Degree Programs

What You Need to Learn About Dental Hygienist Programs Before Starting

dental hygienist programs
Photo by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

Entering one of the top dental hygienist programs is hard. Graduating is near impossible.

You can start your career with a simple certificate. You can promote your career by attaining more degrees, from an associate’s degree in dental hygiene to a doctorate.

Dental hygienists are highly ethical professionals who’re entrusted with public health.

Think of dental hygienists as nurses for teeth with the potential to become dentists or even teachers someday.

In general, dentistry is a highly competitive career, but it’s also one of the most rewarding.

Of course, it’s much more than that, so without further ado, let’s start:

Dental Hygienist Programs: An Overview

If you’ve been looking into dental hygienist programs, here’s everything you need to know before you apply to a dental hygienist program:

Before everything, you need to talk about your GPA, classes you took, and your desire to apply for a dental hygienist program with the career counselor in your school.

So, go speak to your adviser.

Most dental hygienist schools and colleges will give you an entrance test to help determine what topics you’ll study. So, the next step is to prepare for that exam by brushing up your chemistry, biology, and anatomy.

It’s a routine but required test, so you don’t have to study hard. Do your best, nonetheless.

In some states and schools, you’re required to pass a teeth test. This time, you must pass with a high grade.

Only after you pass the prerequisite tests, you can apply for the program.

When joining dental hygiene programs, the hours you spent practicing will improve your chance of acceptance. So, if you can get a job at a dental clinic, don’t wait to apply.

Remember, the acceptance rate of students who apply for a dental hygiene program is around 30%. Be confident and do whatever it takes to be one of them.

Once you’re accepted, you start learning in both the classroom and the clinic in a considerably competitive environment. It’s a tough training to become a dental hygienist, but it can be a lucrative career if you put your mind to it and do the hard work.

What To Expect From a Dental Hygiene Program

If you’re thinking about becoming a dental hygienist, you must know the following:

You’re not guaranteed to graduate dental hygienist training as the graduation rate is as low as the acceptance rate. So, if you like a challenge, keep reading.

In general, each state offers its style of dental hygienist education, but they have a lot in common.

It’s very different from the preliminary exams you went through before you enroll.

If you’re applying for dental hygiene associate’s degree programs, your two years of study will be divided into several semesters. Each semester with its own classes, study material, and instrument kits.

Unless you’re applying for online dental hygienist certification programs, you can’t expect to have full control over your schedule.

During the first few weeks, you get to read the dental hygienist curriculum, understand the rules, and meet your colleagues and instructors.

Typically, you’ll study subjects include infection control, oral-facial anatomy, and periodontics.

Other skills you can expect to acquire during your transformative journey to bring home the dental hygiene degree include washing your hands like a dental hygienist, educating your patients about dental hygiene, and taking X-rays.

Washing Hands
Photo by Burst from Pexels

All in all, every semester has its classes and skills.

Becoming a Registered Dental Hygienist

Congratulations, it was tough, but you graduated from your dental hygiene program with flying colors. Now what?

To obtain your dental hygienist license, you must pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE) required by the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations (JCNDE). Furthermore, each state has its board and other exams you must get through.

Every class you took was preparing you for this moment. All the study you did was in preparation for this ultimate exam. You might even have gone through a mock dental hygiene clinical board exam during your education to prepare for this big moment.

It’s the final and hardest step of completing your dental hygiene program.

Each state has its state boards of dentistry that grants the dental hygienist license. You must meet specific requirements, depending on the location of your practice.

The general requirements found amongst all states are educational, a written examination, and clinical examination requirements.

How to fulfill these requirements?

For the educational requirement, choose a dental hygienist program that’s accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).

To fulfill the written examination requirement, take the NBDHE. However, your state might not accept the results at its discretion. Despite that, all states recognize the NBDHE results.

As for the clinical examination requirement, you’ll have to do your research.

The purpose of the NBDHE is to help state boards determine which qualifications dental hygienists must meet to obtain their license.

It’s a multi-disciplinary test with 350 multiple-choice items, which is intended to test both your theoretical and practical knowledge of dental hygiene.

Whether online or offline, you must enroll in a CODA-accredited dental hygiene program. Before taking the exam, your dean should certify that you’re eligible.


Not all dental hygienist programs are created equal.

Earning a dental hygiene degree can take anywhere between one year for a certificate and four years for a bachelor’s degree.

If you’re looking for a respectable, fast-growing career, becoming a dental hygienist is the one for you.

The field of dental hygiene offers stable income and room for growth professionally.

If you start your career with an associate degree, you can always promote your career through attaining a master’s or doctorate in dentistry.

Your duties as a dental hygienist involve cleaning teeth, checking for oral disease, and educating your patients to keep their teeth healthy.

Before you apply, make sure that it’s the career you want.

Acceptance in a dental hygiene program isn’t easy, graduation is hard, and getting your license is a challenge on its own.

If it’s for you, you’ll enjoy making people’s smiles more beautiful while making yourself smile wider.

Interested in a degree in this field? Our College Search Tool makes it quick and easy to find a school offering what you are looking for. Give It A Try!

Colleges Offering Dental Hygienist Programs

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