It seems that dental care is essential to overall good health. Some sources opine that it’s imperative to have a regular professional cleaning to avoid diseases such as periodontitis. This is when toxins created by the bacteria in plaque irritate the gums. Left untreated, this bacteria may enter the bloodstream and contribute to heart disease. This is where the dental hygienist plays a vital role in preventing this scenario from occurring by cleaning your teeth every six months. As unpleasant as the ordeal may be for some patients, teeth cleaning is paramount to keeping them intact.

Since there are literally millions of people who visit a dentist twice a year, it seems logical that there would be a great demand for hygienists. And there is! According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 200,500 dental hygienists employed in 2014. The job growth is projected to increase at 19% or 37,400 jobs through 2024. Equally noteworthy is the median salary of $71,520 as reported by the BLS. The site PayScale.com lists the average national income at $66,000. Additionally, the BLS figure is based on an Associate’s degree. And there may be a community college in your area that provides this degree with only a two year (or less) commitment required.

1. Mesa Community College

The Dental Hygiene program at Mesa Community College offers a rigorous, intensive, science-based curriculum, balanced with personal development, creating a whole person educational approach. Graduates are awarded an Associate’s in Applied Science (AAS) degree and become eligible to take the written and clinical exams necessary to obtain a license in Dental Hygiene. Candidates for admission to the Dental Hygiene Program must meet the following criteria:

  • There is a 5 year time limit on completing required science courses
  • Students that have completed MAT 102 (Math Concepts) with the MCCCD (Maricopa County Community Colleges District) have fulfilled the math requirement for acceptance into the dental hygiene program. MAT 102 is being replaced with MAT 112 as of fall 2015.
  • Possess a High School diploma or GED
  • Minimum GPA for General Education prerequisite coursework (CRE101 and HCC courses not included) is 3.25
  • Minimum GPA of  Science prerequisite coursework in 3.50
  • 40 hours of observing a practicing dental hygienist within the last 5 years
  • Possess a current Level 1 Fingerprint Clearance Card

2. Phoenix College

Phoenix College Dental Hygiene Program was the first dental hygiene program in the state of Arizona graduating the first class in 1970. The program curriculum has been shared with Rio Salado and Mesa Community Colleges to form the Maricopa Community Colleges Dental Hygiene Program. Each program has the same curriculum in which the delivery of the program varies. Phoenix College is a traditional day program with courses both hybrid and face to face and clinics being delivered Monday to Friday during the day. The program is four semesters in length with the traditional breaks for summer and holidays. In a recent survey their students stated that they chose Phoenix College for the experienced program and faculty, traditional schedule delivery, and outcomes of successful graduation from the program and required testing for licensure.

The Commission on Dental Accreditation of the American Dental Association (211 E. Chicago Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611-2678) grants accreditation to the Phoenix College, Rio Salado, and Mesa programs.

3. Rio Salado College

The Rio Salado College School of Dental Hygiene was developed in 1993 in partnership with the Arizona Dental Association. The Program is a 15 month program with 22 students admitted each September. It is designed as a fast paced, accelerated program that provides accessible, innovative, high quality education. The curriculum is delivered with a blend of formats including in-person, hybrid and online which gives the student customized, high quality learning design. The Rio Salado Dental Hygiene Program has a long standing tradition of successful testing and board outcomes.

Mesa, Phoenix and Rio Salado require that students be in compliance with the Maricopa County Community College District Supplemental Background Check policy. Only students in compliance with the screening guidelines and receiving a negative drug screen, as reported by the Medical Review Officer (MRO), will be permitted to continue their enrollment in Dental Hygiene courses. All applicants, prior to enrollment, are required to obtain a CPR certification at the Healthcare Provider level which will remain current for the duration of the program.

The above three Arizona college programs are also accredited by the Arizona Dental Association.

Accreditation: The Higher Learning Commission (Mesa, Phoenix & Rio Salado)

Tuition: $4,872 or $84 per credit (2 yrs: Maricopa County residents: all 3 AZ colleges)

4. Mississippi Delta Community College

The college was created in 1926 to serve the people of the Delta region of Mississippi. The official service area of the college includes Bolivar, Humphreys, Issaquena, Leflore, Sharkey, Sunflower, and Washington counties. However, the college serves students from all over the state of Mississippi, other states and foreign countries. In addition to the main campus at Moorhead, Mississippi Delta Community College also offers classes at its off-campus sites in Greenville, Greenwood, and Drew, as well as workforce training at the Charles W. Capps, Jr. Technology Center in Indianola.

The Dental Hygiene Program at Mississippi Delta Community College (MDCC) provides students with a general education and a comprehensive dental hygiene experience that prepares them for a career in this profession. The program includes clinical experience in treating patients throughout the lifespan with normal oral care and general systemic conditions. This program consists of 52 hours of dental hygiene courses and 37 academic hours that last only four semesters. Class size is limited to 12 students with a 5 to 1 student to faculty ratio. All applicants must meet the MDCC selection requirements and maintain a ‘C’ grade or higher in all Dental Hygiene Technology courses, Anatomy and Physiology I & II, General Chemistry, and Public Speaking I to progress in the program.

Their Dental Hygiene Technology program is accredited by the American Dental Association.

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission

Tuition: 4 semesters x $1245= $4,872 total 

5. Halifax Community College

In 1967 visionaries in Halifax County recognized the need for a reputable institution to offer educational opportunities and job training for high school graduates and others. The visions and dreams became reality when Halifax County Technical Institute was chartered on September 7, 1967, by the North Carolina General Assembly. The institution began functioning in February 1968 when its first president, Dr. Phillip W. Taylor, was appointed. In July 2002 the construction began on the Allied Health/Multipurpose Building. The new 80,886 square-foot, state-of-the-art, two-story building houses the allied health programs, which include nursing, nursing assistant, licensed practical nursing, and dental hygiene.

The mission of their Dental Hygiene Program is to facilitate the development of professional, ethical, and competent dental hygienists.  The dental hygiene curriculum provides the dental hygiene student with the knowledge and skills to assess, plan, implement, and evaluate dental hygiene care for the individual and the community. The curriculum also teaches the dental hygiene student to collaborate with the dentist, the patient, and other health professionals to provide comprehensive patient care. Graduates will receive an Associate of Applied Science Degree and will be eligible to take National and State/Regional Dental Hygiene Board Examinations. Admission to the dental hygiene program is limited to eighteen (18) students each August. The curriculum consists of 26 credit hours of General Education courses and 43 Dental Hygiene Core Courses.

Accreditation: The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission

Tuition: $72 per credit hour x 69 hours =$4,968

6. Meridian Community College

Meridian Community College is a two-year public community college in Meridian, Mississippi. Founded in 1937, it was originally named Meridian Junior College but changed its name in 1987 to the current Meridian Community College (MCC). MCC began as the vision of Dr. H.M. Ivy (1884–1977), superintendent of the Meridian Separate School District in the 1930’s. The college operated at Meridian High School until 1964 when the College moved to its present location. The college is located on a 72 acre campus located a short distance from downtown Meridian and is next to the campus of Mississippi State University’s Meridian Campus.

Graduates of the program are awarded an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Dental Hygiene and are eligible to write the National Board of Dental Examiners as well as individual state board examinations for dental hygiene. In an effort to better prepare dental hygiene graduates for the workforce, MCC’ s Dental Hygiene Program includes digital intraoral and panoramic x-ray, computerized charting, and electronic records keeping in the curriculum. The first semester or 12 credit hours of the program consists of the prerequisite courses. This is followed by four semesters or 70 hours of the dental hygiene phase of the curriculum. All phases of dental health education are covered and sustained through community dental health activities and clinical experience by treating patients in all categories including children, the aged, and patients with oral and general systemic conditions.

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission

Tuition: $1050 per semester (Mississippi residents): total=$5,250

7. Northwest Mississippi Community College

The mission of Northwest Mississippi Community College, located in Senatobia, Mississippi,  is to provide the students of its eleven-county district and beyond with opportunities for obtaining affordable quality education to meet their diverse needs. The comprehensive community and technical college offers students educational experiences through traditional campus-based and distance learning opportunities. Northwest is committed to achieving the following goals: to promote excellence in educational programs; to maintain quality educational support services; to continue responsive administrative processes; to ensure efficient use of financial and physical resources; and to assure institutional effectiveness.

Their Dental Hygiene program is designed for the student to take the first two years of course work at Northwest Mississippi Community College, and transfer to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Miss., for the junior and senior years of course work. These two additional years are for those pursuing a bachelor’s degree. However, an Associate of Arts degree is awarded by Northwest upon completion of the curriculum which will permit the graduate to seek employment as a dental hygienist. A minimum of an associate degree or certificate in dental hygiene is generally required for practice in a private dental office.

Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission

Tuition: $1,275 per semester (in-state)

8. Colby Community College

Colby Community College (CCC) is a two-year community college located in Colby, Kansas. Established in 1964, the 80-acre main campus is located in the heart of Colby with an additional 64-acre agricultural center east of the city. Colby Community College is dedicated to the belief that each individual in Northwest Kansas should have the opportunity to develop and extend skills and knowledge for the attainment of personal objectives. In 2013, CCC was selected as one of the Top 10 Community Colleges in the Country, according to Bankrate, Inc., in the study of over 900 public two-year institutions.

The school’s Associate of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene is taught under the close supervision of licensed dentists and hygienists. The curriculum includes instruction in dental anatomy, microbiology, and pathology; dental hygiene theory and techniques; cleaning equipment operation and maintenance; dental materials; radiology; patient education and counseling; office management; supervised clinical training; and professional standards. There are 44 hours of Prerequisite Courses in subjects such as Anatomy & Physiology, Microbiology, Biochemistry and Psychology. The subsequent core curriculum is taught over four semesters for a total of 43 credit hours. The Prerequisite courses must be completed by application deadline, which is February 10. Portfolios postmarked later than February 10, of current year will not be accepted. Having met the requirements, the process is highly selective as only 12 students are admitted each year. Being selective may be one reason why the program has had a 100% pass rate on the national certification exam for the past four years.

Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission 

Tuition: $6,370 total (Kansas residents)

9. College of Southern Idaho

The College of Southern Idaho represents a shared vision and a collaborative effort of the citizens of the Magic Valley. This vision began to take form as early as 1952 when a Stanford doctoral student wrote his dissertation, “A Junior College Survey of Twin Falls County, Idaho.” Several years later (1960) the Twin Falls Chamber of Commerce established a junior college committee to actively pursue financial support to make this vision a reality. Starting in the fall of 1965, the first evening academic classes were held at Twin Falls High School, while vocational classes were held at a large building on Kimberly Road.

The Dental Hygiene program will educate students to provide patient dental care to the public. Didactic, clinical and laboratory instruction is designed to develop students to be valuable members of the Dental Health Team. Program graduates will become licensed Registered Dental Hygienists (RDH). They use educational theory and methodology to analyze oral health needs. Educational services learned will develop promotional strategies and delivery of oral health for individuals and groups. As clinicians they will assess, plan and implement treatments for prevention, intervention and control of oral diseases while practicing in collaboration with other professionals.  The program will take students two years to complete and requires admission application. Ten students will be selected each year to develop competent skills. The College of Southern Idaho’s Dental Hygiene program is accredited by the American Dental Association Commission on Dental Accreditation.

Accreditation: The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

Tuition: $7,080 (total for 59 credits)

10. Ivy Tech Community College-South Bend

Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana (usually shortened to Ivy Tech or Ivy Tech Community College) is Indiana’s community college system, encompassing 30 campuses in 14 regions. It is the state’s largest public post secondary institution and the nation’s largest singly accredited statewide community college system serving nearly 200,000 students annually. It was founded in 1963 as Indiana Vocational Technical College in order to provide technical and vocational education for various industries and was rechartered as a system of vocational technical schools in 2005. Ivy Tech is a full-service community college, offering over 150 academic programs and concentrations for career development certificates, technical certificates, and associate degrees.

The dental hygiene program features a state-of-the-art dental clinic that serves as the primary clinical education facility for the program.The dental hygiene program at Ivy Tech features small class sizes, which allow for more one-on-one interaction with faculty. This program begins in the fall semester each year and lasts for two years.  It is a full-time, primarily daytime program, and students are in class, labs or clinic Monday – Friday for 16-26 hours per week.  In addition, the Dental Hygiene program is a selective admission program.  Successful applicants become enrolled in the Healthcare Specialist program with a concentration in Dental Hygiene while completing the prerequisite requirements.  The Dental Hygiene program accepts a limited number of students each year and there is a separate application process. The school’s dental hygiene program is accredited by the American Dental Association Commission on Dental Accreditation.

11. Ivy Tech Community College-Anderson

Ivy Tech Community College offers their 2 year Associates degree program at the campuses of South Bend and Anderson, Indiana. The latter is also referred to as the East Central campus and the former is the North Central location. Graduates of the two year program will receive their “RDH” or  Registered Dental Hygienist. The RDH credential identifies a dental hygienist as a licensed oral health professional. State licensure requirements typically indicate that a dental hygienist must graduate from an accredited dental hygiene education program, successfully pass a national written examination, and a state or regional clinical examination. (In Indiana, the designation LDH (Licensed Dental Hygienist) is utilized instead of RDH.)

Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools

Tuition: $7,190 (2 yrs)

12. Tallahassee Community College

Tallahassee is definitely a college town, with more than 60,000 students studying at Florida State University, Florida A&M University and Tallahassee Community College (TCC). It’s also the state capital, the home of Florida’s government and the center of its politics. TCC offers over 90 academic and career programs and more than 600 different courses which the school offers in a variety of formats including traditional face-to-face, online, hybrid and Friday-only. Plus, through the University Partnerships, TCC students have the opportunity to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees without ever leaving TCC’s campus.

The Associate of Science Degree in Dental Hygiene at TCC prepares students to become registered dental hygienists who can safely provide a number of services within a dental office. This program prepares students for the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination and for licensure as registered dental hygienists. To prepare students to safely and effectively perform all the functions that are legal for dental hygienists to perform in Florida. The curriculum consists of 15 credit hours of Prerequisite courses in Anatomy, Physiology, General Chemistry and General Microbiology. This is followed, subsequent to acceptance, in the Dental Hygiene Program totaling 73 credit hours. The entire program can be completed in five semesters. Students must attain a grade of ‘C’ or higher in all courses.

Accreditation: The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission

Tuition: $8,873 (total 88 credit hours)

13. Indian River State College

Indian River State College (IRSC) has earned a statewide and national reputation for excellence. Dedicated to the success of each student, IRSC offers over 150 programs leading to Bachelor’s Degrees, Associate Degrees, Technical Certificates and Applied Technology Diplomas. Continuing a 50-year tradition of responsiveness to community needs, IRSC is committed to advancing the educational, cultural, career training, workforce, and economic development of its surrounding area. In fact, over 70% of the region’s college-bound high school seniors attend IRSC following graduation. Persons already established in careers attend IRSC to expand their skills and retrain for new positions. Area residents 50 and over pursue their interests through the Lifelong Learning Institute.

The Associate in Science Degree in Dental Hygiene will prepare graduates for success as a Dental Hygienist providing preventive dental care to the public. Graduates will have the skills to work directly with patients in private dental offices, public health agencies, school systems, hospitals, and clinics. Students learn how to examine the mouth, scale, root plane, clean and polish teeth and expose and interpret X-rays. Grads will also be prepared to take the Dental Hygiene National and State Licensure Board examinations. Some may wish to continue their education, earning a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree for research, teaching, or clinical practice in public or school health programs. The Associate’s coursework is spread over six semesters totaling 88 credits. All core curriculum and natural science courses require a grade of “C” or higher.

Accreditation: The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission

Tuition: $9,137 (total 88 credits)

14. Wytheville Community College

In 1962, a steering committee composed of area citizens was organized to obtain support for a college in Wytheville. Wytheville Community College (WCC) welcomed its first students in September, 1963, as a two-year branch of Virginia Tech. During its first year of operation, the college enrolled 107 students and employed five full-time faculty members. The Virginia Community College System was established during the 1966 session of the General Assembly. WCC became a member of the system on July 1, 1967. In the first year of its operation, the college’s enrollment rose to 837 and the number of full-time faculty members increased to 21. The college’s enrollment has grown to over 4,900 students in 2012-2013, with more than 40 full-time and 190 part-time faculty.

This two year five semester program leads to an Associate of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene. The program is designed to prepare the student as a skilled, educated health care provider with the knowledge and skills necessary to become part of the dental health team.  At the successful completion of the two-year program, graduates will be eligible to sit for national and regional examinations in dental hygiene leading to licensure as a registered dental hygienist. Individuals who have a felony or misdemeanor conviction may not be allowed to take the licensing examination. This decision is made by the Virginia Board of Dentistry.

Applicants must be high school graduates or the equivalent.  In order to meet the admission requirements, the applicant must have completed:

  1. A WCC application (including all high school and college transcripts or copy of GED) by February 15
  2. Competency in English and Math Essentials MTE 1-4 as demonstrated through the placement and diagnostic tests, or by satisfactorily completing the required MTE units or equivalent
  3. High school biology or equivalent (one unit) with at least “C”
  4. High school chemistry or equivalent (one unit) with at least “C”
  5. A 2.0 average for high school courses or a 2.0 cumulative average for all college coursework
  6. Shadowing hours; 16 observation hours to be completed by February 15

Accreditation: The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission

Tuition: $9,648 (total 2 yrs.) 

15. Grand Rapids Community College

Grand Rapids Junior College (GRJC) was founded in 1914 by the Grand Rapids Board of Education after a resolution was passed by the University of Michigan faculty which encouraged the establishment of junior colleges in Michigan. In the ’50s and ’60s, legislative acts further clarified the role of community colleges in Michigan. In 1991 Kent County taxpayers voted to redistrict GRJC, which became Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC). Every year more than 17,000 students enroll in more than 2,000 liberal arts and occupational courses.

GRCC offers an Associate of Applied Arts and Sciences in Dental Hygiene to be completed over a minimum of three years. The first year is “Pre-Dental Hygiene” and includes successful completion of  the four  science courses. Successful completion of the four science courses does not guarantee students will begin the Dental Hygiene Program the following year. Students are highly encouraged to complete all of the non-dental courses prior to beginning the second year. This way, scheduling is much less complex, and the student can focus all his/her energies on the professional training part of the program. The Pre-Dental Hygiene phase consists of two semesters of courses (35 credits) ranging from English Composition to Microbiology. This is followed by five semesters of the Professional Sequence that totals 76 credits. To be eligible for graduation from the Associate Degree Dental Hygiene program, students must earn a ‘C’ (78%) in the prescribed associate degree dental hygiene curriculum.

Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission 

Tuition: $11,988 for all 111 credits (Michigan residents)

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