As the calendar turns to August and the summer starts to wind down, parents (with fondness) and children (with dread) begin to think about notebooks, pencils, and new outfits… everything that goes along with Back to School season. But did you know that dentists, hygienists, and dental assistants spend a lot of time thinking about going back to school as well?
Forty-seven states require dentists to complete some amount of continuing education courses before they can renew their licenses. For hygienists, the total is higher still, with 48 states mandating continuing education. (Dental assistants get off a little easier; only 22 states have a minimum continuing education requirement.)
So what exactly are dentists and their teams studying… and why should it matter to you?
Read on to find out more!
In order to ensure that dentists, hygienists, and dental assistants are providing the best possible care to their patients, state licensing boards typically require these professionals to pass an exam to get their license. The certification lasts for one to five years, with two- and three-year terms being most common. Rather than require dental professionals to retake board examinations every couple years, most state licensing boards mandate dental professionals to take a certain amount of credit hours in continuing education to retain their license.
Many organizations provide continuing education courses, including the American Dental Association, dental graduate schools, and other professional dental associations and institutions. All of these organizations must be certified to provide professional-level training before the credits can count towards meeting licensing requirements.
Many states require dentists to include fundamental training in their continuing education—things like CPR and infection control. However, other topics are popular as well. Many institutes offer training in new dental techniques or technology; instruction in specialty dentistry like implants, orthodontics, or endodontics; or how to run their practice more effectively. Hygienists and dental assistants take continuing education classes that provide practical and technical instruction in their roles on a practice team. Courses can take place in person, online, or at special training events.
Why should this matter to you, as a patient?
It matters because when you go to a dentist, you can be sure that you’re getting top quality care from professionals that care enough to stay informed and trained in their field of expertise.
Dentists, like other medical professionals, are committed to the health and well-being of their patients, and continuing education requirements demonstrate that commitment. In fact, if you ask your dentist or hygienist, chances are that they’re not just meeting the requirements of their state dental board—they’re exceeding them!
If you’re curious about new technology in dentistry, new dental techniques, or what your dental care providers are studying, feel free to ask next time you’re in the office. We’ll be happy to tell you all about it.