Like many health care professionals, dental hygienists can and should continue with their learning process even after they have completed their training and has obtained a degree in the field. It is important for dental hygienists to continue to improve their skills and be connected with what is going on in the current events to be able to provide the best quality of dental care to their patients. This is why most states require dental hygienists to fulfilling continuing education requirements first before being able to file for their license renewal. Dental hygienists who are filing for renewal must obtain proof of successful completion from continuing education providers in order to credit the CE units. Continuing education is a program that professionals such as dental hygienists must complete after they have started working professionally in order for them to learn more about their chosen field.
Dental hygienists who are applying for license renewal must complete a state specified number of hours of continuing education every 2-year renewal cycle. For example, in the state of California, dental hygienists must have 25 units of continuing education and the registered dental hygienist in alternative practice (RDHAPs) must have 35 units. Continuing education courses must be in areas that are associated with dental practice. Dental hygienists may either choose to complete their CEs through academic courses or through a more practical content. What is important is that CEs are directly related to the clinical practices of dental hygiene and it must relate to patient care and treatment.
Continuing education units may be fulfilled by taking courses in community colleges, technical and vocational schools and through any of the programs approved by a governing dental hygienist association. In some cases, CEs may be met by enrolling in online or distance learning classes. However, always check with the state’s dental hygiene governing body as some states do not accept online and distance learning coursework. Activities that may also be deemed as unacceptable are reading of articles, books and journals, completing home-based courses, and attending luncheons or business meetings.
Dental hygienists can also complete their continuing education units by attending seminars, state, regional and national meetings, and conventions. Work done with public health agencies can also be credited towards fulfillment of continuing education units. Other ways to obtain credits for continuing education are presentation of a paper or a formal lecture to an established group of dental health associates at a convention or meeting, publication on a scientific journal, and setting up clinical exhibits.
Some of the courses that dental hygienists can take to fulfill their continuing education units include lectures and tests in areas such as dental caries, diabetes mellitus, periodontal therapy, dental practice protocols, periodontal diseases, aging and oral health, diet and nutrition, digital radiographic imaging, burning mouth syndrome, oral hygiene devices, histology, social and behavioral courses, and response to dental emergencies.
Continuing education should not only be fulfilled because it is a requirement that needs to be completed before renewing a dental hygienist license. Dental hygienists must see this as an opportunity to increase their knowledge when it comes to dental care. Furthermore, it will also keep them up to date with the latest technological advancements in dentistry and health care in general.