Dental Hygienist Schools

Dental hygienists provide preventive therapy to promote oral health, examine patients for signs of disease, and teach them to manage their oral hygiene. In addition to completing a dental hygiene program at an ADA-accredited school, aspiring dental hygienists must pass state exams on how to provide dental hygiene and education to patients and, in most states, must pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination. Upon receiving their license, hygienists become Registered Dental Hygienists (RDH) and qualify to enter this high-growth occupation.

Dental hygienists are in high demand, and there are many opportunities for future career growth. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that dental hygienist careers are projected to grow 11 percent from 2020 to 2030, a rate that’s faster than the national average for all occupations at 8 percent (BLS May 2021).

With an associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degree, dental hygienists can meet critical needs in metropolitan and rural communities by examining patients’ overall oral health, cleaning teeth, and providing preventative care through dentistry and public health advocacy.

While a dentist supervises most dental hygienists, many dental hygienists are pivoting into dental therapist roles by providing preventative and restorative dental procedures in underserved areas. Also known as “direct access care,” this work aims to increase healthcare access to rural and low-income areas that may not have enough dentists to serve the needs of specific populations. The dental therapist movement has full support from the American Dental Hygienists Association (ADHA) to expand professional autonomy and provide basic healthcare needs for vulnerable communities.

Read on to learn more about on-campus and online dental hygienist schools, standard courses, accreditation, licensing, and certification for this growing career.


Qualifications & Requirements – Becoming a Dental Hygienist

To become a dental hygienist, students must complete an accredited program through a community college, technical school, dental school, or university. Students should verify that the American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) accredits their program before enrolling. Most entry-level positions require an associate’s degree. Bachelor’s and master’s degree programs are also available.

Earning an associate’s degree in dental hygiene school typically takes three years to complete. The American Dental Hygienists’ Association reports that an associate degree in dental hygiene requires an average of 84 credits. For a bachelor’s degree, it’s an average of 118 credits.

Bachelor’s or master’s degree programs may take an additional two to four years to complete and are ideal for dental hygienists aspiring to pursue a career in research and teaching or management roles in clinics or public health programs.

Admission requirements for dental hygienist schools typically include completing high school chemistry, biology, health, psychology, speech, and mathematics courses. The ADHA reports that some programs also ask candidates for interviews, dexterity tests, or essays. It’s important to check specific admission standards before applying to ensure eligibility.

Dental hygiene programs generally have two components. First, they offer science-intensive coursework. Core classes cover the fields of fundamental science (e.g., pharmacology, anatomy, physiology), dental science (e.g., oral pathology, radiology, pain control), and dental hygiene science (e.g., oral health education, preventative counseling, clinical dental hygiene). Second, these programs offer supervised patient care experiences.

The ADHA estimates that dental hygienist students will complete an average of 659 hours of supervised clinical instruction before receiving their degrees or certifications. This practical work helps students flesh out their theoretical knowledge with hands-on experience in patient care.

Students may be eligible for licensure after completing a dental hygienist program at an accredited school. Initially, students must take the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE), a test comprising 350 multiple choice questions gauging both concrete knowledge, theoretical knowledge, and students’ ability to tackle case studies. After passing this exam, students must complete their state clinical board examinations. The ADHA provides a comprehensive guide to these varying regional requirements.

Students are also required to have the following before obtaining licensure:

  • Completion of a jurisprudence exam
  • Proof of CPR certification
  • Letter(s) of recommendation from a dentist(s) in the state of the desired licensure
  • Official transcripts from high school(s) and college(s) attended
  • Official letters from state boards of dentistry

Upon receiving licensure, dental hygienists can use the credentials “RDH” after their names to indicate their status as “Registered Dental Hygienists.”

On-Campus Dental Hygienist Schools

Here is a sampling of the CODA-accredited dental hygienist schools in the United States:

Seattle Central College

Seattle Central College offers a bachelor of applied science in allied health in dental hygiene. With an on-campus state-of-the-art dental education clinic in Beacon Hill, this program provides hands-on practical experience and courses in anatomy, chemistry, and pharmacology. The school includes instruction and supervision from faculty who are licensed and experienced dental professionals.

Offering a variety of learning experiences through hands-on learning in the Dental Education Center and community dental clinics, this eight-quarter, full–time BAS degree will prepare students for an exciting career in oral health as practicing dental hygienists.

Made up of 195 credits, the program includes courses in fundamentals of dental hygiene; restorative practice and materials; pharmacology; dental radiology; research methods in allied health; pain control anesthesia; periodontology; and community dental health, among others.

The program opens up opportunities in private dental offices; hospitals; schools; public health clinics; nursing homes; managed care organizations; correctional institutions and more for graduates.

  • Location: Seattle, WA
  • Accreditation: Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA); Northwest Commission on Colleges & Universities
  • Expected Time to Completion: Eight quarters
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($226.53 per credit); non-resident ($241.75 per credit)

Salt Lake Community College

Salt Lake Community College in Salt Lake City offers a two-year associate of applied science (AAS) program in dental hygiene, accredited by ADA’s CODA and the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, a regional accreditation body. This school boasts small class sizes and offers students interested in pursuing bachelor’s degrees the opportunity to transfer credits to four-year institutions within the Utah System of Higher Education.

Comprising 88 credits, the program includes courses such as Dental Radiology; Dental Materials; General & Oral Pathology; Community Dental Health; Local Anesthesia; Practice Management; Head & Neck Anatomy; Pharmacology; Dental Anatomy; and Periodontology.

  • Location: West Jordan, UT
  • Accreditation: Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA); Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four semesters
  • Estimated Tuition: $24,809

University of Minnesota School of Dentistry

The University of Minnesota School of Dentistry in Minneapolis offers an accelerated, three-year bachelor of science program for aspiring dental hygienists. Students in this program spend four weeks in a dental outreach clinic treating patients with dental students to gain hands-on experience to prepare them for dental hygienist careers or a graduate degree.

UM also has a master of science in dental hygiene (MSDH) to prepare students for careers in research or academia. For those interested in pursuing the education track of the MSDH program, UM has begun to offer flexible online coursework options as well.

Students in the bachelor’s degree take courses such as dental anatomy & histology; head and neck anatomy; biochemistry; microbiology; periodontology; oral and maxillofacial radiology; general and oral pathology; local anesthesia and pain management; pediatric dentistry; cardiology and applied nutrition in dental hygiene care; and principles of restorative techniques.

  • Location: Minneapolis, MN
  • Accreditation: Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA); the Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 36 months
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($520.46 per credit); non-resident ($1,235.46 per credit)

College of Southern Nevada

The College of Southern Nevada offers a full slate of dental hygienist degrees: an 88-credit associate of science degree; a 123-credit bachelor of science degree; a 120-credit bachelor of science degree as an education specialist; and a 120-credit bachelor of science degree as a public health specialist. This school features state-of-the-art radiology, sterilization, and ultrasonic equipment at its Charleston Campus Health Sciences Center (HSC) in Las Vegas.

As part of the program, students will delve into topics such as dental hygiene theory; pharmacology for dental hygienists; legal and ethical concepts in dentistry; pain control methods; clinical dental hygiene; dental public health concepts; advanced education concepts; periodontic principles; oral epidemiology and biostatistics; oral biology; human anatomy and physiology; and future directions in dental hygiene.

The curriculum of these programs is designed to prepare students for the enhanced responsibilities and roles of dental hygienists in education, public health, research, administration, management, and interdisciplinary collaboration.

  • Location: Las Vegas, NV; Henderson, NV; North Las Vegas, NV
  • Accreditation: Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA); Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Expected Time to Completion: BS (48 months); AS (24 months)
  • Estimated Tuition: Lower division courses ($115.75 per credit); upper-division ($188.00 per credit)

Valencia College

Valencia College in Orlando, Florida, offers a two-year associate’s degree in dental hygiene. In this program, students learn skills such as administering anesthetics, operating radiological equipment, assisting root canals, applying fluoride and sealants, and instructing patients in acceptable oral hygiene practices.

The program comprises 88 credits including coursework in dental anatomy; introduction to dental hygiene; introduction to clinical procedures; fundamentals of dental hygiene; dental hygiene instrumentation; dental radiography; dental materials; periodontology; dental office emergencies; pharmacology; community dental health; and general & oral pathology.

  • Location: Orlando, FL
  • Accreditation: Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA); Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Six semesters
  • Estimated Tuition: Florida resident ($103.06 per credit); non-Florida resident ($390.96 per credit)

University of Tennessee

The University of Tennessee (UT) in Memphis offers a four-year bachelor of science degree in dental hygiene. It comprises a “2+2” format, combining two years of built-in prerequisite completion, two years of program coursework, and a one-week clinical instruction. This program aims to teach its students the fundamental skills of dental hygiene and character-building, emphasizing community service initiatives for diverse populations.

This 122-credit program includes courses such as clinic theory; head and neck anatomy; dental embryology, histology & anatomy; general and oral pathology; periodontology; anxiety and pain control; dental pharmacology; community dental health theory; and ethics, jurisprudence & practice management.

  • Location: Memphis, TN
  • Accreditation: Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA); Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: In-state ($506 per credit); out-of-state ($923 per credit)

SELECT * FROM `mts_online_offline_data` WHERE `page_url` = '/dental-hygienist' AND ( `table_type` = 'Offline' OR `table_type` = 'BOTH (Online + Offline)' ) ORDER BY `grads` DESC

List of Dental Hygienist Schools

Filter by state :
School City State Website grads (2018)
University of Bridgeport Bridgeport Connecticut 99
University of Southern California Los Angeles California 87
MCPHS University Boston Massachusetts 81
New York University New York New York 77
West Coast University-Orange County Anaheim California 74
Sinclair Community College Dayton Ohio 73
St Petersburg College Clearwater Florida 71
West Liberty University West Liberty West Virginia 66
CUNY New York City College of Technology Brooklyn New York 66
San Joaquin Valley College-Visalia Visalia California 64
Oregon Institute of Technology Klamath Falls Oregon 58
Careers Unlimited Orem Utah 57
Carrington College-Sacramento Sacramento California 56
University of New Haven West Haven Connecticut 56
Texas Woman's University Denton Texas 54
University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus Pittsburgh Pennsylvania 53
Stark State College North Canton Ohio 49
Concorde Career College-Kansas City Kansas City Missouri 48
Concorde Career College-San Diego San Diego California 48
Community College of Denver Denver Colorado 47
Concorde Career College-San Bernardino San Bernardino California 47
Fox College Bedford Park Illinois 47
Carrington College-Boise Boise Idaho 46
University of Oklahoma-Health Sciences Center Oklahoma City Oklahoma 46
Erie Community College Buffalo New York 45
Farmingdale State College Farmingdale New York 45
Ohio State University-Main Campus Columbus Ohio 44
Weber State University Ogden Utah 43
Miami Dade College Miami Florida 42
Rutgers University-New Brunswick New Brunswick New Jersey 42
Loma Linda University Loma Linda California 41
Tyler Junior College Tyler Texas 41
Bergen Community College Paramus New Jersey 40
Missouri Southern State University Joplin Missouri 39
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Houston Texas 38
University of Missouri-Kansas City Kansas City Missouri 38
Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center-New Orleans New Orleans Louisiana 37
University of South Dakota Vermillion South Dakota 37
Community College of Baltimore County Baltimore Maryland 36
Grand Rapids Community College Grand Rapids Michigan 36
Madison Area Technical College Madison Wisconsin 36
Hudson Valley Community College Troy New York 35
Idaho State University Pocatello Idaho 35
Parkland College Champaign Illinois 35
CUNY Hostos Community College Bronx New York 34
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill North Carolina 34
SUNY Broome Community College Binghamton New York 33
Virginia Western Community College Roanoke Virginia 33
Remington College-Nashville Campus Nashville Tennessee 32
Eastern International College-Jersey City Jersey City New Jersey 32
Pacific University Forest Grove Oregon 32
Tennessee State University Nashville Tennessee 32
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Little Rock Arkansas 32
University of Cincinnati-Blue Ash College Blue Ash Ohio 32
Baker College Flint Michigan 31
Central Georgia Technical College Warner Robins Georgia 31
Ivy Tech Community College Indianapolis Indiana 31
Northern Virginia Community College Annandale Virginia 31
Purdue University Fort Wayne Fort Wayne Indiana 31
The University of Tennessee Health Science Center Memphis Tennessee 31
Western Kentucky University Bowling Green Kentucky 31
Fortis College-Phoenix Phoenix Arizona 30
Georgia State University-Perimeter College Atlanta Georgia 30
Lincoln College of New England-Southington Southington Connecticut 30
Milwaukee Area Technical College Milwaukee Wisconsin 30
Northcentral Technical College Wausau Wisconsin 30
Southwestern College Chula Vista California 30
Texas A & M University-College Station College Station Texas 30
University of Detroit Mercy Detroit Michigan 30
Big Sandy Community and Technical College Prestonsburg Kentucky 29
Lake Washington Institute of Technology Kirkland Washington 29
Middlesex County College Edison New Jersey 29
Prairie State College Chicago Heights Illinois 29
Saint Louis Community College Bridgeton Missouri 29
University of Louisville Louisville Kentucky 29
West Los Angeles College Culver City California 29
Amarillo College Amarillo Texas 28
Community College of Philadelphia Philadelphia Pennsylvania 28
Fresno City College Fresno California 28
Pensacola State College Pensacola Florida 28
Yakima Valley College Yakima Washington 28
Carrington College-San Jose San Jose California 27
Guilford Technical Community College Jamestown North Carolina 27
Herzing University-Minneapolis St. Louis Park Minnesota 27
Lamar Institute of Technology Beaumont Texas 27
SUNY College of Technology at Canton Canton New York 27
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Minneapolis Minnesota 27
William Rainey Harper College Palatine Illinois 27
Coastal Bend College Beeville Texas 26
College of DuPage Glen Ellyn Illinois 26
Concorde Career College-Memphis Memphis Tennessee 26
Fortis College-Smyrna Smyrna Georgia 26
Middlesex Community College Bedford Massachusetts 26
Monroe Community College Rochester New York 26
Mott Community College Flint Michigan 26
Carrington College-Mesa Mesa Arizona 25
Colorado Northwestern Community College Rangely Colorado 25
Concorde Career College-Garden Grove Garden Grove California 25
Del Mar College Corpus Christi Texas 25
George C Wallace State Community College-Hanceville Hanceville Alabama 25
Georgia Highlands College Rome Georgia 25
Northampton County Area Community College Bethlehem Pennsylvania 25
Pima Medical Institute-Houston Houston Texas 25
Santa Rosa Junior College Santa Rosa California 25
Central Piedmont Community College Charlotte North Carolina 24
Cerritos College Norwalk California 24
Clark College Vancouver Washington 24
Des Moines Area Community College Ankeny Iowa 24
Fortis College-Salt Lake City Salt Lake City Utah 24
Greenville Technical College Greenville South Carolina 24
Harcum College Bryn Mawr Pennsylvania 24
Johnson County Community College Overland Park Kansas 24
Lane Community College Eugene Oregon 24
NHTI-Concord's Community College Concord New Hampshire 24
Oakland Community College Bloomfield Hills Michigan 24
Sheridan College Sheridan Wyoming 24
Shoreline Community College Shoreline Washington 24
Texas State Technical College Waco Texas 24
University of Alaska Anchorage Anchorage Alaska 24
Utah Valley University Orem Utah 24
City Colleges of Chicago-Malcolm X College Chicago Illinois 23
Concorde Career College-Dallas Dallas Texas 23
Concorde Career College-San Antonio San Antonio Texas 23
Fayetteville Technical Community College Fayetteville North Carolina 23
Foothill College Los Altos Hills California 23
Illinois Central College East Peoria Illinois 23
Indiana University-Northwest Gary Indiana 23
Lansing Community College Lansing Michigan 23
Pima Community College Tucson Arizona 23
Pima Medical Institute-Seattle Seattle Washington 23
Shawnee State University Portsmouth Ohio 23
Tallahassee Community College Tallahassee Florida 23
University of Southern Indiana Evansville Indiana 23
Wayne County Community College District Detroit Michigan 23
Bluegrass Community and Technical College Lexington Kentucky 22
Cabrillo College Aptos California 22
Cape Cod Community College West Barnstable Massachusetts 22
Concorde Career College-Aurora Aurora Colorado 22
Florida State College at Jacksonville Jacksonville Florida 22
James A Rhodes State College Lima Ohio 22
Lewis and Clark Community College Godfrey Illinois 22
Metropolitan State University Saint Paul Minnesota 22
Pasadena City College Pasadena California 22
Rowan College at Burlington County Mount Laurel New Jersey 22
University of Maine at Augusta Augusta Maine 22
University of Nebraska Medical Center Omaha Nebraska 22
University of New England Biddeford Maine 22
Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond Virginia 22
West Virginia University Morgantown West Virginia 22
Youngstown State University Youngstown Ohio 22
Cuyahoga Community College District Cleveland Ohio 21
Delaware Technical Community College-Terry Dover Delaware 21
Dixie State University Saint George Utah 21
Fortis Institute-Scranton Scranton Pennsylvania 21
Ilisagvik College Barrow Alaska 21
Midlands Technical College West Columbia South Carolina 21
Palm Beach State College Lake Worth Florida 21
Pima Medical Institute-Albuquerque Albuquerque New Mexico 21
Pueblo Community College Pueblo Colorado 21
Rio Salado College Tempe Arizona 21
Savannah Technical College Savannah Georgia 21
College of Southern Nevada Las Vegas Nevada 20
Columbus State Community College Columbus Ohio 20
Community College of Rhode Island Warwick Rhode Island 20
Lake Land College Mattoon Illinois 20
Minnesota State Community and Technical College Fergus Falls Minnesota 20
North Dakota State College of Science Wahpeton North Dakota 20
Phoenix College Phoenix Arizona 20
Portland Community College Portland Oregon 20
Tarrant County College District Fort Worth Texas 20
University of Hawaii at Manoa Honolulu Hawaii 20
Carl Sandburg College Galesburg Illinois 19
Chabot College Hayward California 19
Coastal Carolina Community College Jacksonville North Carolina 19
College of Lake County Grayslake Illinois 19
Delta College University Center Michigan 19
Fortis College-Landover Landover Maryland 19
Hawkeye Community College Waterloo Iowa 19
Kalamazoo Valley Community College Kalamazoo Michigan 19
Kirkwood Community College Cedar Rapids Iowa 19
Laramie County Community College Cheyenne Wyoming 19
Sacramento City College Sacramento California 19
Salt Lake Community College Salt Lake City Utah 19
Springfield Technical Community College Springfield Massachusetts 19
Taft College Taft California 19
University of Maryland Baltimore Baltimore Maryland 19
Westmoreland County Community College Youngwood Pennsylvania 19
Wharton County Junior College Wharton Texas 19
Indiana University-South Bend South Bend Indiana 18
Allegany College of Maryland Cumberland Maryland 18
Diablo Valley College Pleasant Hill California 18
El Paso Community College El Paso Texas 18
Florida SouthWestern State College Fort Myers Florida 18
Hagerstown Community College Hagerstown Maryland 18
Harrisburg Area Community College Harrisburg Pennsylvania 18
Iowa Western Community College Council Bluffs Iowa 18
Mesa Community College Mesa Arizona 18
Normandale Community College Bloomington Minnesota 18
Northeast Mississippi Community College Booneville Mississippi 18
Ozarks Technical Community College Springfield Missouri 18
Rock Valley College Rockford Illinois 18
University of Wyoming Laramie Wyoming 18
Orange County Community College Middletown New York 17
Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College Asheville North Carolina 17
Baltimore City Community College Baltimore Maryland 17
Broward College Fort Lauderdale Florida 17
Camden County College Blackwood New Jersey 17
Fortis Institute-Birmingham Birmingham Alabama 17
Hiwassee College Madisonville Tennessee 17
Horry-Georgetown Technical College Conway South Carolina 17
Kellogg Community College Battle Creek Michigan 17
Mohave Community College Kingman Arizona 17
Thomas Nelson Community College Hampton Virginia 17
Trident Technical College Charleston South Carolina 17
Tunxis Community College Farmington Connecticut 17
Valencia College Orlando Florida 17
Wayne Community College Goldsboro North Carolina 17
Gulf Coast State College Panama City Florida 16
Austin Community College District Austin Texas 16
BridgeValley Community & Technical College South Charleston West Virginia 16
Catawba Valley Community College Hickory North Carolina 16
Chattanooga State Community College Chattanooga Tennessee 16
Flint Hills Technical College Emporia Kansas 16
Halifax Community College Weldon North Carolina 16
Midwestern State University Wichita Falls Texas 16
Montgomery County Community College Blue Bell Pennsylvania 16
Owens Community College Perrysburg Ohio 16
Oxnard College Oxnard California 16
Pearl River Community College Poplarville Mississippi 16
Blinn College Brenham Texas 15
Bristol Community College Fall River Massachusetts 15
Central Carolina Community College Sanford North Carolina 15
Collin County Community College District McKinney Texas 15
Columbia Basin College Pasco Washington 15
Columbus Technical College Columbus Georgia 15
Daytona State College Daytona Beach Florida 15
Fox Valley Technical College Appleton Wisconsin 15
Great Falls College Montana State University Great Falls Montana 15
Hillsborough Community College Tampa Florida 15
Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis Indianapolis Indiana 15
Iowa Central Community College Fort Dodge Iowa 15
Lake Superior College Duluth Minnesota 15
Lone Star College System The Woodlands Texas 15
Mt Hood Community College Gresham Oregon 15
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College Green Bay Wisconsin 15
Rochester Community and Technical College Rochester Minnesota 15
Central Community College Grand Island Nebraska 14
Goodwin College East Hartford Connecticut 14
Howard College Big Spring Texas 14
Lakeland Community College Kirtland Ohio 14
Lanier Technical College Gainesville Georgia 14
Quinsigamond Community College Worcester Massachusetts 14
Waukesha County Technical College Pewaukee Wisconsin 14
Wytheville Community College Wytheville Virginia 14
Atlanta Technical College Atlanta Georgia 13
Moreno Valley College Moreno Valley California 13
El Centro College Dallas Texas 13
Howard Community College Columbia Maryland 13
Lorain County Community College Elyria Ohio 13
Pierce College-Fort Steilacoom Lakewood Washington 13
Tulsa Community College Tulsa Oklahoma 13
Wake Technical Community College Raleigh North Carolina 13
West Georgia Technical College Waco Georgia 13
Athens Technical College Athens Georgia 12
Bellingham Technical College Bellingham Washington 12
Century College White Bear Lake Minnesota 12
Forsyth Technical Community College Winston-Salem North Carolina 12
Henderson Community College Henderson Kentucky 12
Houston Community College Houston Texas 12
Manor College Jenkintown Pennsylvania 12
Mount Wachusett Community College Gardner Massachusetts 12
New Mexico State University-Dona Ana Las Cruces New Mexico 12
Pasco-Hernando State College New Port Richey Florida 12
Rose State College Midwest City Oklahoma 12
Shasta College Redding California 12
South Florida State College Avon Park Florida 12
Temple College Temple Texas 12
Chippewa Valley Technical College Eau Claire Wisconsin 11
Eastern Florida State College Cocoa Florida 11
Essex County College Newark New Jersey 11
Florence-Darlington Technical College Florence South Carolina 11
Meridian Community College Meridian Mississippi 11
Mississippi Delta Community College Moorhead Mississippi 11
Roane State Community College Harriman Tennessee 11
San Juan College Farmington New Mexico 11
St Cloud Technical and Community College Saint Cloud Minnesota 11
University of Arkansas-Fort Smith Fort Smith Arkansas 11
University of California-San Francisco San Francisco California 11
Brookdale Community College Lincroft New Jersey 10
College of Southern Idaho Twin Falls Idaho 10
Cypress College Cypress California 10
Indian River State College Fort Pierce Florida 10
State College of Florida-Manatee-Sarasota Bradenton Florida 10
Truckee Meadows Community College Reno Nevada 10
West Kentucky Community and Technical College Paducah Kentucky 10
John A Logan College Carterville Illinois 9
State Fair Community College Sedalia Missouri 9
Albany State University Albany Georgia 8
Hillyard Technical Center Saint Joseph Missouri 8
Manhattan Area Technical College Manhattan Kansas 8
North Central Missouri College Trenton Missouri 8
York Technical College Rock Hill South Carolina 8
Cape Fear Community College Wilmington North Carolina 7
Howard University Washington District of Columbia 7
Raritan Valley Community College Branchburg New Jersey 7
Southern University at Shreveport Shreveport Louisiana 7
Indian Hills Community College Ottumwa Iowa 6
Ocean County College Toms River New Jersey 6
Union County College Cranford New Jersey 6
University of the Pacific Stockton California 5
Nicolet Area Technical College Rhinelander Wisconsin 4
Southeastern Technical College Vidalia Georgia 3
Lewis University Romeoville Illinois 2
City Colleges of Chicago-Kennedy-King College Chicago Illinois 1
La Sierra University Riverside California 1
Rhode Island College Providence Rhode Island 1
Southern Adventist University Collegedale Tennessee 1
Western Nebraska Community College Scottsbluff Nebraska 1
2017-2018 School Data from IPEDS (Sourced in November, 2019)

Hybrid & Online Dental Hygienist Programs

According to the American Dental Hygienists’ Association, many CODA-accredited programs offer online and hybrid options for prospective dental hygienists seeking both quality and flexibility in course completion.

The ADHA reports that the fully online options are typically for students who already have associate degrees or certificates in dental hygiene and are interested in degree completion programs to earn a bachelor of science in dental hygiene (BSDH). These accredited degree-completion programs, such as one at Wichita State University, offer all classes online, including educational methodology in dental hygiene; population health management in dental hygiene; research and evidence-based practice in dental hygiene; and issues in dental hygiene.

However, most entry-level dental hygienist programs require a classroom or clinical component due to the hands-on nature of the profession. Students may be required to return to campus for laboratory or clinical practicums.

Here is a sampling of accredited, online programs at dental hygienist schools.

Please note that the following programs require prior completion of an associate degree or certificate in dental hygiene. Students in these programs are generally practicing dental hygiene and looking to advance their qualifications.

Northern Arizona University

Northern Arizona University offers a bachelor of science (BS) in dental hygiene degree completion program (BSDHCP) geared toward students who want to further their professional development. The BSDHCP enhances students’ clinical knowledge with management, education, and public health courses. All classes are offered online under the guidance of Northern Arizona University’s faculty and students’ convenience. This university also provides exciting summer externship opportunities to serve diverse populations in Peru, Ghana, Camp Pendleton, Phoenix, Yuma, North Country, and more.

Applicants for this program must complete a minimum of 55 credit hours of prerequisite course work for this program. The curriculum of this program includes coursework in neck & head, oral and dental anatomy, oral histology and embryology; oral radiology; ethics and law in healthcare; oral health and disease prevention; oral medicine and pharmacology; oral pain management; restorative and dental materials.

  • Location: Flagstaff, AZ
  • Accreditation: Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA); The Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: AZ Residents ($10,650); Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) students ($15,975); non-residents ($25,396)

The Ohio State University

The Ohio State University offers an online baccalaureate degree completion program in dental hygiene for licensed dental hygienists holding an associate degree or a certificate in dental hygiene from a CODA-accredited program. Students in this online program will have the opportunity to participate in an educational and stimulating environment that combines advanced education in dental hygiene with the general education aspects of a bachelor’s degree.

The program’s curriculum includes courses such as periodontal therapy; research methods and interpretation; practice management; current concepts in dental hygiene; oral health behavior management; and a dental hygiene practicum.

Applicants to the program must be graduates of a CODA-accredited dental hygiene program with a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.7, and be licensed or eligible for an Ohio license to practice dental hygiene. The Ohio State University is authorized to offer this degree completion program in all 50 states.

  • Location: Columbus, OH
  • Accreditation: Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA); The Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 to 18 months
  • Estimated Tuition: Ohio Residents ($19,480); Non-Ohio Residents ($20,280), tuition rates vary by the number of transfer credits

Minnesota State University

Minnesota State University offers a two-year, accredited, online BSDH program provided by the department of dental hygiene in the college of allied health and nursing at Minnesota State University, Mankato. It’s ideal for full-time or part-time students who require flexibility in their course-completion schedules. The curriculum is tailored to students’ level of college experience but generally requires students to complete 11 dental hygiene courses (32 credits) and two to four general education courses.

This program is designed for licensed dental hygienists who have successfully completed training at a program accredited by the ADA Commission dental hygiene. With no campus visits required, this program includes dental hygiene courses such as advanced dental hygiene practice; current issues in dental hygiene; technology in oral health; dental hygiene care planning; decision making in periodontology; research methods in dental hygiene; and oral medicine and treatment planning, among others.

  • Location: Mankato, MN
  • Accreditation: Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA); The Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $355.45 per credit
School City State Website grads (2018)
University of Bridgeport Bridgeport Connecticut 99
MCPHS University Boston Massachusetts 81
St Petersburg College Clearwater Florida 71
Eastern Washington University Cheney Washington 64
Ferris State University Big Rapids Michigan 58
Northern Arizona University Flagstaff Arizona 58
Pennsylvania College of Technology Williamsport Pennsylvania 55
Minnesota State University-Mankato Mankato Minnesota 53
Wichita State University Wichita Kansas 50
Community College of Denver Denver Colorado 47
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Ann Arbor Michigan 47
Old Dominion University Norfolk Virginia 46
Farmingdale State College Farmingdale New York 45
Ohio State University-Main Campus Columbus Ohio 44
Loma Linda University Loma Linda California 41
Augusta University Augusta Georgia 37
University of South Dakota Vermillion South Dakota 37
Idaho State University Pocatello Idaho 35
University of New Mexico-Main Campus Albuquerque New Mexico 34
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio San Antonio Texas 34
Southern Illinois University-Carbondale Carbondale Illinois 32
University of Louisiana at Monroe Monroe Louisiana 32
Clayton State University Morrow Georgia 31
The University of Tennessee Health Science Center Memphis Tennessee 31
East Tennessee State University Johnson City Tennessee 29
SUNY College of Technology at Canton Canton New York 27
Georgia Highlands College Rome Georgia 25
Luzerne County Community College Nanticoke Pennsylvania 24
Vermont Technical College Randolph Vermont 23
Pueblo Community College Pueblo Colorado 21
Santa Fe College Gainesville Florida 21
College of Southern Nevada Las Vegas Nevada 20
University of Mississippi University Mississippi 18
Siena Heights University Adrian Michigan 14
East Mississippi Community College Scooba Mississippi 9
2017-2018 School Data from IPEDS (Sourced in November, 2019)

Dental Hygienist Core & Elective Courses

Core Courses

To become a dental hygienist, students must complete a program at an accredited dental hygienist school. These programs combine standard coursework with a hands-on, clinical laboratory component. According to the American Dental Hygienists' Association, core classes typically include:

  • Dental anatomy
  • Head and neck anatomy
  • Oral embryology and histology
  • Oral pathology
  • Radiography
  • Periodontology
  • Pain control (anesthetics)
  • Dental materials
  • Microbiology
  • Pathology
  • Pharmacology
  • General education courses (e.g., psychology, English, speech)

Electives & Specializations

Dental hygiene students may have the opportunity to complete electives in various specializations. This flexibility allows students to tailor coursework to their interests. Additionally, this instruction may enhance an individual's candidacy for jobs that specialize in different dental procedures. Some of these course electives may include:

  • Medical and dental emergencies
  • Nutrition in dentistry
  • Community dental health
  • Patient management
  • Legal responsibility in dentistry
  • Oral biology

Accreditation of Dental Hygienist Schools & Programs

Accreditation aims to protect students of dental hygienist programs. Seeking an accredited school is essential to ensure quality in coursework, training, and exam preparation. Typically, only students enrolled in accredited programs are eligible for government funding. Furthermore, graduation from an accredited program is also a standard requirement for licensure and certification examinations in dental hygiene. Before applying to a school, students should verify a program’s accreditation status.

Programmatic Accreditation

The American Dental Association's Commission on Dental Accreditation has continually developed and administered high accreditation standards for dental hygiene educational programs. CODA also offers a list of approved programs organized by the state to prospective students. In most states, students must graduate from a CODA-accredited program to be eligible for state licensure.

Institutional Accreditation

In addition to programmatic accreditation, an institution should hold accreditation as an institution. For instance, four-year universities may have earned regional accreditation from organizations such as the Accrediting Commission for Schools, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (ACS WASC). In contrast, a two-year program may have earned accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC).

As with programmatic accreditation, institutional accreditation considers faculty, facilities, and curricula to determine the institution’s viability in its educational mission.

Career Outlook

Dental Hygienist Career Outlook & Salary

The BLS shows that in May 2021, 206,100 dental hygienists were employed in the United States. As with careers in healthcare, openings for dental hygienists are predicted to grow faster than average by 11 percent from 2020 to 2030 (BLS 2021).

Expanded access to medical and dental care through the Affordable Health Care Act, in tandem with ongoing research that links good general health to good oral health, will likely increase the demand for dental hygienists.

How Much Do Dental Hygienists Make?

According to the BLS (May 2021), the 207,190 dental hygienists in the country made an average annual salary of $81,360. The percentiles for the wages were:

  • 10th percentile: $60,100
  • 25th percentile: $73,540
  • 50th percentile (median): $77,810
  • 75th percentile: $98,260
  • 90th percentile: $100,200

Top-Paying Industries for Dental Hygienists

Curiously enough, when it comes to paying dental hygienists the most money, dental offices fell fifth on the list. Here’s a list of the five top-paying industries for dental hygienists (BLS May 2021):

  • Average annual salary for dental hygienists: $81,360 per year
  • Community food and housing, and emergency and other relief services: $84,770 average
  • Facilities Support Services: $83,410
  • Employment Services: $83,330
  • Other Ambulatory Health Care Services: $82,510
  • Offices of dentists: $81,560

Top Employers for Dental Hygienists

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2021), dental offices employ 94 percent of the dental hygienists’ workforce. Other industries with the highest levels of employment for dental hygienists are as follows:

  • The total number of employed dental hygienists: 207,190 employed
  • Offices of dentists: 196,190 employed
  • Employment services: 3,040
  • Offices of physicians: 2,160
  • Outpatient care centers: 1,810
  • Federal executive branch (OEWS Designation): 880

Top Employing States for Dental Hygienists

Unsurprisingly, the states that hire the most dental hygienists are also some of the most populous. Here are the top five states with the highest levels of employment and the annual wages they earn (BLS May 2021):

  • California: 25,200 employed ($108,200 per year)
  • Texas: 13,030 ($75,970)
  • Florida: 11,230 ($73,180)
  • New York: 10,020 ($83,600)
  • Pennsylvania: 9,690 ($71,710)
Career Facts Dental Hygienist
Related CareersDental Assistant, Medical Assistant, Radiation Therapist
Common Job TitlesDental Hygienist
Technology & EquipmentHand Scalers and Curettes, Ultrasonic Scalers, Polishers, X-Ray Machines
Sourced from BLS, May 2021

Dental Hygienist Licensure & Certification

State Licensure for Dental Hygienists

After graduating from an accredited dental hygienist program, individuals become eligible for professional licensure. State governments grant licenses, and therefore, requirements vary from state to state. Aspiring dental hygienists should investigate the requirements in the state where they want to practice.

However, according to the ADHA, there are a few steps that are common across virtually every state:

  • Completion of an accredited dental hygiene program
  • Passing the written National Board Dental Hygiene Examination
  • Passing a regional or state clinical board exam
  • Completion of continuing education credits (to maintain licensure)

Once these steps are complete, the applicant must contact the state’s licensing authority where he or she wishes to practice and submit the required documentation and fees to become legally eligible for employment.

Certification for Dental Hygienists

Several certifying bodies for the dental hygienist profession may be relevant for those entering the field. The proper certifying body will depend on the geographic location of the individual becoming licensed.

  • Council of Interstate Testing Agencies
  • Central Regional Dental Testing Service
  • Commission on Dental Competency Assessments
  • Southern Regional Testing Agency
  • Western Regional Examining Board

Each certification body administers exams in many states. For example, a hygienist who wants to become licensed in Kansas would be able to take the ADEX, CDCA, CITA, CRDTS, SRTA, or WREB board exams. To determine what licensing exam to take, new hygienists should contact their state licensing board.

Jocelyn Blore
Jocelyn Blore Managing Editor

Jocelyn Blore has interviewed dozens of medical technology and healthcare professionals, and edited hundreds of articles related to this field since 2015. After graduating from UC Berkeley, Jocelyn traveled the world for five years as freelance writer and English teacher. After stints in Japan, Brazil, Nepal, and Argentina, she took an 11-month road trip across the US, finally settling into lovely Eugene, OR. When Jocelyn isn’t writing about college programs or interviewing professors, she satirizes global politics and other absurdities at Blore’s Razor (Instagram: @bloresrazor). Thank you for being so interested.