The current level of education required to become a dental hygienist in Canada is a two-year diploma. Some schools also require one prior year of university level sciences.
This minimum level of education is changing, with more schools offering advanced degrees, such as bachelor’s and master’s degrees. And this trend towards more advanced education as a minimum standard is not only happening in Canada, it is happening in many other countries around the world as well.
You can read this short article from the International Journal of Dental Hygiene, to get a short overview of this trend on a global level (You will be prompted to log in to your VCC library account to gain access.).
While there are likely various reasons for this trend toward further education, one driving force is the expanding roles and scope of practice of the dental hygienist. I have worked in two Canadian provinces, and in both provinces since I began my schooling in 2004, I have seen increased scopes of practice.
Even now, the regulating college for dental hygiene practice in British Columbia is trying to expand the scope of practice even further. This increase in scope results in more responsibility for the hygienist and a need to be further educated and skilled. Follow this link to see the College of Dental Hygienists of British Columbia’s proposal for an increased scope of practice. Although it is not outlined in this article, the minimum level of education to practice these new roles will be a bachelor level education.
To those interested in entering the field of dental hygiene, I strongly recommend completing at minimum a bachelor degree. In BC, this is offered through the University of British Columbia . As well, the University of Alberta has recently developed a Master’s Degree in Dental Hygiene.
Other schools, including Vancouver Island University are currently in the process of developing bachelor degree programs and I believe we will continue to see more schools offer more advanced education in dental hygiene.