Accredited dental hygiene schools are educational entities that encompass a curriculum designed to prepare graduates for a state licensure exam, which yields a certification. Due to the amount of information that must be correctly covered in order to ensure that students receive proper training, only those schools that perform to the national council's expectations will find themselves among the accredited dental hygiene schools. If a person wishes to join this flourishing field, he or she must complete a program at an accredited dental hygiene school and obtain a state license.
Dental hygienists are the right-hand companions of dentists, functioning in a supporting role to the professionals responsible for keeping smiles healthy and clean. The scope of hygiene practice is broad but typically includes prophylaxis, scaling, and root planning. Radiography, the administration of fluoride, dental sealants, and sometimes local anesthesia can also be the responsibility of a dental hygienist.
The first committee formed to evaluate each program's worthiness in teaching these skills was a result of the merger of three organizations: the American Dental Hygeinist's Association, the National Association of Dental Examiners, and the American Dental Association's Council on Dental Education. The baseline standards were first gathered by this committee in 1947. Five years after the approval of a national source of delegates, the first list of accredited dental hygiene schools was compiled. Although this initial list of schools was limited to 21 programs, five revisions in the past 60 years have continuously altered the regulations and list of accredited dental hygiene schools. The most updated outline of the accreditation process lists six standards upon which a school is evaluated.
Each of the six standards is the framework for even more specific substandards. Standard I is institutional effectiveness, the second is the quality of educational curriculum, and standard III is an evaluation of administration and staff. The fourth standard upon which a program must satisfy the requirements is adequacy of support services. Standard V is listed as health and safety provisions, and the last standard claims its name as patient care services.
The regulation of programs associated with dental hygienists is important for a variety of reasons. This profession is in the health care realm, and the liability as well as intimate nature of a person's health leave no room for error. Only competent and qualified individuals should therefore administer health care, and only schools that maintain the highest standards should be involved in the training of these individuals.