How Many Years To Become A Dental Hygienist

Have you been considering dental hygienists as a career path? Wondering how long the process will take? If yes, here is the complete guideline for you!

Dental hygienists play an important role in maintaining patients’ oral hygiene. So, how many years to become a dental hygienist? Well, the answer is two to six years depending on which degree you choose to pursue. 

Before making a decision, getting a clear idea about the requirements and timeline of becoming a dental hygienist is crucial. Therefore, we’ve discussed the detailed steps of becoming a dental hygienist and the time the entire process can take.

So, let’s dive in.

What Is A Dental Hygienist?

Dental hygienists are medical professionals who assist dentists in treating patients with various dental problems. They are the first people you encounter when you go to a dentist’s office. 

You receive both evaluative and preventative dental screenings from them. Usually, they do your primary screening and decide if you need immediate medical care. 

What Do Dental Hygienists Do?

  • First, a dental hygienist will take your oral medical history. This is necessary to determine any treatment course you may need.
  • Then, they will screen your tooth for any oral disease or decay.
  • After screening your teeth, the dental hygienist will clean them. Regular cleaning is necessary for maintaining good oral health. 
  • Another task dental hygienists perform is taking X-rays. This is needed for detecting broken teeth, gum disease or cavities. X-rays can be required to identify infections and even tumors.
  • They also provide preventative oral care education to patients. Applying fluoride sealants is one kind of preventive care.

Job Opportunities For Dental Hygienists

The dental hygienist profession is a great one if you want to join the medical field. Private clinics, dental hospitals, and dentists’ offices provide many job opportunities for dental hygienists. 

If you want to pursue different specializations, here are some options you can consider.

Training Dental Hygienists

You can take up teaching new dental hygienists as a profession. For teaching at community colleges, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree. And for teaching at the bachelor’s or master’s level, obtaining a master’s degree is a must. 

If you receive training from different dental hygienist training centers, you’ll be able to start your own training center too.

Becoming Dental Hygiene Researcher

A master’s degree is required for conducting research in the dental hygiene field. You can pursue a PhD for better success and opportunities. Dental hygiene researchers conduct studies and analyze results for ensuring better dental health for patients.

Dental Hygienist Pediatrician

People in this profession work with children. You’ll have to assess and treat children’s dental problems. Moreover, you’ll have to teach parents and children about the ways of maintaining good oral health.

Community Health Advocate

Community health advocates work to spread awareness about oral health care. For this, you’ll need to have experience in working with nonprofit organizations. 

Dental community health advocates have to work in school and community settings. Some also have to spread awareness among high-risk groups.

How Many Years To Become A Dental Hygienist

Before you decide on this career path, let’s look at the steps of becoming a dental hygienist. It will give you an idea of how many years it’ll take and whether this path is feasible for you.

Completing A Diploma

A high school diploma or certificate from a college entrance exam is a must for entering associate dental hygiene programs. Either these or any equivalent certificate is required. 

Many programs also require one year of college. Therefore, go through the requirements of the program you want to join.

The dental hygiene programs will also check whether you’ve passed certain courses in high school or college, like biology and chemistry. So, make sure to take these courses in school for achieving a future in the dental hygiene industry.

Completing An Associate Degree

There are two options for achieving a dental hygiene degree: associate’s or bachelor’s. An associate degree can be completed within two years. The coursework will include physiology, anatomy, pathology, immunology, and more. 

The Commission on Dental Accreditation has a list of accredited schools. Degrees achieved from only these schools are accepted by the National Dental Association. So, make sure the course you’re taking is approved by them.

Completing An Bachelor’s Degree

You can start working after achieving an associate degree. But if you want more expertise, complete a bachelor’s degree. For this, you’ll have to join a university that offers dental hygiene bachelor’s degree. This can take between four to six years.

You’ll have to complete both classroom and clinical practice education before getting a bachelor’s degree. The benefit of a bachelor’s degree is that you’ll get some on-hand experience before starting work. Also, the job opportunities will be better for you. 

Taking A Masters Degree

If you want to go into the administrative field, consider completing a master’s degree too. This will help you in entering dental research as well as the teaching profession. Moreover, you’ll be able to become a pediatric dental hygienist if you specialize in this field. 

A master’s degree can take up to two years to finish if you’re regular. The good thing is, you can complete a master’s degree while you’re working as a dental hygienist.

Getting License & Registration Done

Before starting work as a dental hygienist, you’ll need to get a license from your state as well as the National Dental Association. For this, you’ve to participate in the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam. This is a written exam and you can retake this if you don’t pass the first time.

Your state or regional dental board will also take an exam. This will be a clinical exam to evaluate your expertise in the field.

Once you pass both exams, you’ll become a registered dental hygienist. Reaching this stage can take a minimum of 3 years. However, that’ll only be possible if you commit to this full-time.

Gaining Experience In The Field

Gaining real-life experience is also necessary for becoming a good dental hygienist. Working with a dentist for a few months to a year is essential to learn the skills you’ll have to perform properly.

Another important fact is that patients first see the dental hygienist and then the dentist. So, a dental hygienist needs to know how to deal with patients properly. 

Therefore, it’s wise to gain experience in community clinics or dentists’ offices before officially starting out as a dental hygienist. 

Once you become a registered dental hygienist, you’ll need to gain recognition among the community you’ll be working with. People need to know details about the services you provide. And the best way to reach people is through a dental website.

If you have a website, all your information will be accessible to people. As a result, you’ll get more recognition among patients.

Overall Timeline

If you’re a high school graduate and choose to get an associate degree, you’ll need about three years to become a licensed dental hygienist. That is if you commit to this full-time. 

Those who want to study part-time will require at least two to three more years to become dental hygienists.

However, if you want to get higher education in this field, you’ll have to spend much more time. For becoming a dental hygienist with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, you’ll need to commit a minimum of 6 to 8 years.


1. How Much Does It Cost To Become A Dental Hygienist?

Answer: If you attend a dental hygiene program for getting an associate degree, the average cost will be around 22,690 dollars. And the cost for a bachelor’s and master’s degree can be anywhere between 30 to 36 thousand dollars.

2. How Often Do I Need To Renew My Dental Hygienist License?

Answer: Depending on which state you’ve received your license from, you’ll have to renew it after one, two, or three years.

3. How Much Do Dental Hygienists Earn On Average?

Answer: In the US, dental hygienists’ salary ranges from 17 to 67 dollars per hour. The average income is 38 dollars per hour.

4. What Does RDH Mean?

Answer: RDH means Registered Dental Hygienist. After you get the state license as a dental hygienist you can apply to add RDH to your name.

5. Can A Dental Hygienist Provide Service Without The Supervision Of A Dentist?

Answer: In many states, they can. In such cases, dental hygienists can offer treatment from personal offices, mobile hospitals, or home visits.

6. What Is The Maximum Time That Can Be Needed To Become A Dental Hygienist?

Answer: If you are pursuing a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene and doing so part-time, it can take up to 10 to 12 years to complete. 

Wrapping Up

Becoming a dental hygienist is a great job prospect. In the future, the job opportunities for dental hygienists will increase.

However, knowing how much time is needed to get a job in this career is critical to making a decision. That’s why we have explained in detail how many years to become a dental hygienist.

It’s clear from the discussion that the amount of time you’ll need depends on which degrees you choose to pursue. Also, how committed you are to this path. 

So, consider which degree will be suitable for you and start building a career in dental hygiene.

5/5 - (7 votes)

Leave a Comment