An Ode to National Dental Hygiene Awareness Month

Why does the dental industry has a disproportionate number of minorities in the field and how does CCD's Dental Hygiene program help our community?

October is filled with important nationally and internationally recognized months for a variety of causes. National Dental Hygiene Awareness Month is no exception!

As adults, we no longer have our parents to force us to the dentist and continuously put it off, but Baby Swoop has learned the hard way that Mummy Swoop was right about taking care of that beak.

In 2009, the American Dental Hygienists Association (ADHA), in part with the Wrigley Company Foundation, saw the need to promote and emphasize the importance of oral health. Thus National Dental Hygiene Awareness Month was born. However, the first dental hygiene school, Fones School of Dental Hygiene in Bridgeport, CT, opened in 1913.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC 2019), 26 percent of Americans ages 20 to 64 have untreated tooth decay. Carequest.org estimates that 76.5 million adults do not have dental insurance, and less than 17.5 percent of Latinx people have dental insurance, a significantly lower number than people of other ethnicities. That rate is over 40 percent for Latinos, Black, low-income, low-education individuals, and smokers.

The reason for the lack of dental care is a combination of a few things, including high cost, lack of oral health knowledge, and the lack of bilingual dentists and dental hygienists. Dental care typically begins at a young age, around seven years old. In the Latinx community, the average age is 16.

The entire dental field is drastically unrepresented by minorities. If we’re strictly speaking about Dental Hygienists, 77.6 percent are White, 10.7 percent are Hispanic/Latino, 6.6 percent are Asian, and only 3.5 percent are Black. With that said, the Hispanic/Latino population has the lowest average salary, with Asian Dental Hygienists making the most money. In 2021, the median annual wage for dental hygienists was listed at $77,810 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook. There are approximately 212,000 dental hygienists in the United States, making it less than 1% of the population of the U.S. that can do what our students learn to do.

At CCD, we strive for diversity among students and those entering the workforce upon graduation. We offer two different dental hygiene degrees here, an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) and a Bachelor of Science (BAS) for those already with an AAS and/or working in the field. More than 47 percent of our AAS in Dental Hygiene are students of color, with 36 percent of the program population identifying as Hispanic/Latinx.

More so, we are constantly looking for ways to help our community. The clinic operated by the AAS program allows students to develop their skills with a hands-on approach and give back to the community by offering top-notch care with minimal fees. Students in the BAS program participate in internships within the community at Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC), wellness clinics, and more.

To learn more about the Dental Hygiene AAS program, click here. To learn more about the Licensed Dental Hygiene BAS program, click here.