How Long Does It Take to Become a Dental Hygienist?

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While choosing your career, it is important to check how much time will be spent on educating yourself for it. Accordingly, you will need a financial plan or a backup plan to support you in future endeavors. Usually, any job in the medical field takes a long time to study for and get the necessary educational requirements.

However, dental hygienist is one such career which hardly takes any time at all. The only other medical career that one can probably get into faster is a dental assistant. Let’s find out how long it can take to become a dental hygienist.

Broadly speaking, to become a dental hygienist, all you need to do is get a dental hygiene degree and a licensure to practice. Check out the degree options for a dental hygiene one.

Associate’s degree (2 years)

The most popular route to becoming a dental hygienist is earning an associate’s degree. This program gives you a basic understanding of dental sciences and dental care. You will learn to take care of patients, improve your problem-solving skills and critical thinking abilities.

They also prepare you for the professional world by teaching you public speaking skills, and how to interact with other healthcare professionals.

You will be taught subjects like Dental Radiology, Oral Pathology, and much more. Such programs usually last for 2 years and there are currently 300+ associate’s degree programs accredited by the ADA.

Baccalaureate’s degree (15-18 months)

A baccalaureate’s degree is a kind of a step-up from an associate’s degree. You can apply for this degree if you have an accredited associate’s degree and a license to practice as a dental practitioner.

People opt for this degree to learn more about dental hygiene and improve their abilities. The best part of this program is that they offer the courses online. You can either choose Synchronous Learning (learn in real time using virtual classrooms) or Asynchronous Learning (learn from material uploaded online at any time).

You also have the choice to practice your skills in some of the programs. This usually lasts for 15-18 months after you start practicing as a dental hygienist. You can decide at which point in your career you want to start these courses or pursue this degree.

Bachelor’s degree (4 years)

A bachelor’s degree involves more comprehensive coursework when compared to an associate’s degree or a baccalaureate’s degree. The coursework is like that of those programs, however, this degree discusses these topics in detail.

In addition to this, they also teach you how to devise specific health plans for individuals of different age groups, genders, and health problems. Some of the things that you will learn are Dental Specialties, Principles of Pharmacology, Periodontal Diseases and much more.

These programs last for 4 years and people completing these courses usually start their own dental practice or join some school health programs. There a few accredited bachelor’s degree programs for dental hygiene.

Master’s Degree (1-2 years)

A master’s degree is the most comprehensive dental hygiene program. It is required for people aspiring to go into roles of education, research or advocacy.

In a master’s program, you are taught about Geriatric Dental Issues, Research Paper writing and many other high-level skills.

There are about 21 master’s programs that have been accredited by the ADA. If you decide to work part time it may take up to 2 years but with a full-time education, you can complete it in one.

Licensure (maximum 2 years)

You have to schedule the test after you get your degree. If you choose to, you can re-schedule your dates too, provided you apply for it 24 hours prior to the original date.

You can try multiple times with a minimum of 90 days between each try. After the third failed attempt, you must wait at least 12 months before you try again.

We recommend you try a maximum of 4 times and thus the time duration mentioned is 2 years.

To summarize, you can see that it will take you a minimum of 2 years after getting an associate’s degree. The maximum duration that one can take is 7.5 years. This includes a route with an associate’s degree, baccalaureate’s degree, master’s degree and the maximum time to pass the licensure exam.

Everything said and done, this is one of the shortest durations that anyone spends in education trying to make a career in the medical field. So, if you really like to take care of your own teeth and others’ teeth as well, get started on your path in becoming a dental hygienist today!