How Long Does It Take To Become A Dental Hygienist?

Dental hygienists collaborate closely with dentists to preserve dental patients’ good oral hygiene. 

They might assist the dentist with additional preventative and diagnostic dental procedures and perform routine dental cleanings for the patient. 

It can be easier to decide whether being a dental hygienist is the correct career for you if you know the school and training requirements. 

Therefore, this article examines the individual criteria necessary for how long it takes to become a dental hygienist and the anticipated duties of one.

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What is a Dental Hygienist School Like?

An associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a relevant discipline is necessary to work as a dental hygienist. 

Alternatively, you might be able to pursue this job by enrolling in a technical or vocational school. 

All of the available possibilities are advantageous, but obtaining a degree at a higher level might open up additional employment options and result in professionals who earn more money. 

Note that the Commission on Dental Accreditation’s approval of a program is crucial (CODA).

The following are some typical subject topics for training as a dental hygienist:

  • Biomedical science
  • Dental hygiene science
  • Dental sciences
  • General education

Additionally, passing the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination is required to obtain a license and pursue this vocation. 

Passing a 250-question test with two sections and multiple choices is required. 

Both sections concentrate on case-based questions, with one focusing on discipline-based questions. 

To become a dental hygienist, you must also complete state clinical tests and obtain a state-specific license. 

More importantly, for each state, these tests are different. 

Most test candidates on fundamental hygienic practices, restorative care, and anesthetic delivery.

Is Attending a Dental Hygienist School Worth It?

Dental school is worthwhile if you want to attend college for eight years to become a professional and earn a mean annual salary between $54,000 and $104,990. 

Dental hygiene comes with a very high price tag but also leads to a well-paying and honorable job.

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What Schooling Do You Need to Be a Dental Hygienist?

While some dental hygienist occupations can be pursued with only an associate degree, other students pursue bachelor’s or master’s degrees instead. 

Your eligibility for particular responsibilities and job titles depends on the sort of education you have, including:

1. Associate degree

You can become qualified to perform the tasks of a general dental hygienist with an associate’s degree in dental hygiene. 

You can work in most private dental practices with an associate’s degree and a license.

2. Bachelor’s Degree

You can work in dental specialties in settings like community health clinics or educational institutions with a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene. 

When applying for available dental hygienist opportunities, having a bachelor’s degree may give you an edge over other candidates.

3. Master’s degree

A master’s degree is required for dental hygienists who wish to instruct and prepare future dental professionals. 

Dental hygienists might serve as preventative specialists or build neighborhood community health outreach initiatives after earning a master’s degree. 

Research projects may also involve dental hygienists with a master’s degree.

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How Long Does It Take To Become a Licensed Dental Hygienist?

Depending on the amount of study in the field you want to pursue, it will normally take two to four years to become a dental hygienist. 

Your state’s and the American Dental Association’s licensing requirements must be met to practice as a dental hygienist. 

Typically, it takes two years to finish all prerequisites for students pursuing an associate degree. 

Most people need an additional four to six years to complete a bachelor’s or master’s degree. 

It is crucial to understand that dental hygienists who desire higher education can still work as long as they’ve passed the board exam and have at least an associate degree.

Aspiring dental hygienists must meet the following educational and training criteria:

1. To begin with, earn your high school diploma or equivalent. 

Applying to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree program requires a high school diploma. 

Your preparation for dental school may be aided by taking courses in biology, anatomy, physiology, and other scientific disciplines.

2. Select and Finish an associate’s program in Dental Hygiene 

Numerous dental hygienist programs are available, but you should pick one approved by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. 

Normally, it takes two to four years to finish all the academic requirements for a dental hygienist degree. 

Anatomy, physiology, immunology, and pathology courses are typical for students. 

Students will be required to conduct on-the-job training at the end of the course under the close supervision of a qualified hygienist.

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3. Finish your bachelor’s degree next 

After completing an associate degree, some dental hygienists could decide to pursue work. 

Some individuals may decide to earn a bachelor’s degree. 

To engage in research or instruction, some future dental hygienists may pursue a master’s degree.

4. Receive both federal and state authorization 

To practice as a dental hygienist, you must have a license from your state and pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination. 

There are 350 multiple-choice questions in the test, which is divided into two sections. 

To pass, you must receive at least a 75. The state in which you work may have different state exams. 

Your license as a Registered Dental Hygienist will be granted once you have passed both exams.

5. Complete Additional Training

You’ll need to take part in continuing education courses throughout your career to stay up to date on the most recent advancements in dental hygiene practice and research. 

Continuing education classes can help you stay up to date on topics like providing care for people with special needs or understanding how lasers affect oral health. 

You can look up regional dental hygiene programs to check which classes are given in your area in addition to those provided by state and regional chapters of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA). 

Colgate’s Oral Health Network, which provides free live webinars, is a great resource if you’re seeking for online options.

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How Much Does It Cost to Become a Licensed Dental Hygienist?

Several variables affect the precise cost of training to become a dental hygienist. 

Earning an associate degree is generally less expensive than earning a bachelor’s. 

The fee may vary depending on the university you attend. 

For instance, it might be more economical to attend a community college, an in-state university, or a public college than a private institution or an out-of-state institution. 

The American Dental Education Association (ADEA) cites the American Dental Hygienists’ Association as the source of the following data regarding average prices for dental hygiene training:

  •  $22,692 for an associate’s degree 
  • Undergraduate degree: $36,382 
  • $30,421 for a master’s. 

In addition to education costs, being a dental hygienist frequently comes with additional charges. 

They frequently have to do with education or training. 

These costs could amount to hundreds or even thousands of dollars despite cost variations. 

Among the additional expenses linked to becoming a dental hygienist are:

  • Books
  • Dental hygiene instruments
  • Insurance
  • Personal expenses
  • Room and board or rent
  • School supplies
  • Transportation
  • Uniforms

Salary and Job Outlook for Dental Hygienists after Study

Dental hygienists typically have pleasant careers and have the gratification of assisting patients every day in improving their oral health. 

Since most dentist clinics keep regular business hours, you’ll probably have a healthy work-life balance if you decide to work in this field. 

However, the financial benefits of this vocation are also significant, particularly if you hope to earn a specific amount of money each year. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, those in the top tenth percentile of the profession can anticipate their incomes to be around $104,420. At the same time, newly graduated dental hygienists typically earn $54,200. 

At the moment, the median average is $77,090. 

This number may vary due to factors other than experience.

Even though concentrations are less common at the associate degree level, many bachelor’s and master’s degrees provide a number of specialties that let you concentrate on a particular area of dental hygiene. 

The following is a list of some of the most popular fields, along with data on average incomes in each field according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

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1. Dental Hygiene Educator

Average pay: $52,172 

Through this emphasis, you will learn about oral health and theories and concepts associated with instructing adult learners. 

In addition to studying curriculum design and student assessment, courses cover preventative dental hygiene and periodontal health issues. 

You may decide to teach at dental schools, community colleges, universities, and vocational schools after graduation.

2. Public Health Administrator

$65,985 is the median wage. 

Your interest in working in public health and creating campaigns to promote oral health care may increase if you complete a health policy and administration specialty as part of your dental hygiene degree. 

In addition to specific courses in preventative dentistry, oral health and nutrition, and cleanliness, you can gain a solid foundation in public health administration by taking courses in community dental health, human resource management, and public policy development.

3. Pediatric Dental Hygienist

Payscale median: $71,354 

If working with young children appeals to you, you will enroll in specialist courses covering fluoride varnishes and concerns relating to thumb sucking, as well as classes on how baby and permanent teeth develop and how to teach kids about excellent oral hygiene.

Along with reducing children’s anxiety about dental operations, you’ll learn how to provide a comfortable atmosphere for kids.

4. Periodontal Dental Hygienist

Average pay: $65,367 

As a periodontal dental hygienist, you will concentrate on maintaining dental health and treating conditions that impact teeth. 

You will learn about charting, tongue cleanliness, denture care, diet, and other factors that contribute to creating holistic dental care and therapy. 

You could work for a public health organization or a private dental practice after graduation.


In conclusion, you can work in teaching, other clinical settings, school health programs, or public health initiatives if you have a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene. 

With a master’s degree, you can investigate possibilities in public health, research, health care management, teaching, and advanced clinical roles. 

After receiving your dental hygienist license, you could additionally be required to complete a certain number of hours of coursework annually or every few years. 

Whether you choose to take these courses or not, doing so can help you stay current on the most recent developments in dental hygiene procedures and knowledge.

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Frequently Asked Questions 

How much time is spent at a hygiene appointment? 

Patients’ demands vary, and we ensure that any appointment is tailored to your requirements. 
The length of an appointment can range from 30 to 45 minutes.

Is it difficult to become a dental hygienist? 

Classes in dental hygiene demand a lot of dedication. 
You will have to study a lot of the course material quickly. 
Even though working as a dental hygienist is rewarding, there are some challenges. 
It’s nothing you can’t handle if you have the right amount of patience and motivation.

How can you get ready for a dentist appointment? 

Even though brushing your teeth before seeing a dental hygienist may seem unnecessary, it’s a good idea to begin your visit with a clean mouth. 
As with every dental appointment, you should use mouthwash, brush, floss, and clean your teeth before going.

Why do dental hygienists receive such high salaries? 

Because they are qualified professionals employed in the dental care sector, dental hygienists receive high salaries. 
Taking proper care of your teeth and gums is crucial because neglecting your oral health can result in major health issues like diabetes and heart disease, in addition to dental difficulties.


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