How Long Does IT Take to Become a Dental Hygienist?

Many dental hygienist graduates may find jobs with as little as an associate's degree or, in some cases, a certificate. However, depending on the type of advancement someone wants in his or her career, a bachelor's or master's degree might be more desirable.

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Becoming a Dental Hygienist

Becoming a dental hygienist requires completing a program that usually lasts 3 years. Most programs grant associate's degrees, which is typically the minimum education required. In order to go into research, public health or teaching, dental hygienists usually need to hold a bachelor's or master's degree. To practice, all states require that students pass licensing examinations.

Admission Requirements

A high school diploma and college entrance tests are typically required for admission into a dental hygiene program. Many programs also require that students have a minimum of 1 year of college. In high school, students are advised to take courses in mathematics, chemistry and biology. To begin a dental hygienist program, schools usually require that students complete immunization, become CPR certified, pass a drug test and undergo a background check.


In addition to coursework, a dental hygienist program curriculum involves laboratory and clinical practice. Anatomy, chemistry, physiology, pharmacology, microbiology, radiography, periodontology, oral pathology, dental materials, histology and other courses make up the coursework. Depending on the program and the amount of prerequisites taken, a student can become a dental hygienist within four years. Students with the necessary undergraduate education can complete a master's degree program in 1 to 2 years based on part-time or full-time study.

Licensure Requirements

Graduation from an accredited program is generally required to be eligible for licensing exams. To become licensed, dental hygienists need to pass a clinical and written exam. The written exam is administered by the American Dental Association's (ADA) Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations, and the clinical exam is administered by state or regional testing agencies.

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