Dental Hygiene

A dental hygienist (DH) is a core member of the oral health workforce, working to prevent oral disease and promote healthy dental habits among individuals and communities. Recognizing that most dental disease is entirely preventable, dental hygienists focus on prophylactic dental care with the aim of preventing oral disease by identifying and treating problems as early as possible.

Hygienists provide the key dental care services of cleaning, sealing, and fluoride delivery. They also screen for diseases such as mouth cancer and perform restorations like fillings and implants in some jurisdictions. Most dental hygienists are college-educated professionals working in private clinical practice settings. All states license hygienists. In some states, practitioners are relatively independent; in others, they work under close supervision. Requirements for licensure and the scope of practice vary by state.

The average entry-level dental hygiene education program is about three academic years long, according to the American Dental Hygienists' Association. Programs should be accredited by the American Dental Association's Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).

Degrees in Dental Hygiene

Associate Degrees

Almost 80 percent of dental hygienists have an associate's degree, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The associate's degree is the prevailing educational qualification for entry-level hygienist positions, although a few students get their introductory education from certificate-granting dental hygienist schools or even on-the-job training.

Associate degrees complement studies in the basic sciences with a focus on topics like nutrition, public health, clinical hygiene, human anatomy, and periodontics. Students become versed in the provision of hygienic care for patients of all ages and learn how to control the spread of infection.

Dental hygiene programs also provide a survey introduction to health education and advocacy. Internalizing the ethical principles that guide practice among dental hygienists, students learn how to take action on behalf of individual patients and the community as a whole.

The best dental hygiene schools offer a supervised experience component that lets students work with real patients in a clinical setting. All programs should prepare students for the Dental Hygiene National Board Examination and state tests leading to licensure as a Registered Dental Hygienist (RDH).

Associate-level courses in Dental Hygiene might include, for example:

  • Introduction to Dental Hygiene Practice
  • Prevention & Management of Medical Emergencies
  • Periodontics I & II

Bachelor Degrees

Dental hygienists earn a bachelor's degree to gain access to greater career flexibility and, in some cases, pay and benefits. About one-fifth of dental hygienists have a degree from a 4-year bachelor's program, according to the U.S. BLS. Bachelor degree-holders are qualified to go on to graduate-level study, though it is not required.

The bachelor's degree need not be in dental hygiene for students to benefit. Related majors include sciences like biology or a biomedical area such as public health or health care administration. Some tracks provide an embedded DH education; others target working hygienists who want a B.S. to enhance their career prospects.

For employment in private dental offices, a bachelor's does not confer a significant advantage over an associate's degree. The bachelor's best use is beyond the clinic in education or outreach. Many positions with the government or the military strongly prefer job applicants with a bachelor's degree.

Undergraduate classes in Dental Hygiene may include:

  • Chemistry for Allied Health
  • Anatomy & Physiology I & II
  • Oral Health Education

A dental hygienist with a bachelor's degree can find work as a:

  • Indian Health Service (IHS) Dental Hygienist
  • Head Start Dental Hygienist
  • Veterans Administration (VA) Dental Hygienist

Master Degrees

A small number of dental hygienists have a master's degree—just 1 percent, according to the BLS. Schools have begun to offer the Master of Science in Dental Hygiene (M.S.D.H.) or Master of Dental Hygiene (M.D.H.) to aspiring teachers, researchers, or administrators of education, public and community healthcare programs.

This advanced post-professional degree is geared toward licensed working hygienists with bachelor degrees who want to maximize their earnings potential. Institutionally, the master's is designed to address a national shortage of dental hygiene faculty.

Master's students at this level engage in case-based learning and research, as well as hands-on fieldwork. Scholars dive into clinical research, public health data, behavioral and social science, and health care policy, building problem-solving skills to promote oral health through education and intervention.

To get into a master's DH program, most students will need basic dental hygiene training and a bachelor's degree in any subject under their belt. Some need a current RDH license, too. A qualifying exam or research proposal may be required for matriculation. For graduation, a capstone research presentation or fieldwork project may be in order.

A small number of hygienists who get a master's degree go on to a research Ph.D. program to advance the science of dental hygiene. Such researchers can be found in settings such as the National Institute of Dental Research.

Graduate coursework in Dental Hygiene includes subjects like:

  • Dental Hygiene Curriculum Development & Instructional Methods
  • Oral Disease Prevention & Management by Risk Assessment
  • Leadership in Dental Hygiene

What can you be with a Master of Science in Dental Hygiene?

  • Professor of Dental Hygiene
  • Dental Hygiene Products Sales Representative
  • Dental Hygiene Community Health Program Director

Featured Schools

Programs offered:

  • Dental Assisting
Locations:  Mesa

Programs offered:

  • Dental Assistant (10-Month diploma program)
Locations:  Tampa

Programs offered:

  • Denturist Year 1
  • Dental Technician
  • Dental Assisting
  • And more...
Locations:  Surrey

Programs offered:

  • Dental Assisting - Diploma
Locations:  Brownsville

Programs offered:

  • Dental Assistant - Diploma
Locations:  Oklahoma City

Programs offered:

  • Dental Assistant with Expanded Functions
Locations:  Clearwater

Programs offered:

  • Dental Office Administration
Locations:  Edmonton

Programs offered:

  • Certificate - Dental Assisting
Locations:  Pasco

Programs offered:

  • Dental Assistant (10-Month Diploma Program)
Locations:  Anaheim

Programs offered:

  • Dental Assisting with Expanded Functions
Locations:  Orlando

We found 268 schools offering dental hygienist degree programs in the U.S.

>> See all 268 Dental Hygiene Colleges in the U.S.

Dental Hygienist Schools By Total Enrollment

Ohio State University - Main Campus
Columbus, OH  |  Total Enrollment: 47952

Degrees Offered: Associate's, Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree
Miami Dade College
Miami, FL  |  Total Enrollment: 46834

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
Minneapolis, MN  |  Total Enrollment: 45481

Degrees Offered: One but less than two years, Two but less than 4 years, Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor, MI  |  Total Enrollment: 38103

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree
New York University
New York, NY  |  Total Enrollment: 37150

Degrees Offered: Associate's, Two but less than 4 years, Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree, First-professional certificate
Northern Virginia Community College
Annandale, VA  |  Total Enrollment: 37073

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
University of Washington - Seattle Campus
Seattle, WA  |  Total Enrollment: 36139

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Doctor's, First-professional degree, First-professional certificate
Community College of Southern Nevada
North Las Vegas, NV  |  Total Enrollment: 29905

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA  |  Total Enrollment: 29194

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree, First-professional certificate
Pima Community College
Tucson, AZ  |  Total Enrollment: 28078

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's

Browse All 268 Colleges With Dental Hygienist Programs

Title City State Enrollment
Minnesota State Community Technical College - Moorhead Moorhead MN No Data
Forsyth School for Dental Hygienists Boston MA 102
Lakeland Medical Dental Academy Inc - Division of Herzing College Minneapolis MN 286
Harcum College Bryn Mawr PA 545
San Joaquin Valley College - Visalia Visalia CA 627
Manor College Jenkintown PA 684
Meharry Medical College Nashville TN 905
Texas A & M University System Health Science Center College Station TX 1014
Henderson Community College Henderson KY 1170
Southern University at Shreveport Shreveport LA 1176
Baker College of Port Huron Port Huron MI 1230
University of Mississippi Medical Center Jackson MS 1674
Columbus Technical College Columbus GA 1754
Colorado Northwestern Community College Rangely CO 1834
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Little Rock AR 1855
Orangeburg Calhoun Technical College Orangeburg SC 1861
Oregon Health & Science University Portland OR 1905
Medical College of Georgia Augusta GA 1932
Siena Heights University Adrian MI 1972
Lanier Technical College Oakwood GA 1987
Westcentral Technical College Waco GA 2032
Valdosta Technical College Valdosta GA 2049
The University of Tennessee Health Science Center Memphis TN 2069
Georgia Highlands College Rome GA 2090
Big Sandy Community and Technical College Prestonsburg KY 2207
Howard College Big Spring TX 2260
Aiken Technical College Graniteville SC 2268
West Virginia University Institute of Technology Montgomery WV 2326
Wytheville Community College Wytheville VA 2339
University of Colorado Health Sciences Center Denver CO 2399
North Dakota State College of Science Wahpeton ND 2425
James A Rhodes State College Lima OH 2521
The University of Texas Health Science - San Antonio San Antonio TX 2543
Central Carolina Technical College Sumter SC 2546
Allegany College of Maryland Cumberland MD 2592
West Liberty State College West Liberty WV 2606
Rogers State University Claremore OK 2640
Sheridan College Sheridan WY 2674
University of New England Biddeford ME 2684
University of Nebraska Medical Center Omaha NE 2695
Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center at New Orleans New Orleans LA 2720
University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center Oklahoma City OK 2759
Northeast Mississippi Community College Booneville MS 2796
Pearl River Community College Poplarville MS 2800
Darton College Albany GA 2805
New Hampshire Technical Institute Concord NH 2809
Oregon Institute of Technology Klamath Falls OR 2815
Saint Cloud Technical College Saint Cloud MN 2949
Wayne Community College Goldsboro NC 2958
University of Bridgeport Bridgeport CT 2973
Meridian Community College Meridian MS 3096
Cuny Hostos Community College Bronx NY 3115
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Houston TX 3143
Loma Linda University Loma Linda CA 3153
Gainesville State College Oakwood GA 3248
Coastal Bend College Beeville TX 3259
Texas State Technical College - Harlingen Harlingen TX 3265
Shawnee State University Portsmouth OH 3280
Temple College Temple TX 3404
Tunxis Community College Farmington CT 3412
Elizabethtown Community and Technical College Elizabethtown KY 3484
University of California - San Francisco San Francisco CA 3517
York Technical College Rock Hill SC 3597
University of Cincinnati - Raymond Walters College Blue Ash OH 3668
Horry - Georgetown Technical College Conway SC 3693
Catawba Valley Community College Hickory NC 3731
Coastal Carolina Community College Jacksonville NC 3780
Florence - Darlington Technical College Florence SC 3814
Northcentral Technical College Wausau WI 3821
Cape Cod Community College West Barnstable MA 3884
Yakima Valley Community College Yakima WA 3916
Lake Washington Technical College Kirkland WA 3917
Lake Superior College Duluth MN 3972
Piedmont Technical College Greenwood SC 4104
Macon State College Macon GA 4116
Hawkeye Community College Waterloo IA 4263
University of New Haven West Haven CT 4349
Clayton State University Morrow GA 4455
Iowa Western Community College Council Bluffs IA 4503
Stark State College of Technology Canton OH 4507
Wharton County Junior College Wharton TX 4571
Indiana University - Northwest Gary IN 4649
Pueblo Community College Pueblo CO 4654
Erie Community College - North Campus Williamsville NY 4665
University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey Newark NJ 4666
George C Wallace State Community College - Hanceville Hanceville AL 4696
Northwest Mississippi Community College Senatobia MS 4776
Rochester Community and Technical College Rochester MN 4778
Prairie State College Chicago Heights IL 4795
Northampton County Area Community College Bethlehem PA 4797
Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College Asheville NC 4940
Farmingdale State University of New York Farmingdale NY 5045
Roane State Community College Harriman TN 5099
Pasco - Hernando Community College New Port Richey FL 5165
Columbus State University Columbus GA 5187
Westmoreland County Community College Youngwood PA 5272
Kellogg Community College Battle Creek MI 5300
Pennsylvania College of Technology Williamsport PA 5320
University of Maryland - Baltimore Baltimore MD 5337
Gulf Coast Community College Panama City FL 5341
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