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 bachelorӳ 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 masterӳ 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 the 10 largest metro areas based on the total number of people employed in Dental Hygienists jobs , as of 2016

Metro Area Total Employment Annual Mean Salary
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim 6,980 $93,940
Detroit-Warren-Dearborn 4,580 $61,360
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington 4,120 $76,420
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell 3,490 $69,410
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach 3,260 $58,140
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward 3,160 $103,650
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue 3,140 $91,910
Denver-Aurora-Lakewood 2,760 $82,870
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land 2,540 $71,990
San Diego-Carlsbad 2,160 $87,330

Compare Total Employment & Salaries for Dental Hygienists

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Total employment and salary for professions similar to dental hygienists

Source : 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, BLS.gov

Most Popular Industries for
Dental Hygienists

These industries represent at least 1% of the total number of people employed in this occupation.

Industry Total Employment Percent Annual Median Salary
Medical Office 168,260 97% $66,770
Office Services And Staffing 2,000 1% $69,560
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Results:  8
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  • Began in 1909 as a single classroom in Los Angeles.
  • Offers no-cost dental clinic in Anaheim, where students gain experience by offering a selection of free dental services.
  • Involved in philanthropy, through partnerships with several organizations, such as the California Institute for Nursing and Healthcare (CINHC) and Shriner’s Hospital.
  • Accredited by The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission.
  • Has 4 California campuses and 2 other campuses in Florida and Texas.
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  • For more than 45 years, PMI has been dedicated to quality healthcare education
  • 17 campuses across 9 states including Arizona, California, Texas, Colorado & more
  • Accredited by the ABHES with multiple accreditations per specific program
  • Certificates, associates, and bachelor’s programs in leading healthcare fields
  • PMI offers financial aid to students who qualify for assistance
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San Marcos
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  • Offers career programs in accounting, cosmetology, massage therapy, physical fitness training, and more.
  • Provides hands-on training led by instructors who have relevant, on-the-job experience.
  • Each campus features a public salon and spa for student practice.
  • Campuses are accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET) and Council on Occupational Education (COE).
  • 11 campuses across California, Texas, Nevada and Idaho, as well as 8 additional Milan Institute of Cosmetology campuses.
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  • Dedicated to providing  career training since 1975.
  • Has 13 campus locations in Southern California and a campus in Morrow, GA.
  • Provides flexible class times including weekends.
  • Offers curriculum that ranges from 8 month diploma programs to 16-month Associate of Applied Science degree programs.
  • Has admissions professionals available to help students decide which diploma or degree program they should pursue.
  • Gives job placement assistance strengthened by relationships with local employers.
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  • Offers accelerated programs w/ flexible schedules & professional instruction
  • Multiple accredited campuses across 9 states including CA, TX, NV, & PA
  • 10 + programs including Practical Nursing, Dental and Medical Assisting
  • Provides professional development training & career planning resources
  • Military Student Center (MSC) is committed to the success of military students
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  • Offers career placement assistance services to recent graduates.
  • Our short-term allied health programs will give you the skills and knowledge to become a part of the exciting health care field.
  • Programs include Medical Office Specialist, Medical Assistant, Dental Assistant and Healthcare Administration.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).
  • Main campus is located in Van Nuys, California, north of Los Angeles.
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Panorama City
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  • Offers medical and cosmetic programs, including dental assisting, massage therapy, cosmetology, esthetics, and more.
  • Features a public salon and spa where students may get real-world experience.
  • Offers scholarship opportunities for students wo qualify.
  • Accredited by the Council on Occupational Education (COE).
  • 2 separate Vacaville campuses, one is for medical careers and the other is the beauty academy.
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  • Many programs require externships, allowing students to gain real-world experience.
  • Approved A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) since 1984.
  • Offers 22 accelerated, career-focused program options including business administration, medical assisting, and more.
  • Regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
  • 11 campuses across California, with an online division as well.
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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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