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Dental Hygienist School and College Program Information

Dental hygienists require specific education and licensure to begin assisting dentists. Training can occur at the associate's, bachelor's and master's degree levels in this field of study.

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Most dental hygiene programs are connected to college or university dental departments. Students have many considerations to keep in mind when looking into programs, including degree level, location, program cost and more.

10 Schools with Dental Hygienist Programs

The following schools have dental hygiene programs. Tuition rates are for the 2015-2016 school year.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Undergraduate Tuition (2015-2016)*
New York University New York, NY 4-year, Private not-for-profit Associate, Bachelor's $47,750
University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's $50,277
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC 4-year, Public Undergrad Certificate, Bachelor's $8,591 (In-state) $33,673 (Out-of-state)
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's $13,856 (In-state) $43,476 (Out-of-state)
Ohio State University - Columbus Columbus, OH 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's $10,037 (In-state) $27,365 (Out-of-state)
University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, PA 4-year, Public Undergrad Certificate, Bachelor's $18,192 (In-state) $28,958 (Out-of-state)
West Virginia University Morgantown, WV 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's $7,632 (In-state) $21,432 (Out-of-state)
Texas A&M University College Station, TX 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's $10,176 (In-state) $28,768 (Out-of-state)
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Minneapolis, MN 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's $13,790 (In-state) $22,210 (Out-of-state)
Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond, VA 4-year, Public Bachelor's $12,772 (In-state) $31,464 (Out-of-state)

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics

School Selection Criteria

Students should consider the following when seeking a dental hygiene school:

  • Students should consider how program choice aligns with their career goals. While an associate's degree is the standard for dental hygienists, bachelor's and master's degrees may lead to work not only in clinical healthcare, but healthcare administration, academia and management.
  • Consider the location of the school in relation to clinics and other practical opportunities.
  • Check for accreditation of the school and its dental hygiene program. Graduation from an accredited school and program is a requirement to sit for the national licensing exam and most state licensing exams.

Associate of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene

In an associate's degree program, students gain the techniques and skills needed to effectively perform oral health assessment and preventive care. As dental hygienists, they must know how to teach patients about dental care, aid dentists during procedures and perform routine cleanings. Therefore, associate's degree programs in dental hygiene emphasize clinical experience and typically qualify graduates for national and state licensing exams. Program curricula includes several science-based courses that cover dental tools, interpersonal relations and communication, pain management, microbiology and periodontics.

Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene

At this level, training prepares students for work outside of a dentist's office in the research, management or education realms. Associate's degree credits from accredited schools are usually applicable toward this program, and can reduce the time to earn the degree by two years. Classes are research-intensive and incorporate both lecture and lab work. Course topics include dental hygiene principles, education about oral health, dental radiology, oral pathology and public health.

Master's Degree in Dental Hygiene

Advanced dental hygiene degree programs are available for practicing dental hygienists with bachelor's degrees. Students learn about educating others in oral healthcare and may specialize in areas such as patient care, administration or research. Many master's degree programs require each student to research, write and edit a thesis as a final project. Part-time options are available for those who wish to continue practicing dental hygiene. The curriculum involves student-teaching and classes about biostatistics, dental hygiene administration, health science research methods, healthcare technology and science writing.

Students wanting to pursue a career in dental hygiene have their choice of programs from both public and private colleges and universities. An associate's degree is the entry-level academic credential for the field, while bachelor's and master's programs are often designed for working hygienists.

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