Dental Hygiene

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a dental hygienist and a dental assistant?

A dental hygienist must be licensed and registered by the state in which he/she practices. Dental hygienists earn between 84 and 124 hours of college credit, must pass a written national board examination and a regional or state clinical board along with a state-based jurisprudence exam. Dental hygienists have delegated patient care responsibilities and provide direct patient care. Thirty-nine states permit dental hygienists direct access to patients, which enables dental hygienists to work without the direct supervision of a dentist. Forty-four states allow dental hygienists to administer local anesthesia to patients.

A dental assistant must have CPR certification and a radiology permit to assist their dentist employer. Dental assistants work alongside the dentist and although they have duties delegated to them, they do not provide direct patient care. There is no formal education or training requirements to become a dental assistant.

What is the difference between a dental hygienist with an associate degree and one with a bachelor's degree?

Pre-licensure education in dental hygiene is offered throughout the United States at both degree levels, and both degrees result in a candidate prepared to apply for licensure. The registered dental hygienist with an associate degree is employed as a clinical dental hygienist while the dental hygienist with a bachelor's degree has a wider variety of employment opportunities.

Baccalaureate-educated dental hygienists often find careers in research or marketing, education, a commission in the public health corps, federal, state and county public health positions, patient advocates and various entrepreneurial opportunities.

What is the starting salary range in private dental practices in Mississippi?

Salaries vary depending the state, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics has information on earnings in the United States that can be accessed through the Internet -

Does your program have summer school?

Yes. There is a 10-week summer semester between the junior and senior year.

Can I attend the program on a part-time basis?

No, students in the dental hygiene program attend full-time. The Dental Hygiene program at SHRP is a lock-step program, where students complete coursework as a cohort following a set sequence of courses.

Can I work while I am attending school?

The educational experience at the Medical Center is sufficiently intense that working takes away from necessary study time. Therefore, working while attending school is discouraged. A variety of financial aid is available for dental hygiene students. This information is obtainable through the Office of Student Financial Aid once an applicant has been accepted into the program.

When do dental hygiene students begin providing patient care?

Dental hygiene students work with their peers as patients the fall semester of the junior year. In the spring semester of the junior year, students treat patients in the dental hygiene clinic located in the dental school. The student clinical experiences increase each semester of enrollment.

What is a clinical rotation?

Clinical rotations are those experiences obtained in dental facilities outside the institution's dental hygiene clinic, for example, at a veteran's hospital, a correctional facility, a public clinic or specialty dental practices in the area.