Dental Hygiene Programs provide the classroom training and hands-on experience required to become a Dental Hygienist, one of the fastest growing healthcare occupations in the United States. Dental Hygiene Programs offer laboratory, clinical, and classroom instruction in subjects such as anatomy, physiology, chemistry, microbiology, pharmacology, nutrition, radiography, histology (the study of tissue structure), periodontology (the study of gum diseases), pathology, dental materials, clinical dental hygiene, and social and behavioral sciences. Classroom training is typically supplemented with clinical dental hygiene practice.
In 2006, there were 286 Dental Hygiene Programs accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. Most Dental Hygiene Programs grant an associate degree, although some also offer a certificate, a bachelor's degree, or a master's degree. A minimum of an associate degree or certificate in dental hygiene is generally required for practice in a private dental office. A bachelor's or master's degree usually is required for research, teaching, or clinical practice in public or school health programs.