Having made the decision to have a career as a dental hygienist the next step is starting and completing a dental hygiene program in a an accredited institution. While there are a number of things to look out for when searching through several dental hygiene programs Ontario, it is important that you also pick the right kind of program meeting your present goals. Depending on the area where one hopes to practice, some programs are more suited than others.
Associate Dental Hygienist Degree
Most dental hygienists working in a dental office have this degree. It is also the one program offered in hundreds of institutions across Canada with over 300 programs accredited in 2015 alone. One can join an associate’s degree program after an application procedure which requires among other things documents showing evidence of; a passing score on the ACCUPLACER dental hygiene examination, evidence of completing prerequisite classes including organic chemistry, human anatomy and physiology.
Classes at this level provide clinical experience, theoretical knowledge and adequate educational foundation. Some of the core courses in an Associate’s degree include dental radiography, dental anatomy, oral disease prevention and oral pathology. Once done with the studies you will have to undertake requisite written and clinical examinations to attain registration as a dental hygienist. It usually takes about three years to complete an Associate’s degree program.
Bachelor’s Dental Hygienist Degree
This course sees learners being prepared for roles in both dentist offices as well as advanced positions. The skills taught at this level are more advanced course versions than those at the Associate level. It also sees the learner gaining an all-round educational experience aimed at making them skilled and equipped to formulate and administer different care plans for patients across all ages, health and other social demographics. Additional core courses include dental specialties, principles of pharmacology, periodontal disease, oral biochemistry and preventive dental care. This is a four year degree offered as a bachelor of science.
Master’s Dental Hygienist Degree
This is an advanced level of dental hygienist training and holders of this degree are overqualified for the task in a dentist office. Individuals undertaking this program are being prepared for positions as academic faculty and researchers in the field of dental hygiene. To undertake this course one is required to have completed a basic dental hygiene preparation program and a bachelor’s degree though not necessarily a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene. Fulltime students cover the program in one year. One is expected to complete a project and fieldwork assignments in addition to completing the coursework and sitting for the relevant examinations.
Dental hygiene educational programs are offered in different education settings each providing unique benefits that suit different students. The most common choices include:
- Vocational schools: These schools offer accelerated programs allowing one to join the field in as little as 17 months. They are career driven with real world training.
- Community colleges: These schools offer courses directly focused on the career with little educational curriculum thus providing in depth dental care, patient care and community health courses.
- Dental schools: They provide training for all levels of qualification from certificate to master’s degree level. They provide vocational opportunities, clinical rotation and an in-depth cover of oral health since this is their specialty.
- 4 year schools: These are usually pursued by students seeking advanced training like bachelors and master’s degrees. There is also provision of other educational programs for those interested in research and teaching.
What to look for in a Dental Hygiene Program?
- Accreditation – This is the first and most basic requirement. The program you are undertaking should have been accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation of Canada (CDAC). This assures you of the level of quality you are getting. You are also sure your qualifications will not be questioned or hinder you when looking for a job.
- Reputation – The reputation of the program and the college offering it is important. Get into programs that former students and other professions in the industry easily recommend.
- Affiliation – A good program should be affiliated with reputable dental offices within the profession. This ensures you have opportunities during training to build contacts and learn under leading practitioners in the profession as you get the right exposure.
- Fair school fees rates – Get a program that fits your finances while offering the right quality of training and exposure. At times the colleges can be very expensive pushing you to costly student debts. Match your current goals with an institution providing the program at affordable rates.
- Quality of the faculty – Get to a college with a reputable faculty who have current knowledge in the field and if possible are staying current in the profession.