Dental Hygienist Colleges and Schools

To become a dental hygienist one must have a degree from an accredited dental hygiene school and a state license. The type of degree required varies as both associate and bachelor degrees are considered entry level to the profession. Both degrees will prepare a graduate for the clinical practice of dental hygiene in a public clinic or private dental office.

Different Dental Hygiene Degrees

An associate's degree usually takes about 2 years, but most dental hygiene programs require at least one year of pre-professional courses. Although admission requirements and prerequisites vary from school to school, you will need a high school diploma or GED and be at least 18 years of age. Most programs require high school courses in mathematics, chemistry, biology and English, all with a minimum "C" average.

If you are going for a baccalaureate degree you will need college entrance test scores and be required to write an essay and have a personal interview. Many dental hygiene programs will require up to 40 credit hours of prerequisite college courses in chemistry, English, speech, sociology and psychology. Your college science GPA may be part of the programs admissions criteria as well. Entry level programs are accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).

Master degree programs, such as a Master of Science in Dental Hygiene (MSDH), prepare graduates for careers as educators, researchers and administrators. Bachelor degrees would include a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene (BSDH), or a Bachelor of Science in Health Science (BSHS).

Requirements for Dental Hygiene School

Although course requirements differ from program to program, most dental hygiene schools offer similar courses. These include general education classes such as English, speech, psychology and sociology. Basic science courses include chemistry, anatomy, physiology, bio-chemistry, microbiology, pathology, nutrition and pharmacology. Dental science classes will include dental anatomy, head and neck anatomy, histology (tissue structure), oral pathology, periodontal, radiography and dental materials.

The majority of schools are semester based and about half of these programs offer summer school courses. There are some schools that offer part time and online distance learning. Schools offering a bachelor's degree or master's degree are more likely to offer distance learning. To practice as a dental hygienist a graduate must pass a written national board examination and a clinical examination to obtain state licensure.