Dental Hygiene Schools
Dental hygiene schools near you and across the nation are training motivated, caring, and disciplined individuals to fill today's urgent demand for licensed dental hygienists.
Dental hygiene programs teach you how to play an essential role in helping people maintain healthy teeth and gums. And because the health of a person's mouth can be a strong indicator of their overall health, hygienists contribute meaningfully to the quality of life of their patients. By learning how to become a dental hygienist, you can become a specialist in identifying issues with oral hygiene and educating clients on how to improve or maintain their current practices.
If you want a career where you can help and interact with people in a clinical healthcare environment that is calm, reliable, and rewarding, find dental hygiene schools near you right now! Our quick zip search tool will provide you with personalized results based on your location, so go ahead and get started. Your future is waiting!
- Dental assistant vs. dental hygienist: What's the difference?
- How do I choose the right dental hygienist trade school?
- What are the prerequisites for dental hygiene programs?
- How long does it take to become a dental hygienist?
- What do dental hygienist programs cover?
- What is required for a dental hygienist license?
- What does a dental hygienist do? What's their job description?
- What is the median dental hygienist salary?
- What is the career outlook for dental hygienists?
- Where do dental hygienists work?
- What are the benefits of being a dental hygienist?
Dental Hygienist Schools
- Birmingham, Alabama
- Atlanta, Georgia
- Landover, Maryland
- Scranton, Pennsylvania
- Salt Lake City, Utah
Why Dental Hygienists Are Essential
Dental hygienists are health care professionals responsible for cleaning patients' teeth and checking for signs of various oral health concerns, from gingivitis to oral cancers. Dental hygienists also teach patients about oral health and show them strategies for maintaining good oral hygiene.
Their role is essential for multiple reasons, most notably for providing care that can prevent future health problems for their patients and costly draws on the health care system at large. For example, prevalent ailments linked to oral health include everything from heart disease to diabetes to premature births. Plus, dental hygienists can often detect signs of other illnesses (such as HIV, oral cancer, osteoporosis, and eating disorders) through clinical examinations.
Dental Hygienist Schooling: FAQs
Dental assistant vs. dental hygienist: What's the difference?
Although both play vital roles within the dental field, the two occupations are very different. Here are a few points that can help with the dental hygienist vs. dental assistant distinction.
- Perform both independent and supervised clinical tasks
- Require formal education and must be licensed to practice
- Represent a more senior-level role in the dental field
- Focus on preventive care and patient education
- Can form their own dental hygiene practices and contract their services
- Directly assist dentists with clinical procedures
- Handle a variety of administrative tasks
- Do not necessarily require certification
- Represent an entry-level role within a dental office
How do I choose from the dental hygienist schools near me?
First, you need to decide the type of role you want to pursue and how much time you're willing to invest in schooling. Then pinpoint the dental hygiene schools near you and compare their program offerings to see which seem like a good fit and request more information from the top contenders.
When you talk to a program representative, ensure you have a list of your questions and priorities ready. Plus, the ADHA recommends asking about topics including:
- Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) endorsement
- Full-time and part-time schedules
- Waiting lists
- Faculty and facilities
- Student pass rates for required exams (first attempt)
- Employment after graduation
- Attrition rates
What are the prerequisites for dental hygiene programs?
To enroll in a program, the prerequisites that you will need to meet are likely to include the following:
- High school diploma or GED equivalent
- High school math, science, and English courses
- Minimum high school GPA of 2.0
Additionally, some schools may request that you:
- Pass an entrance exam
- Obtain prerequisite college credits
- Complete a personal interview
- Take a dexterity test
- Submit an essay
- Complete a criminal record check
How long does it take to become a dental hygienist?
Starting in this field typically requires earning an associate degree in dental hygiene, which usually takes two to three years. It's important to note that even though associate degree programs may only last two years, many require certain college-level course credits as a prerequisite before you can enroll.
Bachelor's degree programs for dental hygiene take approximately four years to complete and prepare the graduate for more advanced positions in areas like education and management. Some schools also offer RDH bridge programs, which allow those with an associate's degree to transfer existing credits to a bachelor's degree completion program.
Master's degree programs in the field tend to take a year or two to complete depending on the school and if you are attending full-time or part-time. Many master's students have worked in the field for some time and continue working while completing their program. The flexibility of online and part-time options can be especially handy to graduate degree students.
When you graduate from one of these degree programs, you can be eligible to take the national and state/regional examinations. Once you meet these requirements, apply for licensing, and receive approval, you will be considered a registered dental hygienist (RDH).
What do dental hygienist programs cover?
Programs designed by colleges and trade schools for dental hygienist training can teach you about important and relevant subjects, such as:
General Science and Health
- Chemistry and biology
- Oral pathology (diseases affecting the mouth)
- Head and neck anatomy
- Tooth morphology (tooth identification)
- Periodontology (study of gum disease)
- Pharmacology and pain management
- Oral embryology and histology (dental development, structure, and function)
Clinical Practice and Patient Care
- Radiographic imaging
- Medical and dental emergency care
- Oral health education
- Infection and hazard control management
- Community dental health
- Child, adolescent, adult, special needs, and geriatric dental care
- Dental materials
- Communication, English, and speech
- Psychology and sociology
- Ethics and professionalism
In addition to classroom and lab-based learning, schooling can enable you to participate in a substantial clinical component, often in an on-site dental clinic or community facility. Clinical experience is a critical aspect of training since clinical experience is required to sharpen your skills and prepare you to meet licensing requirements.
Clinical experience is also essential to gain confidence and ease when dealing with the different types of people and situations that RDHs encounter in their workplaces. Practicing your bedside manner is critical to make sure you can meet each patient's individual needs. A small child nervous about getting their first filling will call for a different approach than an adult who is not fearful but incredibly chatty. Being a great RDH means helping people feel at ease, safe, well-cared for, and sometimes even entertained or distracted while they receive their dental care.
Shorter vocational programs tend to focus more on clinical training so that their graduates are ready to join the workforce and put their skills to use in a clinical setting. Degree completion and master's level programs have a heavier focus on studying and researching specialized areas of the field. Dental hygiene master's degree studies will likely include research methods and applications, educational theory, epidemiology, statistics, leadership, and more.
What is required for a dental hygienist license?
After graduating from an accredited program, you will first need to pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE). Then you must pass whatever other clinical or written examinations your state or region requires to become a registered dental hygienist (or licensed dental hygienist in Indiana). Each state has its own requirements and conditions for obtaining your dental hygienist license.
Other licensure requirements include letters of recommendation from dentists or registered dental hygienists, a background check, high school or post-secondary transcripts, and a personal interview. You may not be eligible for licensure in your state if you have a criminal record with a serious misdemeanor or felony. However, according to the ADHA, most states consider the type of offense on a person's record and how it relates to the work of an RDH before deciding whether or not to grant licensure.
Additionally, most states have stipulations for continuing education throughout your career. The stipulations are in place to ensure you stay up to date with current technologies, infection control practices, and advancements in the field. These requirements usually need to be met annually or bi-annually, but they differ from state to state.
You will also need to keep your CPR certification current in case of any medical emergencies on the job.
Working as a Dental Hygienist: FAQs
Dental hygienists are essential to the dental health field. Providing professional and thorough care can play a significant role in ensuring a patient's overall experience is positive. But their influence goes beyond the dental realm since various aspects of physical and even mental health are impacted by oral hygiene practices.
And patients aren't the only people who benefit — dental hygienists themselves experience a wealth of rewards by being part of this exceptional area of health care.
Job description: What does a dental hygienist do?
You could be responsible for a broad range of patient care and education tasks. The breadth of duties varies from state to state, and some tasks may require further training and certification. Additionally, some of these duties require authorization from a dentist, whereas others call for direct supervision. This all depends, however, on individual state regulations. So it's a good idea to look into your state's specific requirements for more detailed information.
The duties that form a typical dental hygienist job description generally consist of:
- Recording medical and dental histories
- Completing dental charting and other documentation for patient records
- Providing patients with referrals to other health care professionals as necessary
Clinical and Laboratory Procedures
- Conducting head, neck, and oral examinations and checking blood pressure
- Screening patients for indicators of systematic illnesses
- Removing plaque and calculus (tartar) from teeth through scaling and root planing
- Cleaning and polishing teeth
- Applying pit and fissure sealants and fluorides for protection, as well as antimicrobial agents
- Providing instruction on proper brushing and flossing techniques
- Explaining procedures to patients and ensuring that they are comfortable
- Performing laboratory tests and delivering results to other health care professionals as required
- Performing periodontal probing and pocket depth assessment
- Performing emergency medical and dental care when necessary
The duties that vary by state/regional regulations include:
- Performing patient assessments and making diagnoses
- Developing, implementing, and evaluating patient treatment plans
- Administering local anesthetics and nitrous oxide
- Taking, processing, and interpreting dental x-rays
- Creating impressions of patients' teeth for examination and assessment
- Applying cavity liners or bases
- Placing and finishing composite and amalgam restorations
- Placing and removing temporary crowns and restorations
- Fabricating temporary crowns
- Placing and removing sutures and periodontal dressings
What is the median dental hygienist salary?*
A dental hygienist's earning potential can vary depending on various factors, such as geographic location, level of experience, and area of practice. The Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates provide a look at the overall picture:
- The lowest 10 percent (generally entry-level) earned $60,100 annually or $28.89 per hour.
- The median dental hygienist salary came in at $77,810 annually or $37.41 per hour.
- The highest-earning 10 percent received more than $100,200 per year, or $48.17 an hour.
Dental hygiene pays excellent wages for a healthcare career that only takes about two or three years to train for.
It's important to take into consideration that many hygienists only work part-time. So, not only does this profession pay quite well, but it also requires fewer hours than many other allied health professions.
What is the career outlook for dental hygienists?
There is a significant need for dental hygienists across America, with open positions waiting to be filled. This can be attributed to a variety of factors. Increased understanding of how oral health affects overall health is driving demand for preventive dental care. Additionally, new advances in the field and an aging population are creating further opportunities. Plus, since millions of individuals across the country lack access to a dentist, many state and local organizations are stepping up and funding dental hygienist services to fill the gap.
Recent years have provided a challenge for dental professionals and all types of healthcare workers, with concerns about COVID-19 and how to stay safe at work. A 2022 study from the Journal of Dental Hygiene surveyed licensed dental hygienists monthly for a year. Of those surveyed, 4.9% left their jobs, most commonly citing "safety concerns for self and others" as their reasons for leaving. However, studies on actual infection rates among RDHs show them only slightly higher than the general population.
The dental field has had time to adjust to the various challenges presented by the pandemic and can still offer a very safe work environment provided proper personal protective equipment (PPE) is worn and safety procedures are followed. So those hesitant but interested in a patient care career may want to capitalize on this timely demand for dental hygienists.
According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, this field is expected to grow by nine percent from 2021 to 2031, which is much higher than the average for all occupations.*
Where do dental hygienists work?
Most dental hygienists work in dentists' offices. However, dental hygienists can also be found in a variety of other environments, such as specialty oral health practices, community health organizations, public health clinics, schools, correctional facilities, hospitals, and long-term care facilities.
Outside of clinical practice, there are also opportunities within public administration, education, research, marketing, and sales.
What are the benefits of being a dental hygienist?
Flexibility and work-life balance:
According to U.S. News Best Jobs of 2022, this is the top-rated area for dental hygienist job satisfaction. Alternative work schedules, including part-time, tend to be much easier to maintain. Many hygienists only work a few days each week. This alone shows that dental hygiene can be a very positive career choice for those with families.
Making a positive difference:
You could be responsible for front-line dental care, not only cleaning teeth but also delivering necessary care and education that can contribute to your patients' improved health. RDHs need to assess for issues that may not even seem related to dental care. Mild cognitive impairment, diabetes, airway issues, and nutrition are all important issues you may have to assess and discuss with patients.
Many work on a contract basis, allowing them to spend time in a variety of offices. If you choose this route, you could be working with a wide range of other health and dental professionals, as well as patients.
Strong demand for your services:
The outlook for careers in this field is expected to be positive in the coming years.
As a contractor, you could enjoy the opportunity to choose which clients you take on, what days you work, and more. You could also negotiate items such as whether your pay structure is hourly, daily, or based on commission.
Get Started With a Dental Hygienist Trade School
You're already interested in the dental health field. And now you're armed with the information you need to start the process of training with confidence. Get started now by finding the dental hygiene schools near you!
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* Unless otherwise noted, salary information is based on May 2021 data from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program. Job growth and average yearly openings estimates are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and are for the 2021 to 2031 period.