Dental Hygienist Schools

Dental hygienists provide preventive therapy to promote oral health, examine patients for signs of disease, and teach them to manage their own 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 as well. Upon receiving their license, hygienists become Registered Dental Hygienists (RDH’s) and qualify to enter this high-growth occupation.


Degree & certification Programs

Qualifications and Requirements

In order 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 their program is accredited by the American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) prior to enrolling.

Program lengths may vary, but dental hygienist school typically takes two years to complete. The American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) reports that an associate degree in dental hygiene requires an average of 84 credit hours. For a bachelor’s degree, it’s an average of 118 credit hours. Although bachelor’s or master’s degree programs may take an additional two to four years to complete, they may enable a student to pursue a career in research and teaching, including managing roles in clinics or public health programs.

Admission requirements for dental hygienist schools typically include the completion of high school courses in chemistry, biology, health, psychology, speech, and mathematics. 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 basic 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 prior to receiving their degrees or certifications. This practical work helps students flesh out their theoretical knowledge with hands-on experience in patient care.

After completing a dental hygienist program at an accredited school, students may be eligible for licensure. Initially, students are required to 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 prior to obtaining licensure:

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

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

Dental Hygienist Schools

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

  • The University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles offers a bachelor of science (BS) in dental hygiene, one of only 48 such programs in the country. USC’s Ostrow School of Dentistry has been internationally renowned since opening its doors over 80 years ago. The school includes faculty who are editors and authors from some of the country’s most influential journals and textbooks in dental hygiene.
  • Salt Lake Community College in Salt Lake City offers an economical two-year associate of applied science (AAS) program in dental hygiene, accredited by ADA’s CODA and the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), a regional body of quality assurance. 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.
  • The University of Minnesota School of Dentistry in Minneapolis offers an accelerated, three-year bachelor of science program for aspiring dental hygienists. UM also has a master of science in dental hygiene (MSDH) option 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.
  • The College of Southern Nevada offers a two-year, associate of science in dental hygiene program. This school features state-of-the-art radiology, sterilization, and ultrasonic equipment at its Charleston Campus Health Sciences Center (HSC) in Las Vegas.
  • Valencia College in Orlando offers a two-year associates 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 good oral hygiene practices.
  • 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 with two years of program coursework and clinical instruction. This program aims to teach its students not only the fundamental skills of dental hygiene, but also character-building with its emphasis on community service initiatives for diverse populations.

List of Dental Hygienist Schools

Filter by state :
School City State Website Total grads (2013)
Sinclair Community College Dayton Ohio 72
West Coast University-Orange County Anaheim California 64
Minnesota State University-Mankato Mankato Minnesota 63
West Liberty University West Liberty West Virginia 63
Carrington College-Portland Portland Oregon 59
Careers Unlimited Orem Utah 58
New York University New York New York 58
University of New England Biddeford Maine 58
Bluegrass Community and Technical College Lexington Kentucky 55
Herzing University-Minneapolis Minneapolis Minnesota 54
University of Detroit Mercy Detroit Michigan 53
Farmingdale State College Farmingdale New York http://WWW.FARMINGDALE.EDU 52
University of New Haven West Haven Connecticut 52
CUNY New York City College of Technology Brooklyn New York 50
University of Maryland-Baltimore Baltimore Maryland 50
University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus Pittsburgh Pennsylvania 50
Carrington College California-San Jose San Jose California 49
Miami Dade College Miami Florida 48
CUNY Hostos Community College Bronx New York 46
Erie Community College Buffalo New York 45
University of Oklahoma-Health Sciences Center Oklahoma City Oklahoma 45
Pueblo Community College Pueblo Colorado 44
Indiana University-South Bend South Bend Indiana 43
Dixie State University Saint George Utah 42
Argosy University-Twin Cities Eagan Minnesota 41
Concorde Career College-Garden Grove Garden Grove California 41
Carrington College-Boise Boise Idaho 40
Concorde Career College-Memphis Memphis Tennessee 40
Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis Indianapolis Indiana 40
Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center-New Orleans New Orleans Louisiana 40
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Little Rock Arkansas 39
Remington College-Nashville Campus Nashville Tennessee 38
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill North Carolina 38
The University of Tennessee-Knoxville Knoxville Tennessee 37
Bergen Community College Paramus New Jersey 36
Sanford-Brown Institute-Orlando Orlando Florida 36
University of South Dakota Vermillion South Dakota http://WWW.USD.EDU 36
Wichita State University Wichita Kansas 36
Madison Area Technical College Madison Wisconsin 35
Owens Community College Perrysburg Ohio 35
SUNY Broome Community College Binghamton New York http://WWW.SUNYBROOME.EDU 35
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Houston Texas 35
Allegany College of Maryland Cumberland Maryland 34
Grand Rapids Community College Grand Rapids Michigan 34
Mount Ida College Newton Massachusetts 34
Parkland College Champaign Illinois 34
Sanford-Brown College-Dallas Dallas Texas 34
Taft College Taft California 34
Milwaukee Area Technical College Milwaukee Wisconsin 33
Tennessee State University Nashville Tennessee 33
University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey Newark New Jersey 33
University of Southern California Los Angeles California 33
College of Southern Nevada Las Vegas Nevada 32
Community College of Rhode Island Warwick Rhode Island 32
University of New Mexico-Main Campus Albuquerque New Mexico 32
Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond Virginia 32
Coastal Bend College Beeville Texas 31
Diablo Valley College Pleasant Hill California 31
Northern Virginia Community College Annandale Virginia 31
Pacific University Forest Grove Oregon 31
San Joaquin Valley College-Visalia Visalia California 31
Southern Illinois University-Carbondale Carbondale Illinois 31
Hudson Valley Community College Troy New York 30
Indiana University-Northwest Gary Indiana 30
Lake Washington Institute of Technology Kirkland Washington 30
Middlesex Community College Bedford Massachusetts 30
Northampton County Area Community College Bethlehem Pennsylvania 30
Weber State University Ogden Utah 30
Clayton State University Morrow Georgia 29
Greenville Technical College Greenville South Carolina 29
Monroe Community College Rochester New York 29
NHTI-Concord's Community College Concord New Hampshire 29
Southwestern College Chula Vista California 29
The Community College of Baltimore County Baltimore Maryland 29
University of Louisville Louisville Kentucky 29
Amarillo College Amarillo Texas 28
George C Wallace State Community College-Hanceville Hanceville Alabama 28
Northcentral Technical College Wausau Wisconsin 28
Texas A & M University Health Science Center Bryan Texas 28
Texas State Technical College-Harlingen Harlingen Texas 28
University of Cincinnati-Blue Ash College Blue Ash Ohio 28
Carrington College California-Sacramento Sacramento California 27
Central Georgia Technical College Warner Robins Georgia 27
College of DuPage Glen Ellyn Illinois 27
Colorado Northwestern Community College Rangely Colorado 27
Fayetteville Technical Community College Fayetteville North Carolina 27
Middlesex County College Edison New Jersey 27
Ivy Tech Community College Indianapolis Indiana 26
Pima Medical Institute-Albuquerque Albuquerque New Mexico 26
Saint Louis Community College Saint Louis Missouri 26
Tallahassee Community College Tallahassee Florida 26
University of Alaska Anchorage Anchorage Alaska 26
Wytheville Community College Wytheville Virginia 26
Central Piedmont Community College Charlotte North Carolina 25
Clark College Vancouver Washington 25
Concorde Career College-San Bernardino San Bernardino California 25
Del Mar College Corpus Christi Texas 25
Florida State College at Jacksonville Jacksonville Florida 25
Fresno City College Fresno California 25
Indiana University-Purdue University-Fort Wayne Fort Wayne Indiana 25
Johnson County Community College Overland Park Kansas 25
Lake Land College Mattoon Illinois 25
Lamar Institute of Technology Beaumont Texas 25
Prairie State College Chicago Heights Illinois 25
San Joaquin Valley College-Ontario Ontario California 25
Shoreline Community College Shoreline Washington 25
Tunxis Community College Farmington Connecticut 25
University of Southern Indiana Evansville Indiana 25
Vermont Technical College Randolph Center Vermont 25
Cerritos College Norwalk California 24
Community College of Denver Denver Colorado 24
Concorde Career Colleges Kansas City Missouri 24
Georgia Regents University Augusta Georgia 24
Harcum College Bryn Mawr Pennsylvania 24
Lane Community College Eugene Oregon 24
University of Nebraska Medical Center Omaha Nebraska 24
Baker College of Auburn Hills Auburn Hills Michigan 23
Delaware Technical Community College-Stanton/Wilmington Wilmington Delaware 23
Georgia Perimeter College Decatur Georgia 23
Lansing Community College Lansing Michigan 23
Pensacola State College Pensacola Florida 23
Sheridan College Sheridan Wyoming 23
Trident Technical College Charleston South Carolina 23
Utah Valley University Orem Utah 23
Baltimore City Community College Baltimore Maryland 22
Burlington County College Pemberton New Jersey 22
Cape Cod Community College West Barnstable Massachusetts 22
Foothill College Los Altos Hills California 22
Fortis College-Salt Lake City Salt Lake City Utah 22
Kalamazoo Valley Community College Kalamazoo Michigan 22
Missouri College Brentwood Missouri 22
Mott Community College Flint Michigan 22
North Dakota State College of Science Wahpeton North Dakota 22
Rock Valley College Rockford Illinois 22
Santa Rosa Junior College Santa Rosa California 22
Siena Heights University Adrian Michigan 22
University of Maine at Augusta Augusta Maine 22
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Minneapolis Minnesota 22
Baker College of Port Huron Port Huron Michigan 21
Carrington College-Mesa Mesa Arizona 21
Community College of Philadelphia Philadelphia Pennsylvania 21
Concorde Career College-Aurora Aurora Colorado 21
Concorde Career Institute-Dallas Dallas Texas 21
Concorde Career Institute-San Antonio San Antonio Texas 21
Des Moines Area Community College Ankeny Iowa 21
Lake Superior College Duluth Minnesota 21
Lincoln College of New England-Southington Southington Connecticut 21
Oakland Community College Bloomfield Hills Michigan 21
Pima Community College Tucson Arizona 21
Santa Fe College Gainesville Florida 21
Tarrant County College District Fort Worth Texas 21
West Virginia University Morgantown West Virginia 21
Guilford Technical Community College Jamestown North Carolina 20
Harper College Palatine Illinois 20
Lakeland Community College Kirtland Ohio 20
Normandale Community College Bloomington Minnesota 20
Northeast Mississippi Community College Booneville Mississippi 20
Palm Beach State College Lake Worth Florida 20
University of Wyoming Laramie Wyoming 20
Virginia Western Community College Roanoke Virginia 20
Wayne Community College Goldsboro North Carolina 20
Luzerne County Community College Nanticoke Pennsylvania 19
Mesa Community College Mesa Arizona 19
Phoenix College Phoenix Arizona 19
Pierce College at Fort Steilacoom Lakewood Washington 19
Portland Community College Portland Oregon 19
Seattle Central College Seattle Washington 19
Shawnee State University Portsmouth Ohio http://WWW.SHAWNEE.EDU 19
Stark State College North Canton Ohio 19
Valencia College Orlando Florida 19
West Los Angeles College Culver City California 19
Bristol Community College Fall River Massachusetts 18
Cabrillo College Aptos California 18
Camden County College Blackwood New Jersey 18
Chattanooga State Community College Chattanooga Tennessee 18
Coastal Carolina Community College Jacksonville North Carolina 18
Hawkeye Community College Waterloo Iowa 18
James A Rhodes State College Lima Ohio 18
Kellogg Community College Battle Creek Michigan 18
Midlands Technical College West Columbia South Carolina 18
Midwestern State University Wichita Falls Texas 18
Minnesota State Community and Technical College Fergus Falls Minnesota 18
Mt Hood Community College Gresham Oregon 18
Sacramento City College Sacramento California 18
Tyler Junior College Tyler Texas http://WWW.TJC.EDU 18
Wharton County Junior College Wharton Texas 18
Youngstown State University Youngstown Ohio 18
College of Lake County Grayslake Illinois http://WWW.CLCILLINOIS.EDU 17
Fortis College-Smyrna Smyrna Georgia 17
Fortis Institute-Erie Erie Pennsylvania 17
Halifax Community College Weldon North Carolina 17
Harrisburg Area Community College-Harrisburg Harrisburg Pennsylvania 17
Houston Community College Houston Texas 17
John A Logan College Carterville Illinois 17
Kirkwood Community College Cedar Rapids Iowa 17
Laramie County Community College Cheyenne Wyoming 17
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College Green Bay Wisconsin 17
Oxnard College Oxnard California 17
Yakima Valley Community College Yakima Washington 17
Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College Asheville North Carolina 16
Bridgemont Community and Technical College Montgomery West Virginia 16
Carl Sandburg College Galesburg Illinois 16
Collin County Community College District McKinney Texas 16
Cypress College Cypress California 16
Westmoreland County Community College Youngwood Pennsylvania 16
Broward College Fort Lauderdale Florida 15
Columbus State Community College Columbus Ohio 15
Fortis College-Landover Landover Maryland 15
Fox Valley Technical College Appleton Wisconsin 15
Horry-Georgetown Technical College Conway South Carolina 15
Illinois Central College East Peoria Illinois 15
Iowa Western Community College Council Bluffs Iowa 15
Lewis and Clark Community College Godfrey Illinois 15
Lone Star College System The Woodlands Texas 15
Lorain County Community College Elyria Ohio 15
Pearl River Community College Poplarville Mississippi 15
Rochester Community and Technical College Rochester Minnesota 15
Savannah Technical College Savannah Georgia 15
Springfield Technical Community College Springfield Massachusetts 15
University of Arkansas-Fort Smith Fort Smith Arkansas 15
Wayne County Community College District Detroit Michigan 15
West Kentucky Community and Technical College Paducah Kentucky 15
Austin Community College District Austin Texas 14
Catawba Valley Community College Hickory North Carolina 14
Columbus Technical College Columbus Georgia 14
Darton State College Albany Georgia 14
Delta College University Center Michigan 14
El Paso Community College El Paso Texas 14
Flint Hills Technical College Emporia Kansas 14
Great Falls College Montana State University Great Falls Montana 14
Lanier Technical College Oakwood Georgia 14
Meridian Community College Meridian Mississippi 14
Mohave Community College Kingman Arizona 14
Pasadena City College Pasadena California 14
Quinsigamond Community College Worcester Massachusetts 14
University of Hawaii at Manoa Honolulu Hawaii 14
University of North Georgia Dahlonega Georgia 14
Athens Technical College Athens Georgia 13
Blinn College Brenham Texas 13
Central Community College Grand Island Nebraska 13
Century College White Bear Lake Minnesota 13
Chabot College Hayward California 13
Columbia Basin College Pasco Washington 13
Essex County College Newark New Jersey 13
Mississippi Delta Community College Moorhead Mississippi 13
Montgomery County Community College Blue Bell Pennsylvania 13
Orange County Community College Middletown New York 13
Ozarks Technical Community College Springfield Missouri 13
Salt Lake Community College Salt Lake City Utah 13
Tulsa Community College Tulsa Oklahoma 13
University of the Pacific Stockton California 13
Waukesha County Technical College Pewaukee Wisconsin 13
Big Sandy Community and Technical College Prestonsburg Kentucky 12
City Colleges of Chicago-Kennedy-King College Chicago Illinois 12
Cuyahoga Community College District Cleveland Ohio 12
Daytona State College Daytona Beach Florida 12
Georgia Highlands College Rome Georgia 12
Howard College Big Spring Texas 12
Mount Wachusett Community College Gardner Massachusetts http://MWCC.EDU 12
New Mexico State University-Dona Ana Las Cruces New Mexico 12
Northeast Texas Community College Mount Pleasant Texas 12
Roane State Community College Harriman Tennessee 12
Shasta College Redding California 12
St Cloud Technical and Community College Saint Cloud Minnesota 12
Florence-Darlington Technical College Florence South Carolina http://WWW.FDTC.EDU 11
Fortis Institute-Scranton Scranton Pennsylvania 11
Hillsborough Community College Tampa Florida 11
Indian River State College Fort Pierce Florida 11
Manor College Jenkintown Pennsylvania 11
Pasco-Hernando Community College New Port Richey Florida 11
Rose State College Midwest City Oklahoma 11
Wake Technical Community College Raleigh North Carolina 11
West Georgia Technical College Waco Georgia 11
York Technical College Rock Hill South Carolina 11
Central Carolina Community College Sanford North Carolina 11
College of Southern Idaho Twin Falls Idaho 10
San Juan College Farmington New Mexico 10
State Fair Community College Sedalia Missouri 10
Thomas Nelson Community College Hampton Virginia 10
University of Hawaii Maui College Kahului Hawaii 10
Chippewa Valley Technical College Eau Claire Wisconsin 9
Eastern Florida State College Cocoa Florida 9
Henderson Community College Henderson Kentucky 9
Hillyard Technical Center Saint Joseph Missouri 9
Hiwassee College Madisonville Tennessee 9
Iowa Central Community College Fort Dodge Iowa 9
Manhattan Area Technical College Manhattan Kansas 9
Moreno Valley College Moreno Valley California 9
Southern University at Shreveport Shreveport Louisiana 9
Temple College Temple Texas 9
Cape Fear Community College Wilmington North Carolina 8
Forsyth Technical Community College Winston Salem North Carolina 8
Howard University Washington D.C. 7
South Florida State College Avon Park Florida 7
Southeastern Technical College Vidalia Georgia 6
State College of Florida-Manatee-Sarasota Bradenton Florida 6
Brookdale Community College Lincroft New Jersey 5
Navarro College Corsicana Texas 5
Northwest Mississippi Community College Senatobia Mississippi 5
Raritan Valley Community College Branchburg New Jersey 5
University of Alaska Fairbanks Fairbanks Alaska 5
Metropolitan State University Saint Paul Minnesota 4
Southern Adventist University Collegedale Tennessee 4
Dodge City Community College Dodge City Kansas 3
University of California-San Francisco San Francisco California 3
Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell Campus Roswell New Mexico 1
Hinds Community College Raymond Mississippi 1
Lewis University Romeoville Illinois 1
Western Iowa Tech Community College Sioux City Iowa 1
Western Nebraska Community College Scottsbluff Nebraska 1
2013 School Data from IPEDS (Sourced in January, 2015)

Hybrid & online programs

Dental Hygienist Online Program Overview

According to the  American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA), there are a number of CODA-accredited programs which offer online and hybrid options for prospective dental hygienists seeking both quality and flexibility in course-completion.

The ADHA reports that the 100 percent online options are typically for students who already have associate degrees or certificates in dental hygiene and are interested in advancing their professional qualifications with a bachelor of science in dental hygiene (BSDH). These accredited “degree completion” programs, such as one at  University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, offer all classes online including dental hygiene practice management, advanced clinical concepts, and statistical reasoning.

A majority of entry-level dental hygienist programs, however, 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, but virtual coursework can be completed at the convenience of the student.

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

100 percent Online BSDH 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 offers a bachelor of science in dental hygiene degree completion program (BSDHCP) that is geared toward students who want to further their professional development. The BSDHCP enhances students’ clinical knowledge with courses in management, education, and public health. All courses are offered online under the guidance of Northern Arizona University’s faculty and at the convenience of students. This university also offers exciting summer externship opportunities to serve diverse populations in places such as Guatemala, Peru, and Hawaii.
  • Loma Linda University has an 18-month BSDH program helps push students’ core competencies to new heights. This 100 percent online program imparts the knowledge, skills, and values necessary for dental hygienists in positions of responsibility. This program may better prepare students to take on management roles in healthcare, research, and community settings.
  • Minnesota State University offers a two-year, accredited, online BSDH program is offered by the department of dental hygiene in the college of allied health and nursing at Minnesota State University, Mankato. It’s ideal for students who are working full- or part-time and 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 2-4 general education courses.
School City State Website Total grads (2013)
University of Bridgeport Bridgeport Connecticut 103
Eastern Washington University Cheney Washington 77
St Petersburg College Clearwater Florida 75
Oregon Institute of Technology Klamath Falls Oregon 68
Northern Arizona University Flagstaff Arizona 61
Ferris State University Big Rapids Michigan 59
Old Dominion University Norfolk Virginia 58
MCPHS University Boston Massachusetts 52
Pennsylvania College of Technology Williamsport Pennsylvania 51
Loma Linda University Loma Linda California 49
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio San Antonio Texas 44
University of Missouri-Kansas City Kansas City Missouri 43
Missouri Southern State University Joplin Missouri 38
Ohio State University-Main Campus Columbus Ohio 38
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Ann Arbor Michigan 38
East Tennessee State University Johnson City Tennessee 37
Western Kentucky University Bowling Green Kentucky 33
Texas Woman's University Denton Texas 30
University of Louisiana at Monroe Monroe Louisiana 29
Idaho State University Pocatello Idaho 27
University of Mississippi Medical Center Jackson Mississippi 27
SUNY College of Technology at Canton Canton New York 20
North Central Missouri College Trenton Missouri 9
East Mississippi Community College Scooba Mississippi 3
2013 School Data from IPEDS (Sourced in January, 2015)

Core & Elective Courses

Common Courses

In order 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 (ADHA), 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 and 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 which specialize in various 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 aims to protect students of dental hygienist programs. Schools must be accredited by a credible, reliable, and independent organization 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 that their program has received proper accreditation.

Programmatic Accreditation

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

Institutional Accreditation

In addition to programmatic accreditation, an institution should have earned accreditation for its body of programs. For instance, four-year universities may have earned regional accreditation from an organization such as the Accrediting Commission for Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (ACS WASC) while a two-year program may have earned accreditation from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC). As with programmatic accreditation, institutional accreditation takes into account faculty, facilities, and curricula to determine the viability of an institution as a whole in its educational mission.

Career Outlook

Demand, Growth and Analysis

In 2017, it was estimated that there were over 211,600 dental hygienists in the United States. As with many other healthcare careers, it is projected that the demand for dental hygienists is going to increase by about 20 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is much faster than the average for all other occupations. Ongoing and continuing research involving general health and oral health will most likely increase the demand for dental hygienists.

Who is Hiring?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, dental offices hire by far the most dental hygienists at 200,710. Next in line are employment services at 2,580 while physicians’ offices hired 1,940 dental hygienists. Outpatient care centers and the federal executive branch were at the bottom of the list by hiring a combined percentage of 0.20 of all dental hygienists.

Curiously enough, when it came to paying dental hygienists the most money, dental offices fell second on the list with an average hourly wage of $36.04. Home health care services came first on the list with an average hourly mean wage of $42.31.

Some of the states that hired the most dental hygienists are California, Texas, New York, Florida and Michigan. In 2017, the highest paid dental hygienists were able to make $101,330 per year with the lowest paid earning $51,180.

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, June 2018

Licensing & Certification


After graduating from an accredited dental hygienist program, individuals becomes eligible for professional licensure. Licenses are granted by state governments and therefore requirements vary from state to state so prospective 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 and/or state clinical board exam
  • Completion of continuing education credits (to maintain licensure)

Once these steps have been successfully completed, the applicant then contacts the licensing authority of the state where he or she wishes to practice and submits their required documentation.

Official Certification Bodies and Types

There are a number of certifying bodies for the dental hygienist profession that may be relevant for those entering the field. The proper certifying body will depend on the geographic location of the indivudal becoming licensed.

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