical understanding of implantology and providing implant treatments to their patients. To become a dental hygienist, it is necessary to have an associate degree in dental hygiene. The School of Dentistry at Oregon Tech offers a course that provides an overview of dental medicine and helps students improve the oral health of their patients and members of their community. Advanced dental hygiene courses cover topics such as periodontal therapy, research methods and interpretation, office management, and behavioral management in oral health.
Dental hygienists are responsible for screening patients for oral diseases, providing preventive dental care, and educating their patients about oral health. Each state has different laws that detail what services dental hygienists can provide, the environments in which they can practice, and the supervision under which they are allowed to do so.