How Long does it take to become a Dental Hygienist In 2023? Expert Guide

The mouth and everything in it is one of the most sensitive and important parts of a human being that if not taken care of can contradict your personality, including your facial beauty.

This is why dental hygienists are said to be among the most important professionals in the health sector. It is of utmost importance that you know how long it will take you to become a Hygienist to begin and grow in this rewarding career.

Becoming a hygienist in the dental field requires passion and dedication, aside from its required prerequisites. And also, the duration is dependent on the degree program you want to pursue. That means the program length of pursuing an associate, undergraduate, or master’s degree differs.

This post specifies the degree program durations including their requirements and other relevant information about dental hygiene as a profession. That is why we will advise you to carefully read this post without skimming.

Before you read further, you can take a little time and navigate through the table of contents below to get an overview of all that this post entails.

Who is a Dental Hygienist?

A dental hygienist is someone whose profession or career focuses on examining patients’ teeth and mouth to ensure that there are no dental disorders, and if there are any, administers treatment immediately.

This professional works are side-by-side with a dentist to administer dental care and education to help its patients keep a healthy set of teeth.

If you want to build a career as a Dental Hygienist, you have different areas you can specialize in if you want. But it’s important you focus on the area you are more skilled and passionate about doing.

Check Out: 15 Most Expensive Dental Schools In The World

Below are the dental Hygienist specializations;

Dental hygienist researchers: 

A dental hygienist researcher researches and interprets results to better understand common dental conditions and diseases. To work as a dental hygienist researcher, you must complete a master’s degree.

Dental hygienist teacher

If you prefer teaching, with your degree in Dental hygiene, you can become a Dental hygienist teacher. Here, you can educate and train new dental hygienists. With an undergraduate degree, you are qualified to teach at the community college level.

Public health advocate

Are you an altruist? Working as a public health advocate once you have dental hygiene background can really make you have a fulfilling career. Here, your main focus will be on advocating and educating the public on proper oral health techniques. You can work in a big community or school.

Pediatric dental hygienist

Finally, you can work as a pediatric dental hygienist. If you love children and you are fond of being around them, you will have fun working as a pediatric dental hygienist. Here, you will work with children and teens by educating them on good oral healthcare.

So, having seen all these specializations, what is your take?

What are Dental Hygienist Work Descriptions?

Dental Hygienists are vital and important in the healthcare sector. Aside from treating teeth disorders which is there main function, they have other tons of roles they play that distinguished them from other health professionals.

Some of these roles count the following;

  • They clean teeth, examine gums, collect medical history, and educate their patients on oral care techniques.
  • Dental Hygienist patients polish teeth with a powered tool that works like an automatic toothbrush.
  • Moreso, they remove stains, and tartar from patients’ teeth using an air-polishing device, which sprays a combination of air, water, and baking soda.
  • They may also advise patients on how to select toothbrushes and other oral care devices.
  • Additionally, these professionals assess patients’ oral health and report findings to dentists.
  • With Dentist supervision, some dental Hygienists use x-ray machines to take pictures to check for tooth or jaw problems.
  • In some states, dental hygienists can diagnose certain health problems independently of a dentist.

So, you can see that if you become a dental hygienist today, you can do lots to help put smiles on people’s faces.

See Also: 25 Dental Schools For International Students

What is the cost of Studying Dental Hygiene?

The cost of getting a dental hygiene degree depends on the degree program you want. So, it is very expedient that before you decide on the degree program to go for, you should look at the total cost first.

For instance, the average estimated total cost of an associate degree is $22,692, for a bachelor’s degree is $36,382, while the master’s degree program costs $30,421. Note the American Dental Hygienists’ Association made these estimations.

How much Does a Dental Hygienist Earns?

The salary of a Dental Hygienist is dependent on several factors, including the exact position, your level of education, amount of experience, and the setting in which you work.

As a new hygienist in a dental office, you might earn lesser than those in research, teaching, or corporate positions. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $53,130, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $103,340.

In summary, the median annual wage for dental hygienists is $76,220. Note the median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less.

Do I need a License before I can work as a Dental Hygienist?

Working as a dental hygienist is not a career that you start immediately after you acquire a degree. You need a license before you can be called a professional Dental Hygienist.

According to the American Dental Association, in most states, once you have completed a degree from an accredited college or university, you must take a written exam called the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam. The exam will focus on oral health, teeth cleaning, and other things that dental hygienists do.

Then after that, you will be expected to take a clinical exam administered by the state or regional testing agencies. Note this exam aims at testing your knowledge of basic hygiene procedures, anesthesia, and restorative techniques.

Don’t worry, the exams are not too tricky, but even if you fail, you still have a chance to retake them.

Will I have to renew my Dental Hygiene License?

Yes of course.

Once you have gotten your Dental hygienist’s license, it is expected you renew it every 1–3 years. 

However, you’ll need to pay a certain fee as determined by your state. This proves you’ve completed the required number of continuing education hours. 

Note, these are often somewhere between 10 and 20 hours for every 1-year cycle, 30–50 hours for 2-cycles, and around 60 for 3-year cycles. The topics you’ll need to cover will vary by state, though most require CPR and infection control classes.

What are the Dental Hygienist Education Levels?

You can get dental hygienist education at three different levels. With any of the levels, you can start a career just that you won’t be working as a professional dental Hygienist unless you have a master’s degree.

However, each of the education levels has specific tasks and job titles. So, for them to have specific tasks means their coursework and curriculum are not the same.

Let’s take a look at the three education levels and their courses works;

Associate degree

This is the first degree. This dental hygiene associate degree prepares you for general dental hygienist job duties. With an associate degree and licensure, you are eligible to work in most private dental offices.

Bachelor’s degree

A bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene prepares you to work with dental specializations, like in a community health clinic or in a school setting.

Earning a bachelor’s degree can also make you a more competitive applicant when applying for open dental hygienist positions. Although most people feel relaxed once they have acquired this degree, some who want advanced knowledge and skills take it up to a higher level, which is a Master’s degree.

Master’s degree

With a master’s degree in Dental hygiene, you can teach and train other students to work in the dental industry. You can also work in careers as a prevention specialist or develop local community health outreach programs.

In short, this is the higher degree that once you get, you are sure of wider scopes of job opportunities but in dental and other areas of health.

See Also: Dental Hygienist vs Dental Assistant: 10 Differences You Don’t Know

What are the Requirements for Studying Dental Hygiene

The requirements for pursuing a dental Hygiene program differ by school and degree level. For instance, the requirements you must meet before applying for an associate degree are different from an undergraduate degree and, likewise master’s degree.

For an Associate Degree in Dental Hygiene, you must get 8 and 12 hours of hands-on practice per week. Then the completion of prerequisites with a GPA of 2.5 or higher in the following courses; Anatomy, Biology, Chemistry, and Sociology.

Then for an Undergraduate degree, You’ll need to meet prerequisites and have a GPA of 2.5 or higher. On the other hand, applying for a Master’s degree, which is the highest degree, requires an A GPA or 3.0 or higher, proof of a current dental hygienist license, acceptable scores on the GRE, letters of recommendation, and a current resume.

How Long does it take to become a Dental Hygienist?

Like the requirements, the program’s duration or length depends on the degree you want.

First, an associate degree takes a maximum of 2 years to complete. Whereas a bachelor’s degree typically takes 4 years to complete, you can earn one in less time by entering with an associate’s in dental hygiene. 

Getting a bachelor’s degree in less time will require you to go for degree-completion programs. These programs are specifically for students who have gotten a dental hygiene license and want to learn leadership skills or develop knowledge of theory and research.

Going for any of these programs will take you between 15 and 18 months to complete should be your perfect option if time is not really by your side.

On the other side, going for a master’s degree in Hygiene will take 1–2 years and require the completion of a capstone project.

How long does it take to become a Dental Hygienist in Illinois?

Dental hygienist programs in Illinois require a minimum of two years of study, but most programs in Illinois are five semesters or 2.5 years.

How long does it take to become a Dental Hygienist in California?

Dental hygienists in California may be responsible for applying preventive materials, providing oral health education and treatment counseling to patients, identifying oral pathologies and injuries, and managing dental hygiene practices.

To work as a dental hygienist in California, you must be licensed through the Dental Hygiene Committee of California (DHCC), which requires completing the following steps:

  • Graduate from an Accredited Dental Hygiene Program
  • Pass the National Board Written Examination
  • Scale through the California Clinical Dental Hygienist Examination
  • Pass the Dental Hygiene Committee of California Law and Ethics Written Examination
  • Apply for Licensure as a Registered Dental Hygienist in California
  • Maintain Your Dental Hygienist License in California
  • Become a Registered Dental Hygienist in Alternative Practice (RDHAP)

Where can I get an Online degree program in Dental Hygiene?

Below is a list list of top colleges and universities that offer an online degree program in Dental Hygiene:

  • Utah Valley University
  • College of Southern Nevada
  • Indiana University at South Bend
  • Farmingdale State College
  • St. Petersburg College
  • University of South Dakota
  • Ferris State University
  • University of Missouri-Kansas City
  • Northern Arizona University
  • Oregon Institute of Technology
  • Wichita State University
  • University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
  • Ohio State University – Columbus
  • Eastern Washington University
  • University of New Mexico – Albuquerque,
  • Penn Foster College
  • Ashworth College
  • Idaho State University
  • Minnesota State University
  • Pennsylvania College of Technology
  • Old Dominion University
  • MCPHS University –
  • St. Petersburg College
  • Western Kentucky University
  • University of Southern California
  • Eastern Washington University-
  • Vermont Technical College
  • University of Bridgeport
  • Clayton State University
  • Farmingdale State College
  • University of South Dakota

What are the Dental Hygiene Online Degrees Programs I can use for 2023?

There are so many online degree programs available for Dental hygienists. So if you want to pursue a dental hygiene degree and think your work schedule is not helping you create time for it, you can apply to any of the schools we have listed below.

These schools offer a platform that will allow you to enjoy the flexibility of taking basic courses online. Note going for an online program doesn’t mean you don’t need to complete in-person clinical experience.

Below are the Dental Hygiene Online Degrees Programs that you can go for;

  • Dental Hygiene-Education Specialist
  • Online Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene Completion Program
  • Dental Hygiene B.A.S.
  • Online Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene Program
  • Bachelor’s in Dental Hygiene
  • BS in Dental Hygiene: Online Degree Completion Program
  • Online Dental Hygiene Degree Completion Program
  • RDH to BSDH program
  • Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene Degree Completion Program
  • BS in Dental Hygiene
  • Dental Assistant Diploma
  • Career Diploma in Dental Office Assistant
  • Master of Science in Dental Hygiene
  • Bachelor of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene
  • Post-Doctoral Certificate in Oral Clinical -pathology & Radiology
  • Master of Science in Orofacial Pain & Oral Medicine
  • Master of Science in Dental Hygiene

Let’s take a look at some of the online programs that are quite affordable.

#1. Dental Hygiene, BS 

School: Utah Valley University – Orem

Graduation Rate:

Net Price: $6,690

Accreditation: CODA

Utah Valley University provides this online dental hygiene program. This program is among the best and most affordable online program degrees that you can go for.

Some of the subjects this program will cover include Microbiology, Oral Public Health, Periodontology, and Teaching Dental Hygiene Patient.

To apply for this program, you must complete 20 hours of clinical/dental office observation and an average GPA of 2.5

School Official Website

See Also: Top 10 Dental Hygiene Schools in California

#2. Dental Hygiene-Education Specialist

University: College of Southern Nevada – North Los Angeles

Graduation Rate:

Net Price: $7,488

Accreditation: CODA

This dental hygiene online program is offered at the College of Southern Nevada. The program aims to sharpen its students’ dental hygiene skills and knowledge.

Also, it offers didactic, clinical, and field experiences to prepare graduates to take their place as dental hygiene professionals. The courses covered here include Research Methodology, Future Directions in Dental Hygiene, and Advanced Education Concepts.

Note the BS degrees are accredited by the Northwest Commission of Colleges and Universities, while the Commission accredits the AS degree on Dental Accreditation by the American Dental Association.

School Official Website

#3. Online Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene Completion Program

University: Farmingdale State College

Graduation Rate: 45%

Net Price: $8,364

Accreditation: CODA

The Online Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene Completion Program at Farmingdale is one of the nationally recognized BS in Dental Hygiene online programs.

This program is for dental hygienists passionate about building an exceptional career. This program can be completed either on a full-time or part-time bases.

Note the courses covered in this online program include teaching, research, and public health, foundational to emerging dental hygiene roles.

School Official Website

#4. B.A.S. Dental Hygiene

University: St. Petersburg College – St. Petersburg, FL

Graduation Rate: 33%

Net Price: $9,286

Accreditation: CODA

The Bachelor’s of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene at SPC is the only online program in Florida.

Courses covered include Advanced Periodontics, Advanced Ethics in Dental Hygiene, and Leadership in Dental Hygiene. Electives such as Health Information Systems, Issues in Mental Health, or Health Care Risk Management.

To apply for this program, you must submit official transcripts showing completion of a dental hygiene degree from an accredited institution and have a minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.0.

Then to graduate, you will have to complete a capstone course that lasts 14 weeks and applies career interests through either teaching, observing, or internships.

School Official Website

#1. University: Bachelor’s in Dental Hygiene

University: Ferris State University

Graduation Rate: 43%

Net Price: $12,973

Accreditation: CODA

This dental hygiene program offered at Ferris State University is an online program that equips students with the knowledge and skills they need to handle dental hygiene work.

Generally, this online degree program curriculum combines assessing new research to enhance critical thinking skills with technology-based modalities. This degree opens you to a wider scope of opportunities outside the traditional dental hygienist.

The courses covered include Health Promotion and Wellness Dental Hygiene Informatics Community Program Assessment/Planning Comprehensive Patient Assessment, Pain Control for Dental Hygiene Practice. To enroll, you must have completed an associate’s degree

School Official Website

Check Out: How Much Schooling Do You Need to be a Dental Hygienist?


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