Dental hygienists are dental care professionals who typically work as part of a team along with dentists, dental technicians, and dental assistants. Dental hygienists perform a wide range of dental care tasks, including screening patients, cleaning and polishing teeth, examining gums and more.

Dental Hygienists picture    Dental Hygienists image

Dental Hygienist Schools

Most dental hygienists prepare for their careers by earning an associate's degree in dental hygiene from an accredited dental hygienist training program. There are approximately 300 dental hygiene training programs in the United States accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. Though a handful of programs offer certificates in dental hygiene, the following degrees are the most common:

  • Associate Degree: An associate's degree in dental hygiene is the most popular way for individuals to prepare for entry-level dental hygienist jobs. Associate's degree programs generally take about two years to complete and they are offered by approximately 270 accredited dental hygienist training programs.
  • Bachelor's Degree: Like an associate's degree, a bachelorÓł degree program in dental hygiene prepares you for state licensing and entry-level dental hygiene work, but it can also qualify you for positions in dental hygiene education, research, and public health. A bachelor's degree generally takes about four years to complete.
  • Master's Degree: A masterÓł degree in dental hygiene requires an additional one to two years of study after the bachelor's degree and qualifies graduates for jobs in education, research, administration, and public health.

Earning a dental hygiene degree requires a combination of coursework and clinical experience. Exact offerings vary by program, but most dental hygienist training programs require students to take courses in the following subjects:

  • General science: chemistry, anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, microbiology, pathology, nutrition, pharmacology
  • Dental science: dental, head, and neck anatomy; oral histology and pathology; radiography; periodontology; dental materials; pain control
  • Dental hygiene science: health education, community dental health, patient management, medical and dental emergencies

Classes and Coursework for Dental Hygienists

A strong background in biology, chemistry and mathematics is a good place to start. Many dental hygiene programs require at least one year of college education before applying. At the very least, a high school diploma and college entrance test scores are required to begin a dental hygiene program.

Dental hygienist education includes both classroom and clinical instruction. Coursework often includes the following subjects:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Microbiology
  • Chemistry
  • Nutrition
  • Histology
  • Periodontology
  • Clinical dental hygiene

Expect classes that will educate you on a variety of dental materials used, as well as instruction in social and behavioral sciences.

Dental Hygienist Education Requirements

Dental hygienists receive post secondary education from a dental hygiene program. A high school diploma or equivalent as well as passing an entrance test are typically required to obtain admission into a dental hygiene program. Dental hygiene programs offer laboratory, clinical, and classroom instruction. Most dental hygiene programs award associate degrees, which are typically all that is necessary educationally to practice in a private dentist's office. Advanced degrees are typically obtained by those wishing to go into research.

The majority of associate degree programs can be found in community colleges, technical colleges, dental schools or universities. It is important to make sure your program is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).

Dental Hygienist Licensing

All states require that dental hygienists be licensed to practice. Most require that applicants be graduates of an accredited dental hygiene program and pass the written National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE). In addition, most states also require the passing of a clinical examination which is administered by state or regional testing agencies.

Resources for Dental Hygienists


  1. Dental Hygienists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dental-hygienists.htm

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for:
Dental Hygienists

Listed below are metro areas sorted by the total number of people employed in Dental Hygienists jobs , as of 2016

2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; 2014-24 State Occupational Projections, Projections Central, projectionscentral.com

Metro Area Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Long Beach 6980 $96,970
Los Angeles 6980 $96,970
Anaheim 6980 $96,970
Detroit 4580 $61,510
Warren 4580 $61,510
Dearborn 4580 $61,510
Fort Worth 4120 $75,590
Dallas 4120 $75,590
Arlington 4120 $75,590
Atlanta 3490 $71,500
Total Employment for Dental Hygienists - Top 5 Cities Nationwide
Compare Total Employment for Dental Hygienists
Salaries for Dental Hygienists - Top 5 Cities Nationwide
Compare Salaries for Dental Hygienists
Total Employment and Salary for Professions Similar to Dental Hygienists

Career Stories (Job Profiles) for Dental Hygienists

To find out more about building a career as Dental Hygienists, we spoke with professionals in the field across a variety of specialties. Learn about their experiences on the job, the steps they took to complete their education, and what it takes to excel in this industry. Click the link to see a story.

All Types

Most Popular Industries for :
Dental Hygienists

Industries representing at least 1% of total jobs for the occupation.

2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; 2014-24 State Occupational Projections, Projections Central, projectionscentral.com

Industry Jobs Percent Annual Median Salary
Medical Office 168,260 97% $66,770
Office Services And Staffing 2,000 1% $69,560
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  • Bachelor Degree in Dental Hygiene
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  • Main campus is located in Van Nuys, California, north of Los Angeles.
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Panorama City
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  • Dental Assistant
  • Features the Success Education Program, with numerous scholarship opportunities to students who qualify.
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  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
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West Covina
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  • Certificate - Dental Assistant

Your success is our priority. For more than 40 years, we have dedicated ourselves to healthcare education because we want you to become the best healthcare professional possible. Our instructors and staff are dedicated to providing you with the in-demand, hands-on education employers expect so that you may thrive in your profession. Pima Medical Institute started changing lives in 1972 when Richard Luebke Sr. and his wife, JoAnn, brought to life their dream of providing students with a quality medical career education.

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San Marcos
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  • Certificate - Dental Assistant
  • Many programs require externships, allowing students to gain real-world experience.
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We have some additional detailed pages at the state level for Dental Hygienists.

Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.

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