What Are the Education Requirements to Be a Dental Hygienist?

While working as a dental hygienist, you'd use the most up-to-date technology to ensure your patients have the best preventative dental care possible. If you like the idea of helping patients maintain good dental health, read on to find out about the education requirements needed to work as a dental hygienist. Schools offering Dental Hygiene degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Overview of Dental Hygienists

Working as a dental hygienist, you'd provide preventative dental care to your patients, as well as perform teeth cleanings and examine patients for oral diseases. Some of your specific job duties could include taking x-rays, applying fluoride and sealants, removing plaque and tartar, teaching patients proper oral hygiene techniques and charting your patients' oral conditions.

Important Facts About Dental Hygienists

Median Salary (2018) $74,820 (for all dental hygienists
Job Outlook (2016-2026)20% growth (for all dental hygienists)  
Online AvailabilityCoursework online; clinical in-person
Similar OccupationsDental assistant, nurse, physician assistant

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Entry-Level Education Requirements

The minimum education requirement to work as a dental hygienist is an associate's degree or certificate in dental hygiene. Both types of programs require you to complete core courses and an internship in a dental office. The courses teach you about dental anatomy, oral radiology, dental materials, pharmacology and oral microbiology. A dental internship allows you to work and learn under the supervision of a professional dental hygienist.

Advanced Education Options

The American Dental Association accredits bachelor's and master's degree programs in dental hygiene as well. A bachelor's degree program in dental hygiene offers advanced courses in the field and provides you with research opportunities. Courses include head and neck anatomy, oral radiology, dental ethics, dental materials, dental practice management and community dental health. You'll be required to participate in clinical practice as well. If you've completed an associate's degree program in dental hygiene, you may be able to earn your bachelor's degree online and continue working as a dental hygienist while completing your program.

Master's degree programs focus on dental hygiene management, research, teaching and public health. You may also be required to complete a thesis if you pursue a master's degree. While a bachelor's or master's degree is not necessary to work as a dental hygienist, earning one can open up opportunities to teach, perform research or work in a public or school health program.

Licensure Requirements

All states require dental hygienists to become licensed, and requirements vary by state. Most states require you to graduate from an approved program and pass written and clinical exams. To continue your work as a dental hygienist, you must maintain your license and meet continuing education requirements. The continuing education requirements also vary by state. For example, the state of Indiana requires you to complete 14 hours of continuing education every two years, while South Dakota mandates that you complete 75 hours every five years. Continuing education may cover topics in CPR, infectious diseases and sterilization procedures.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • Southern New Hampshire University

    Southern New Hampshire University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Southern New Hampshire University:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • Regent University

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    Popular programs at Regent University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master

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  • Penn Foster

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    Popular programs at Penn Foster:

    • Certificates

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  • Penn Foster High School

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  • University of Louisville

    Campus Locations:

    • Kentucky: Louisville
  • New York University

    Campus Locations:

    • New York: New York
  • University of Iowa

    Campus Locations:

    • Iowa: Iowa City
  • Howard University

    Campus Locations:

    • Columbia (D.C.): Washington
  • The University of Tennessee

    Campus Locations:

    • Tennessee: Knoxville