Jobs as dental hygienists are on the rise, with a projected growth rate of 38 percent between the years 2010 and 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Dental Hygiene Committee of California licenses dental hygienists within the state, requiring professionals to complete approved educational programs and pass a state licensure exam. If you're considering a career in this field, UCLA offers the classes that you'll need to make the grade.
Where to Look
If you start your search for dental hygiene classes in the main UCLA School of Dentistry's professional education component, you aren't likely to find what you're looking for. The School of Dentistry offers a doctor of dental surgery program for individuals looking to work as dentists. The dental hygiene classes aren't part of this curriculum and are part of the School's continuing education program. Applying and registering for dental hygiene classes is through the continuing education department.
In order to become a dental hygienist, or registered dental assistant, in California, you'll need to take board-approved courses that cover the scope of your practice. UCLA offers a multi-module program with a first step that includes regulations and procedures. This includes classroom content on the scope of a dental assistant's practice, restorative dentistry, oral health assessments and the materials necessary for dental procedures. This course content is all lecture-based, and doesn't include hands-on learning.
Getting Hands-On Within Bounds
As part of UCLA's program in dental hygiene and assisting, you'll have the chance to participate in hands-on learning process through the second module in the continuing education department's classes. While this class doesn't take you into a real-world dental office, it does give you the chance to practice your clinical skills in a controlled laboratory setting. You'll go into UCLA's lab and experience what it's like to work with adults and children in the school's simulated "manikin."
As you get closer to a real job as a professional practitioner, UCLA's program offers a final module that covers more complex or sophisticated procedures. This class includes content on taking impressions for dental prostheses, adjustments of permanent restorations, cementation, placement and finishing. You'll also get more hands-on clinical experience -- again, in the school's simulated lab -- with direct-filling restorations. By the end of all modules, you will have a total of 410 class credit hours of instruction under your belt.
Additional Educational Opportunities
Aside from learning the basics pf practice, UCLA also offers dental hygiene course work in infection control. As a hygienist, you'll need to know how to keep germs at bay, maintain a healthy dental environment and follow regulations that the Dental Board of California requires. This course covers the minimum standards of infection control, how disease transmit, waste control procedures and illness prevention in the dental office.
Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.