What degree do I need to become a Dental Hygienist?

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Oh, the Dentist. Most people have a queasy feeling about making that trip. But it’s not so scary if you’re not the one sitting in the chair right? Right.

Do you have what it takes to calm the nerves of young and old who dread these annual visits? Are you organized, efficient, and attentive? Do you like how you look in a white jacket? As a dental hygienist you will not have the responsibility of the dentist; however, you will do a lot of the dirty work. Yes, that is literal – you will be doing a lot of teeth cleaning. Don’t worry; you will have gloves on and a face mask!


A dental hygienist also needs adequate training before you’re wearing scrubs and looking all professional. Training will usually require a two-year associate’s degree, such as from programs in community colleges and technical schools.

Coursework varies but generally the dental hygienist program at most reputable schools entails the following:

  • biology
  • chemistry
  • anatomy
  • physiology
  • nutrition
  • radiography
  • periodontology

Most programs require 1 year of general studies and then 2 additional years of the actual program. And many of the dental hygienist programs include clinical practice in addition to the coursework, so you can get your hands in people’s mouths with the guidance of an experienced professional.

Certification & Licensing

All states require a dental hygienist to be licensed; these obviously vary by state. You can expect a written and practical exam to accomplish that. Contact your state’s medical board.

Job expectation

Almost all dental hygienists work in dentists’ offices. They work closely with the dentist. Most states prevent them from doing specialized dental work such as fillings and surgeries. They follow strict procedures to protect themselves and their patients from infectious oral diseases. The do cleanings and apply protectants or sealants on teeth. They take and develop x-rays. A dental hygienist will use small power tools inside the mouths of their patients’ mouths. They often create a dental plan for their patients. And of course they spend a lot of time educating and teaching their patients oral hygiene techniques, including how to brush and floss correctly.


If you can get past the grossness of spending the majority of your day bent over peering inside another persons’ mouth, then listen up, because becoming a dental hygienist is a rewarding career move.

According the the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the dental hygienist career is projected to grow 33% from 2012 to 2022. Preventative dental services are booming. Gone are the days where most people neglected oral hygiene and just dealt with tooth loss. The younger generations have been more proactive on maintaining dental care, probably due to public awareness of how important it truly is to have healthy teeth and gums.

The BLS site mentions that new federal health legislations play a role in the expanding number of patients those in dental fields are estimated to see. Also, dental insurance is becoming more common than in the past, when it was mostly an optional service.

It’s a good time to pursue this field; get in while the requirements are still set at a 2 year program!

Related Resources:

15 Affordable Degrees in Dental Hygiene (Associate’s and Beyond)

Best Major for Dentist: What Major Do You Need to Be a Dentist?