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. View article »

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  • 0:00 Becoming a Dental Hygienist
  • 0:30 Admission Requirements
  • 1:02 Curriculum
  • 1:32 Licensure Requirements
  • 1:57 Advanced Education Options

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Video Transcript

Becoming a Dental Hygienist

When preparing to become a dental hygienist, it can be helpful to find out about program admission requirements, curriculum, and program length. In addition, information about licensure and advanced educational options is also available.

Becoming a dental hygienist requires completing a program that usually lasts 2 years. Most programs grant associate's degrees, which is typically the minimum education required.

Admission Requirements

Admission into a dental hygiene program typically requires a high school diploma and college entrance tests. 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. Before beginning a program, students may also be required to update their immunizations, become CPR certified, pass a drug test, and undergo a background check.


A dental hygienist program curriculum includes classroom coursework, laboratory studies, and clinical practice. Students can expect to take courses in topics such as anatomy, chemistry, physiology, pharmacology, microbiology, radiography, periodontology, oral pathology, dental materials, and histology.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Advanced General Dentistry Programs
  • Dental Assisting
  • Dental Clinical Science
  • Dental Hygienist
  • Dental Laboratory Tech
  • Dental Materials
  • Dental Public Health and Education
  • Dentistry - DDS, DMD
  • Endodontics
  • Oral Biology and Oral Pathology
  • Oral Surgery
  • Orthodontics
  • Pediatric Dentistry
  • Periodontics
  • Prosthodontics

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.

Advanced Education Options

Dental hygienists usually need to hold a bachelor's or master's degree in order to go into research, public health, or teaching. Students with the necessary undergraduate education can complete a master's degree program in 1-2 years based on part-time or full-time study.

It usually takes about 2 years for aspiring dental hygienists to complete the necessary educational programs. From there, they must earn licensure before practicing in the field. Graduate-level training programs in advanced subjects related to dental hygiene are also available.

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