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 7 percent from 2022 to 2032, a rate that’s faster than the national average for all occupations at 3 percent (BLS Sept. 2023).

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 ($240.10 per credit); non-resident ($257.44 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: $312 per credit

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)

List of Dental Hygienist Schools

Filter by state :
School City State Website GRADS ('21)
Bluegrass Community and Technical College Lexington Kentucky 130
University of Bridgeport Bridgeport Connecticut 103
Plaza College Forest Hills New York 87
Fox College Tinley Park Illinois 85
New York University New York New York 80
West Coast University-Orange County Anaheim California 79
Eastern International College-Jersey City Jersey City New Jersey 77
Foothill College Los Altos Hills California 72
Sinclair Community College Dayton Ohio 71
Idaho State University Pocatello Idaho 67
Parkland College Champaign Illinois 66
CUNY New York City College of Technology Brooklyn New York 65
University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus Pittsburgh Pennsylvania 64
West Liberty University West Liberty West Virginia 63
Loma Linda University Loma Linda California 60
Careers Unlimited Orem Utah 59
Regis College Weston Massachusetts 59
Southwestern College Chula Vista California 59
Carrington College-Mesa Mesa Arizona 58
University of New Haven West Haven Connecticut 58
Lake Washington Institute of Technology Kirkland Washington 57
Ferris State University Big Rapids Michigan 55
Pima Medical Institute-Seattle Seattle Washington 55
Fresno City College Fresno California 53
University of New England Biddeford Maine 53
Middlesex College Edison New Jersey 51
Carl Sandburg College Galesburg Illinois 50
City Colleges of Chicago-Malcolm X College Chicago Illinois 50
Eastern Washington University Cheney Washington 50
Pueblo Community College Pueblo Colorado 49
San Joaquin Valley College-Ontario Ontario California 49
Fortis College-Smyrna Smyrna Georgia 48
Northern Wyoming Community College District Sheridan Wyoming 48
Stark State College North Canton Ohio 48
Clark College Vancouver Washington 47
Greenville Technical College Greenville South Carolina 47
Palm Beach State College Lake Worth Florida 47
San Joaquin Valley College-Visalia Visalia California 47
Concorde Career College-Aurora Aurora Colorado 46
Concorde Career College-Dallas Dallas Texas 45
Pierce College District Lakewood Washington 45
Santa Rosa Junior College Santa Rosa California 45
CUNY Hostos Community College Bronx New York 44
Farmingdale State College Farmingdale New York 44
Shoreline Community College Shoreline Washington 44
University of Oklahoma-Health Sciences Center Oklahoma City Oklahoma 44
Carrington College-Boise Boise Idaho 42
Concorde Career College-San Antonio San Antonio Texas 42
Del Mar College Corpus Christi Texas 42
Hudson Valley Community College Troy New York 42
Cape Cod Community College West Barnstable Massachusetts 41
Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis Indianapolis Indiana 41
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Houston Texas 41
Tyler Junior College Tyler Texas 41
Lane Community College Eugene Oregon 40
Florida State College at Jacksonville Jacksonville Florida 39
Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center-New Orleans New Orleans Louisiana 39
Tennessee State University Nashville Tennessee 39
Baker College Owosso Michigan 38
Bergen Community College Paramus New Jersey 38
Weber State University Ogden Utah 38
Milwaukee Area Technical College Milwaukee Wisconsin 37
Rowan College at Burlington County Mount Laurel New Jersey 37
University of Cincinnati-Blue Ash College Blue Ash Ohio 37
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Minneapolis Minnesota 37
Allegany College of Maryland Cumberland Maryland 36
Monroe Community College Rochester New York 36
Northcentral Technical College Wausau Wisconsin 36
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill North Carolina 36
Camden County College Blackwood New Jersey 35
Concorde Career College-Memphis Memphis Tennessee 35
Georgia Highlands College Rome Georgia 35
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Little Rock Arkansas 35
Grand Rapids Community College Grand Rapids Michigan 34
West Los Angeles College Culver City California 34
Bristol Community College Fall River Massachusetts 33
Great Falls College Montana State University Great Falls Montana 33
Madison Area Technical College Madison Wisconsin 33
Moreno Valley College Moreno Valley California 33
Northern Virginia Community College Annandale Virginia 33
Pima Medical Institute-Houston Houston Texas 33
Chattanooga State Community College Chattanooga Tennessee 32
Fortis Institute-Scranton Scranton Pennsylvania 32
Western Kentucky University Bowling Green Kentucky 32
Central Georgia Technical College Warner Robins Georgia 31
Ivy Tech Community College Indianapolis Indiana 31
Pacific University Forest Grove Oregon 31
Quinsigamond Community College Worcester Massachusetts 31
Howard College Big Spring Texas 30
Metropolitan State University Saint Paul Minnesota 30
Northampton County Area Community College Bethlehem Pennsylvania 30
SUNY Broome Community College Binghamton New York 30
University of Louisville Louisville Kentucky 30
University of Southern California Los Angeles California 30
Carrington College-Sacramento Sacramento California 29
Carrington College-San Jose San Jose California 29
College of Southern Nevada Las Vegas Nevada 29
Fortis College-Landover Landover Maryland 29
Pasadena City College Pasadena California 29
Pima Community College Tucson Arizona 29
Texas A & M University-College Station College Station Texas 29
College of DuPage Glen Ellyn Illinois 28
Community College of Philadelphia Philadelphia Pennsylvania 28
Fortis College-Salt Lake City Salt Lake City Utah 28
Pensacola State College Pensacola Florida 28
The University of Tennessee Health Science Center Memphis Tennessee 28
Virginia Western Community College Roanoke Virginia 28
Coastal Bend College Beeville Texas 27
Saint Louis Community College Bridgeton Missouri 27
Montgomery County Community College Blue Bell Pennsylvania 26
University of Detroit Mercy Detroit Michigan 26
Concorde Career College-Kansas City Kansas City Missouri 25
Harcum College Bryn Mawr Pennsylvania 25
Oakland Community College Bloomfield Hills Michigan 25
Dixie State University Saint George Utah 24
George C Wallace State Community College-Hanceville Hanceville Alabama 24
Mott Community College Flint Michigan 24
Salt Lake Community College Salt Lake City Utah 24
University of Nebraska Medical Center Omaha Nebraska 24
Colorado Northwestern Community College Rangely Colorado 23
Community College of Denver Denver Colorado 23
Community College of Rhode Island Warwick Rhode Island 23
Concorde Career College-Garden Grove Garden Grove California 23
Concorde Career College-San Diego San Diego California 23
Mount Wachusett Community College Gardner Massachusetts 23
Rock Valley College Rockford Illinois 23
Tunxis Community College Farmington Connecticut 23
Wayne Community College Goldsboro North Carolina 23
West Virginia University Morgantown West Virginia 23
Big Sandy Community and Technical College Prestonsburg Kentucky 22
Concorde Career College-San Bernardino San Bernardino California 22
Harrisburg Area Community College Harrisburg Pennsylvania 22
Indiana University-Northwest Gary Indiana 22
Indiana University-South Bend South Bend Indiana 22
Missouri Southern State University Joplin Missouri 22
Sacramento City College Sacramento California 22
University of Maine at Augusta Augusta Maine 22
University of Southern Indiana Evansville Indiana 22
Youngstown State University Youngstown Ohio 22
Des Moines Area Community College Ankeny Iowa 21
Fayetteville Technical Community College Fayetteville North Carolina 21
Johnson County Community College Overland Park Kansas 21
Midlands Technical College West Columbia South Carolina 21
Phoenix College Phoenix Arizona 21
Pima Medical Institute-Albuquerque Albuquerque New Mexico 21
Southern University at Shreveport Shreveport Louisiana 21
Tarrant County College District Fort Worth Texas 21
William Rainey Harper College Palatine Illinois 21
Yakima Valley College Yakima Washington 21
Coastal Carolina Community College Jacksonville North Carolina 20
Delaware Technical Community College-Terry Dover Delaware 20
Illinois Central College East Peoria Illinois 20
Indian Hills Community College Ottumwa Iowa 20
Lewis and Clark Community College Godfrey Illinois 20
Manhattan Area Technical College Manhattan Kansas 20
Minnesota State Community and Technical College Fergus Falls Minnesota 20
Northeast Mississippi Community College Booneville Mississippi 20
Ozarks Technical Community College Springfield Missouri 20
Savannah Technical College Savannah Georgia 20
Trident Technical College Charleston South Carolina 20
Broward College Fort Lauderdale Florida 19
Dallas College Dallas Texas 19
Lake Superior College Duluth Minnesota 19
Middlesex Community College Bedford Massachusetts 19
Portland Community College Portland Oregon 19
Remington College-Nashville Campus Nashville Tennessee 19
Springfield Technical Community College Springfield Massachusetts 19
Taft College Taft California 19
University of Wyoming Laramie Wyoming 19
BridgeValley Community & Technical College South Charleston West Virginia 18
Chabot College Hayward California 18
Diablo Valley College Pleasant Hill California 18
Hawkeye Community College Waterloo Iowa 18
Horry-Georgetown Technical College Conway South Carolina 18
Kirkwood Community College Cedar Rapids Iowa 18
Luzerne County Community College Nanticoke Pennsylvania 18
Normandale Community College Bloomington Minnesota 18
Shawnee State University Portsmouth Ohio 18
Westmoreland County Community College Youngwood Pennsylvania 18
Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College Asheville North Carolina 17
Austin Community College District Austin Texas 17
Catawba Valley Community College Hickory North Carolina 17
Central Carolina Community College Sanford North Carolina 17
Columbia Basin College Pasco Washington 17
Cuyahoga Community College District Cleveland Ohio 17
Florida SouthWestern State College Fort Myers Florida 17
Kalamazoo Valley Community College Kalamazoo Michigan 17
Kellogg Community College Battle Creek Michigan 17
Midwestern State University Wichita Falls Texas 17
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College Green Bay Wisconsin 17
Owens Community College Perrysburg Ohio 17
Oxnard College Oxnard California 17
University of Alaska Anchorage Anchorage Alaska 17
University of Arkansas-Fort Smith Fort Smith Arkansas 17
University of Hawaii at Manoa Honolulu Hawaii 17
Virginia Peninsula Community College Hampton Virginia 17
Wytheville Community College Wytheville Virginia 17
Columbus Technical College Columbus Georgia 16
Hagerstown Community College Hagerstown Maryland 16
Halifax Community College Weldon North Carolina 16
Hocking College Nelsonville Ohio 16
Rochester Community and Technical College Rochester Minnesota 16
Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond Virginia 16
Wake Technical Community College Raleigh North Carolina 16
Atlanta Technical College Atlanta Georgia 15
Cabrillo College Aptos California 15
Collin County Community College District McKinney Texas 15
Cypress College Cypress California 15
Delta College University Center Michigan 15
Flint Hills Technical College Emporia Kansas 15
Lakeland Community College Kirtland Ohio 15
Laramie County Community College Cheyenne Wyoming 15
University of Hawaii Maui College Kahului Hawaii 15
Athens Technical College Athens Georgia 14
Blinn College Brenham Texas 14
Goodwin University East Hartford Connecticut 14
Indian River State College Fort Pierce Florida 14
Iowa Central Community College Fort Dodge Iowa 14
Lone Star College System The Woodlands Texas 14
North Dakota State College of Science Wahpeton North Dakota 14
Pearl River Community College Poplarville Mississippi 14
State College of Florida-Manatee-Sarasota Bradenton Florida 14
University of Maryland Baltimore Baltimore Maryland 14
Waukesha County Technical College Pewaukee Wisconsin 14
Chippewa Valley Technical College Eau Claire Wisconsin 13
Community College of Baltimore County Baltimore Maryland 13
Florence-Darlington Technical College Florence South Carolina 13
Fortis Institute-Birmingham Birmingham Alabama 13
Fox Valley Technical College Appleton Wisconsin 13
Gulf Coast State College Panama City Florida 13
Hillsborough Community College Tampa Florida 13
Lanier Technical College Gainesville Georgia 13
Lorain County Community College Elyria Ohio 13
Manor College Jenkintown Pennsylvania 13
State Fair Community College Sedalia Missouri 13
Tennessee Wesleyan University Athens Tennessee 13
Century College White Bear Lake Minnesota 12
Forsyth Technical Community College Winston-Salem North Carolina 12
Iowa Western Community College Council Bluffs Iowa 12
Mohave Community College Kingman Arizona 12
Rose State College Midwest City Oklahoma 12
San Juan College Farmington New Mexico 12
Shasta College Redding California 12
St Cloud Technical and Community College Saint Cloud Minnesota 12
Wayne County Community College District Detroit Michigan 12
South College Knoxville Tennessee 11
Temple College Temple Texas 11
Truckee Meadows Community College Reno Nevada 11
Meridian Community College Meridian Mississippi 10
West Georgia Technical College Waco Georgia 10
Bellingham Technical College Bellingham Washington 9
College of Southern Idaho Twin Falls Idaho 9
Howard Community College Columbia Maryland 9
Lewis University Romeoville Illinois 9
Mississippi Delta Community College Moorhead Mississippi 9
South Florida State College Avon Park Florida 9
West Kentucky Community and Technical College Paducah Kentucky 9
Howard University Washington District of Columbia 8
Pasco-Hernando State College New Port Richey Florida 8
Wharton County Junior College Wharton Texas 8
Miami Dade College Miami Florida 6
University of the Pacific Stockton California 5
Baltimore City Community College Baltimore Maryland 4
Southeastern Technical College Vidalia Georgia 4
Rhode Island College Providence Rhode Island 2
Texas State Technical College Waco Texas 2
Valencia College Orlando Florida 2
Dodge City Community College Dodge City Kansas 1
Eastern Florida State College Cocoa Florida 1
Prairie State College Chicago Heights Illinois 1
Southern Adventist University Collegedale Tennessee 1
Western Nebraska Community College Scottsbluff Nebraska 1
'20-'21 School Data from IPEDS (Sourced in September, 2023)

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 ($11,352); Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) students ($17,028); non-residents ($27,600)

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 ($26,660); Non-Ohio Residents ($27,460)

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: $367.90 per credit
School City State Website GRADS ('21)
MCPHS University Boston Massachusetts 94
Plaza College Forest Hills New York 87
Pennsylvania College of Technology Williamsport Pennsylvania 72
Idaho State University Pocatello Idaho 67
Oregon Institute of Technology Klamath Falls Oregon 65
University of New Mexico-Main Campus Albuquerque New Mexico 61
Texas Woman's University Denton Texas 61
Minnesota State University-Mankato Mankato Minnesota 60
Wichita State University Wichita Kansas 59
St Petersburg College St. Petersburg Florida 59
Northern Arizona University Flagstaff Arizona 57
Augusta University Augusta Georgia 55
Ferris State University Big Rapids Michigan 55
Clayton State University Morrow Georgia 55
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Ann Arbor Michigan 53
Old Dominion University Norfolk Virginia 52
Eastern Washington University Cheney Washington 50
Ohio State University-Main Campus Columbus Ohio 48
San Joaquin Valley College-Visalia Visalia California 47
Farmingdale State College Farmingdale New York 44
Tyler Junior College Tyler Texas 41
University of South Dakota Vermillion South Dakota 37
Mt Hood Community College Gresham Oregon 36
Santa Fe College Gainesville Florida 36
Georgia Highlands College Rome Georgia 35
Southern Illinois University-Carbondale Carbondale Illinois 35
University of Missouri-Kansas City Kansas City Missouri 33
Western Kentucky University Bowling Green Kentucky 32
East Tennessee State University Johnson City Tennessee 32
Herzing University-Minneapolis St. Louis Park Minnesota 31
Utah Valley University Orem Utah 30
Lamar Institute of Technology Beaumont Texas 28
University of Louisiana at Monroe Monroe Louisiana 28
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio San Antonio Texas 26
Concorde Career College-Kansas City Kansas City Missouri 25
University of Mississippi University Mississippi 20
Rio Salado College Tempe Arizona 17
Vermont Technical College Randolph Vermont 17
Mesa Community College Mesa Arizona 15
Central Community College Grand Island Nebraska 13
James A. Rhodes State College Lima Ohio 12
Roane State Community College Harriman Tennessee 12
East Mississippi Community College Scooba Mississippi 12
Jackson College Jackson Michigan 11
South College Knoxville Tennessee 11
Siena Heights University Adrian Michigan 6
Cerritos College Norwalk California 1
'20-'21 School Data from IPEDS (Sourced in September, 2023)

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 September 2023, 219,400 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 7 percent from 2022 to 2032 (BLS 2023).

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 2022), the 214,700 dental hygienists in the country made an average annual salary of $84,860. The percentiles for the wages were:

  • 10th percentile: $61,510
  • 25th percentile: $75,100
  • 50th percentile (median): $81,400
  • 75th percentile: $96,870
  • 90th percentile: $107,640

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 2022

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.