Dental Hygienist Education Requirements

girl on dentist chair

Dentistry is the field of medical science related to oral health care of a person. It involves looking after the gums, teeth and sometimes the tongue. Dentists and Dental Hygienists work together to ensure that you have the best smile in the photo and your partner smells your amazing breath. They are also there to ensure that you do not have any oral diseases or pain.

To give us this level of oral healthcare, dental hygienists need to under a few years of training. It is important to note that Dental Hygienists are very different from dentists. Let us look at the education requirements you need to become a registered dental hygienist.

High School

Just like any other medical field, it is important to take science-based subjects in high school. These subjects include Health, Biology, Psychology, Chemistry, and Mathematics.


Though this is not completely necessary, it might help during admission into dental programs. Some programs prefer students to have attended at least 1 year of college prior to applying. Some students prefer to undergo 2 years instead, to help them prepare for other facets of the job or just to have a backup plan.

Associate’s degree

Mostly, being a dental hygienist doesn’t require you to have a lot of degrees under your belt. You could become one simply by earning a diploma or an associate’s degree in dental hygiene. It is important that the program you get into is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA).

The CDA has already approved 300+ dental programs at the associate’s level. These are usually offered in community colleges and dental schools all over the country. It takes about 2 years to get this degree.

Bachelor’s degree

As mentioned before, it is not necessary to get a bachelor’s degree to become a dental hygienist. The number of bachelor programs is fewer than those of associate programs. However, it is important to have one if you are considering going into some specialization in the field of dental hygiene or educating others about it.

A bachelor’s course might last 2-3 years (sometimes 4). It is also an effective way of gaining more knowledge in the field of dentistry and learning to be a dentist.

Master’s degree

Getting a master’s degree is the least popular choice for becoming a dental hygienist. It is mainly because this is time-consuming and involves a lot of extra knowledge that an RDH may not need. There are very few accredited master’s courses.

But, like the bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree will help you prepare to become a dentist and get a doctorate along with giving you the required qualifications to become an educator. Master’s programs typically last 4 years.

Licensure and Specializations

After getting the required degree of your choice and completing the required course, you will be eligible to give the licensure exam. You must pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination. Depending on the state you are currently residing in, you might also have to give a clinical board exam and pass it. This will allow you to practice freely, in hospital or clinic.

You could also continue to further educate yourself to get into a dental specialization. The specializations include Dental Hygiene Educator, Public Healthcare Administrator, Pediatric Dental Hygienist, and Periodontal Dental Hygienist. Each of these fields will require you to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and some certifications along with them.

As you can see, it is fairly easy to become a dentist. However, the job is not as easy as you think. But if you are interested in oral hygiene and cannot stand the thought of not brushing twice daily, this is definitely the career for you. Don’t wait any longer, go apply to dental programs now!