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Have an interest in the dental field? Want to work up-close with patients to help manage their care?

If yes, then MedQuest College’s new Dental Hygiene Program is right for you!

Launching later this year on the Louisville campus, the two-year associate degree program will prepare students for success in the field of dental hygiene.

We spoke with Program Director Jamie Ely to learn more about this exciting opportunity.

What is a dental hygienist?

Dental hygienists work with dentists to provide preventative oral care to patients. They specifically focus on treating and preventing oral diseases and help teach patients good oral hygiene practices.

“I really enjoyed getting to know my patients and caring about their health along with them,” Jamie said of her 10 years working in clinical dental hygiene. “I’m excited to help students to also realize that they are a healthcare professional and that it’s more than just cleaning teeth. They can have an impact on someone’s life and their health overall.”

What is included in MedQuest’s dental hygiene program?

The two-year program includes classroom and lab instruction and clinical work. Students will start mastering the skills on plastic teeth before progressing to working on student partners.

Eventually, they will begin working on patients at MedQuest’s on-campus dental clinic in Louisville.

“They’ll actually see real patients here on campus in the clinic setting where they will perform all the duties of a dental hygienist under the supervision of a dentist and dental hygienist,” Jamie said.

The skills learned will include taking x-rays, making whitening trays and using tools to remove plaque from teeth.

“Everything mimics what you would do in a normal dental office,” Jamie said.

What is the difference between a dental hygienist and assistant?

MedQuest also offers a 10-month Dental Assisting Program. Although many of the skills overlap, dental assistants are more focused on patient care like sterilizing dental instruments, processing x-rays and assisting with billing.

Dental hygienists are more focused on preventative care and educating patients on proper oral care.

“The dental hygienist works more independently,” Jamie said. “They’re doing the teeth cleaning, periodontal treatment, things like that.”

Who is an ideal candidate for the program?

“A good fit for the Dental Hygiene Program is someone who is passionate about education, passionate about healthcare and helping people and somebody who is personable and can relate to their patients,” Jamie said.

Previous experience in the dental field is not required to enroll in the program, and prospective students are not required to have completed MedQuest’s Dental Assisting Program.

However, graduating from the Dental Assisting Program can help students learn basic skills before enrolling in the Dental Hygiene Program.

Why is now a good time to enroll in the dental hygiene program?

MedQuest’s Dental Hygiene Program is launching amid a nationwide dental hygienist shortage. A 2021 poll by the American Dental Association’s Health Policy Institute found that 29% of dentists who own a clinic are looking to hire new dental hygienists.

“Now is a great time to be a dental hygienist because there’s great demand in the dental hygiene profession as well as the career growth, financial stability, and flexibility in your schedule,” Jamie said.

And with employment for dental hygienists expected to grow more than 10 percent over the next decade and a median yearly salary of $77,000 plus benefits like the ability to work part-time, there’s never been a better time to pursue a career in dental hygiene.

“I’m excited for MedQuest to be offering a Dental Hygiene Program just for the fact that we’ll get to give back to the community with great dental professionals,” Jamie said.

In addition to the Dental Hygiene and Dental Assisting programs, MedQuest also offers programs for Medical Assisting, Practical Nursing, Sonography and Veterinary Technology. If you are interested in learning more about any of our programs, request more information or schedule a tour of our campus!