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The Education Requirements to Become a Dental Hygienist

The healthcare industry is known as a stable and promising field to get into. Humans will always need experts who understand health and can treat it. Thus, many people look to the industry for work. One career within healthcare that is extremely promising is Dental Hygiene. The Federal Bureau Labor Statistics reports an expected 11% growth over the next 8 years.

However, before you commit yourself to a career in dental hygiene, it’s important to know how you can get into the field.

School Admission Requirements

Before joining a dental hygiene program, prospective students must have already completed certain requirements. These will change from school to school, so it’s important to check the requirements with the schools you’re interested in. Most often, you’ll need to have completed classes in general health, chemistry, biology, psychology, some type of mathematics, public speaking, and others.


Students must complete at least an associate’s degree in dental hygiene to pursue a career. However, many students wish to continue studies to obtain a bachelor’s degree. Some students even opt for a master’s degree, but this is not required. Individuals who wish to teach, perform research, or practice in public health programs may be required to have a bachelor’s degree in even further education.

Students can study and obtain their degree in a variety of institutions. Community colleges, 4-year universities, technical colleges, and dental-specific schools typically all have dental hygiene programs. Check with the local schools in your area to see what your options are.

Associate’s Degree

The most common path for dental hygienists is to obtain an associate’s degree. This program may last between 2 and 3 years, depending on your school. When looking for a school that provides this degree, be sure to check if it’s accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. This is the only organization that can accredit dental hygiene programs in the US. There are hundreds of them around the US, so finding one should not be too difficult.

During your program, you’ll go through various subjects and areas of study. You’ll take some courses in a classroom setting, laboratory, and even clinical setting. By the end of your studies, you’ll have completed many of the subjects listed below, plus more.

  • Liberal Arts

    • Psychology

    • Sociology

    • Speech

    • Communication

  • Basic Sciences

    • Anatomy

    • Biochemistry

    • Chemistry

    • Microbiology

    • Nutrition

    • Physiology

  • Dental Sciences

    • Radiology

    • Dental Materials

    • Pain Management

    • Oral Pathology

    • Tooth Morphology

  • Dental Hygiene Specific Courses

    • Oral Health Education

    • Patient Management

    • Dental Emergencies

    • Community Oral Health

    • Clinical Dental Hygiene

    • Ethics in Dental Hygiene

Obtaining Your License

Once you’ve completed your degree, you can move onto the last step. In the state you want to practice, your education will be vetted to ensure it’s accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. Then you can sign up for and take the license exams. Most states require you to pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination. If you pass, you will be a licensed dental hygienist, and you can officially put RDH after your name!


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