Dental Hygienist Programs
Currently, 328 programs offer entry-level associate degrees for dental hygienists throughout the US, which are listed on the American Dental Hygienists Association (ADHA) website.
Most of them are accredited by CODA.
Junior colleges, specialist dental schools, and technical schools offer associate degrees.
Through some programs, you can also earn a certificate or bachelor’s degree.
Dental Hygienist Degrees Options
Entry Level Dental Hygiene Programs
With an entry-level dental hygiene program, you will be prepared for work in a clinical setting as a dental hygienist.
Degree options include a two-year associate’s degree, resulting in an Associate of Applied Science, and a four-year bachelor’s degree with a Bachelor of Science credential.
You can also take a certificate course and study part-time.
Both associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in dental hygiene usually have a mandatory credit requirement.
Degree Completion Programs
There are also options for licensed dental hygienists to continue their education and earn a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene or a related area.
Accredited Dental Hygiene Programs
Dental hygienist programs with the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) are recognized by the American Dental Association (ADA).
They maintain high standards of education and prepare students for clinical practice.
The programs accredited by CODA require a minimum of 2,932 curriculum hours, 659 of which should include supervised instruction in clinical dental hygiene.
Most states require you to obtain a qualification from a CODA-accredited program at an approved institution to work as a dental hygienist.
Together with earning a degree accredited by CODA, prospective dental hygienists should pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam (NBDHE), which is required by most states.
Requirements can vary by state.
What Kind of Schooling Do You Need to Be a Dental Hygienist?
Standard admission requirements for a dental hygiene program typically include a high school diploma or GED with a focus on science, math, and English.
You may also have to:
- Pass an entrance exam.
- Obtain additional college credits.
- Obtain medical and legal clearances.
- Complete an entry interview.
What Kind of Classes Will I Study as Part of My Dental Hygiene Degree?
A dental hygiene degree program includes a combination of general education courses, general science courses, and dental hygiene and science classes.
General science courses include:
- Health and Nutrition.
Dental science courses include:
- Dental anatomy.
- Head and neck anatomy.
- Pharmacology and pain management.
- X-Ray and radiology.
Dental hygiene courses comprise patient care modules and clinical practice:
- Emergency dental care.
- Specialist dental care for children, adolescents, geriatrics, etc.
- Oral health studies.
- Equipment management and maintenance.
- Infection control.
Many colleges have clinics and labs, so students have an opportunity to gain valuable clinical experience.
In most programs, students also should complete work experience requirements in a public setting.
This is an essential part of training since clinical experience is necessary to meet the licensing requirements.
How Many Years Does it Take to Become a Dental Hygienist?
Most programs take from two to four years to complete.
After graduation, you will be eligible for the national and/or state or regional examination.
Having met all requirements, you can apply for state licensure.
After being approved, you will become a registered dental hygienist (RDH).
What is the Cost of Dental Hygienist School?
The costs of dental hygiene programs vary, depending on the type of school and location.
If you enroll in a community college in your state, the cost will be lower.
Costs for a private college will be higher.
According to the American Dental Hygienists Association (ADHA), the average tuition cost for a two-year associate degree in-state is $22,692.
Besides this cost, you will need to purchase textbooks and study supplies.
You should also consider accommodation and rent costs if any will be required.
Financial Aid for Dental Hygiene Students
Financial aid can be provided by your school.
There are also scholarships offered by the ADHA Institute for Oral Health, as well as grants and fellowships.
Online Dental Hygienist Programs
Since training requires hands-on clinical experience, there are no associate degrees available online.
Some colleges allow you to complete studies online if you are looking for advancing your education from an associate’s degree to a bachelor’s.
These programs are usually offered by four-year universities.
Choosing the Best Dental Hygienist Program
When choosing a school, you need to consider the following:
- Is the School fully accredited?
- How long does the program last or take to complete?
- Does the School offer any financial assistance or scholarships?
- How much of the course will be classroom-based, online, lab-based, and work experience-based, and how does this fit with your expectations?
- Does the School have good laboratory facilities and other resources to support your studies?
- What percentage of students who graduate are successful in securing their license to practice as a Dental Hygienist in their chosen State?
- Does the School offer any assistance with securing employment?
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