(L-R) USask Instructor Karla Yarie on the clinic floor with College of Dentistry students Tianna Switzer and Meagan Stathopoulos. Credit: Duane Krip

New degree at USask aims to address dental hygienist shortage

SASKATOON – The College of Dentistry at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) is introducing a new Dental Hygiene program, addressing critical workforce shortages while enhancing oral health care for residents across the province.

The aging dental hygiene workforce in Saskatchewan, along with the increase in population, underscores the urgent need to cultivate and expand the next generation of dental hygienists. A 2023 survey conducted for the Canadian Dental Association found that nearly 500,000 dental appointments over two months had been cancelled across Canada, due to staff shortages. According to a 2022 report by American Dental Association, 31 per cent of dental hygienists plan to retire withing the next five years.

With only one existing certificate program in the province, the demand for dental hygienists far exceeds the current number of hygienists entering the workforce.

“This shortage not only puts a strain on the oral health care system but also leads to the departure of many aspiring hygienists who seek education in other provinces, but do not return to practice in Saskatchewan,” said Dr. Walter Siqueira (DDS, PhD), dean of the College of Dentistry.

The college aims to address the shortage head-on with the creation of a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene program that will admit 18 students annually, beginning this fall.

“The program’s design includes an innovative evening class schedule that will run from 5 pm to 10 pm. This accommodates individuals with full-time commitments, allowing them to pursue education without sacrificing their employment,” said Siqueira. “This approach not only facilitates access to education but also supports students financially, as they can continue working to pay for their tuition—a first-of-its-kind initiative in Canada.”

The new dental hygiene program is direct entry, meaning students may enter from high school, subject to meeting admissions requirements.  

Prospective students will have from April 17 until June 1, 2024, to submit an application.


For more information, contact:
Duane Krip
Communications Officer
USask College of Dentistry