What Is Dental Hygienist School Like In The USA?

What Does a Dental Hygienist Do?

Never before have dental hygiene specialists had so many educational and career options. With the training options that are available both in person and online and workplaces that go beyond the typical dental practice, there are more options than ever before for starting your career. If you’re considering joining this growing field, keep reading to discover the steps you have to follow to become a licensed dental hygiene professional.

In partnership with the dentist, the main concern is the prevention of oral health issues for their patients. They clean and examine gums, gather medical information, and train their patients on proper oral hygiene methods.

Dental Hygienist Duties

Specific job responsibilities of dental hygienists include:

  • Utilizing tools such as polishers and scrapers to get rid of plaque, tartar, and stain
  • Preventative treatments like sealants and fluoride
  • Making and developing X-rays for the mouth
  • Recording the findings of cleanings and submitting details to the dentist
  • Assisting dentists during procedures with tasks such as administering anesthesia, and then taking sutures out

Dental Hygienist vs. Dental Assistant

Dental assistants and dental hygienists might sound similar to one thing, but their roles don’t have to be interchangeable. Although assistants could perform the same tasks as hygienists do, their responsibilities focus more on ensuring that the office runs efficiently through maintenance and administrative tasks. The daily responsibilities could include:

  • Recording appointments and scheduling appointments
  • Patients are at ease in the dentist’s chair
  • Sterilizing dental equipment
  • Installing tools and restocking materials
  • The dentist is responsible for transferring instruments during dental procedures
  • Controlling patient billing and payment

Dental assistants are allowed to take on additional obligations in some instances, however, each state has its own set of rules regarding the roles of dental assistants. Dental assistants may perform additional tasks like:

  • Polishing teeth to eliminate stains and plaque
  • Sealants and fluoride to guard against cavities
  • The administration of topical anesthesia

Dental Hygienist Schooling – Dental Hygienist Education Requirements

Every state requires dental hygienists to obtain a license, although the requirements are specific to each state. The minimum amount of education that you must attain to get your license in each State is an associate’s level. Based on your goals for your career you may decide the option of pursuing a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree.


Whichever level you select to become a licensed hygienist means taking part in a course that’s been accepted by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Accredited dental hygiene courses have shown that they comply with the highest standards of quality in education, and thus will ensure the safety of future patients.

What You’ll Study

According to CODA according to CODA, all accredited courses must focus on four core topics: general education biomedical sciences, general education, dental sciences in addition to dental hygiene research. They are further subdivided into more specific subjects:

Education generalWritten and oral communication as well as sociology, psychology, and oral communication
Science of biomedicineAnatomy, physiology, and chemistry Biochemistry, microbiology pathology or nutrition, pathophysiology, and the science of pharmacology
Science of dentistryMorphology of the tooth or oral embryology and histology or oral pathology, radiography periodontology, pain management, and dental materials
Dental science of hygieneDental health education and prevention counseling Health promotion, patient management, oral health in the community dental and medical emergencies Controlling hazards and infection Clinical dental hygiene, providing services for people with particular needs or bloodborne diseases, as well as the ethical and legal principles of the practice of dental hygiene.

These apply to all degrees, but should you opt to pursue a degree that is more advanced you could modify your studies even more. You can delve deeper into topics like dental health theories and research on oral health for children.

Various Types of Dental Hygienist Schooling Degrees

The minimum education required for a dental hygienist is an associate’s level degree, although master’s or bachelor’s degrees are also possible for those wanting to advance within the field. The amount of time required to complete your education is contingent on the type of degree you pick. The standard timeframe is between two and four years.

Dental Hygienist Associate’s Degree

Associate’s degrees offer the education level that is necessary for licensing. These degrees are typically obtained through technical or community colleges and can take two years to earn.

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Alongside the classroom instruction that covers the subjects covered in CODA, you’ll also have supervised clinical experiences throughout your course. In your first year beginning to provide clinical services, you’ll attain between 8-12 hours of hands-on training each week. The amount should rise to 12-16 hours of practice in the field of dental hygiene during your second year.

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements for any dental hygiene program is dependent on the school. However, many programs require the completion of prerequisites with a GPA of 2.5 or higher. These might include courses in subjects such as:

  • Anatomy
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Sociology

Dental Hygienist Bachelor’s Degree

Although less common, the bachelor’s degree program is developed primarily for dental hygiene professionals seeking more specialized services, such as working in a clinic or designing programs in schools or public health. They will study in a classroom setting in dental hygiene, take part in clinical supervision, and also receive an education in the liberal arts.

Bachelor’s degrees usually take four years to earn, however, you can complete them within a shorter period by starting with an associate’s degree in dental hygiene. They are designed for persons who already have a dental hygiene license but want to improve their leadership abilities or research and theoretical understanding. Degree completion programs are another name for these programs. Clinical experience may not be necessary if you have practical teaching during your associate’s program. It could be possible to finish your degree on the internet. It is possible for a degree completion program to last between 15 to 18 months.

Admission Requirements

You’ll likely need to meet prerequisites and have a GPA of 2.5 or higher. High school graduates should have studied the same courses required to attend an associate’s program, while individuals with an associate’s degree should be familiar with anatomy, radiography, and dental lab supplies.

Dental Hygienist Master’s Degree

If you’re hoping to instruct, conduct research, or perform administrative work level, a master’s diploma in dental hygiene may be the right option for you. The degrees can result in higher-level positions such as oral health specialists community program directors or directors of education and dental health programs. Master’s studies in dental hygiene usually last for 1-2 years, and they require the completion of a capstone.

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Admission Requirements

Admission into a master’s program requires a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene or a related field that covers the necessary prerequisites. Other common admission requirements include:

  • A GPA of 3.0 or greater
  • Evidence of a current dental hygienist’s certificate
  • Scores that are acceptable on the GRE
  • Letters of recommendation
  • A possible career statement or resume

Dental Hygienist School Online

Online courses are available but keep in mind it’s a field that requires hands-on experience. It’s possible that you can benefit from the flexibility of learning classes online for the basic requirements, but you’ll still require a clinical course in person to be prepared for the responsibilities of the job.

One exception might be a degree completion program. Because you are entering this kind of program already having completed your clinical work when you earn your associate’s degree it is possible to complete your bachelor’s degree completely online.

Dental Hygienist Schools

Are you looking to earn an RDH certification? Start by finding a recognized RDH program close to you.

Cabrillo College

Cabrillo College Dental Hygiene Program will accept the next class to be enrolled in 2024.

Admission to the program is determined by the number of applicants on the waitlist for the Program. For more information on how to get into the Program click here.

Carrington College

Carrington’s Dental Hygiene program prepares graduates to work alongside dentists in providing dental care and the most efficient hygiene practices.


With a variety of classes that will help you, you’ll be sure to be well-prepared for your future.


Earn your Associate’s Degree within as little as two years.


Accessible at four campuses.


The cost of tuition is based on the course and geographical location. Click Here To Apply

Cerritos College

It is the Cerritos College Dental Hygiene program is recognized through the American Dental Association, Commission on Dental Accreditation. This Commission is a special Accrediting Body that is recognized by both the United States Department of Education and the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. Our program has been granted full accreditation status every seven-year accreditation cycle.

The Dental Hygiene Program is a two-year degree program. When the program is completed graduates will be awarded An Associate in Arts degree for Dental Hygiene, in addition, to being eligible to sit for an examination called the National as well as the State Board Dental Hygiene Examinations. The successful passing of these exams allows the student to practice dentistry within California.

Click Here To Apply

Chabot College

The dental Hygiene Associate with Science (AS) degree program can be completed within two years and is recognized by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). The program covers classes like Clinical Dental Hygiene, Dental Radiology, General and Oral Pathology Expanded Functions for the Dental Hygienist as well as educational Theories in Dental Hygiene, and Community Dental Health.

Achieving the goal of the two-year program allows you to sit for an exam for the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam and regional board exams to be licensed as a Registered Dental Hygienist.

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Click Here To Apply

Concorde Career College Garden Grove

The CODA-accredited Associate of Science in Dental Hygiene program provides you with the science-based foundations as well as the professional expertise and skills in clinical practice that you require to assist others in maintaining their dental (and overall) health.

*Program lengths are subject to change depending on the transfer credit and the load of the course. Refer to the latest catalog of courses for further details. Concorde does not guarantee acceptance and graduation, or subsequent employment or salary amounts.
**Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics 2020-2030 projected job demand https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dental-hygienists.htm Projections are national. The local job market’s demand could be different.

The requirements for clinical hours and the availability may differ by the location of the campus and are subject to changes. Concorde cannot guarantee the assignment of clinical sites based on the preferences of students or geographic proximity and does not assure graduation, post-clinical job opportunities, or wage results.

Click Here To Apply

Cypress College

The Cypress College’s Dental Hygiene Program provides students with the skills, knowledge, and attitudes required to be eligible for licensure as registered Dental hygienists. The program will also help students pass an examination for the National Board of Dental Hygiene Examiners written exam as well as the Western Regional Examining Board clinical exam, and the California Law and Ethics examination to obtain licensure as a Certified Dental Hygienist.

It is the Cypress College Dental Hygiene program is recognized through the Commission on Dental Accreditation, an accredited accrediting agency that is recognized by both the United States Department of Education as well as the Council on Higher Education Accreditation.

Program Objectives

After finishing this course The majority of students will be competent to:

  • Conduct the dental hygiene procedure
  • Learn about diagnostic digital imaging and be able to read dental radiographs by using DEXIS
  • Protect yourself from blood-borne diseases by ensuring compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and OSHA, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the Ohio State Dental Board (OSDB).
  • Check the health histories of patients including contraindications and health concerns, if needed.
  • Perform intra/extraoral assessment as well as periodontal assessment evaluation of treatment, as well as CAMBRA
  • Make use of gentle instruments for the best elimination of tartar, plaque, and bacteria between and above the gum line
  • Treat periodontitis and gingivitis using advanced instruments by using Air-Flow, cavitron piezo, and hand scaling for periodontal patients
  • Apply local anesthetic agents as well as Nitrous oxide
  • Conduct whitening procedures and design the trays to whiten.
  • Apply and properly apply cavity prevention agents, such as sealants and fluoride
  • Train patients on specific homecare methods
  • Make use of Dentrix software to create appointments

Dental Hygiene students will be able to participate in Cypress College Dental Hygiene Clinic.

  • The results of the class of the Dental Hygiene Program class of 2017, 2018, 2019 2020, 2021
    • 100% passing rate 100% pass rate National Board of Dental Hygiene Examination
    • 100 percent pass percentage for Western Regional Examining Board
    • 100% success rate for California Law and Ethics Exam. Click Here To Apply

Have you been searching for a Dental Hygienist School near me? Then Click Here To View And Apply For More Dental Hygienist Schools.

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