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How to Become a Dental Hygienist in Pennsylvania


Certain types of people cause happiness wherever they go. Dental hygienists are among them. By the nature of their work, they relieve pain and discomfort. They transform dire situations into manageable ones. With a magical wave of high-tech instruments, they bring out the best in a person’s smile.

Are you considering becoming a dental hygienist? This occupation provides great personal reward, professional recognition, and generous compensation. By following the steps outlined below, you can join the ranks of licensed dental hygienists and enjoy a fulfilling career.


A successful dental hygienist has these attributes:


  • excellent interpersonal skills
  • aptitude for science
  • manual dexterity
  • keen eye-hand coordination
  • desire to help people

If the above characteristics sound like you, or you’re earnest in developing them, you have a solid foundation on which to build your career.


The scope of practice for dental hygienists is ever-expanding. Here are some of the exciting responsibilities you’ll have:


  • Perform prophylaxis – cleaning of teeth and gums
  • Screen for oral cancer
  • Take and read oral x-rays
  • Apply cavity-preventive agents
  • Provide periodontal dressings
  • Instruct in home oral care
  • Counsel on nutrition
  • Conduct community health clinics


To become a dental hygienist, you need to complete a program of study at an accredited school. When a school is accredited, it has met the highest standards of education set by a state’s governing board. It ensures you and a prospective employer of quality training that prepares you for successful employment. In fact, some employers will not even consider a candidate unless the school attended was accredited.

There are 11 accredited dental hygienist schools in Pennsylvania. They are:

Community College of Philadelphia – Philadelphia
Harcum College – Bryn Mawr
Harrisburg Area Community College – Harrisburg
Luzerne County Community College – Nanticoke
Manor College – Jenkintown
Montgomery County Community College – Blue Bell
Northampton County Area Community College – Bethlehem
University of Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh Campus
Tri-State Business Institute – Erie
Westmoreland County Community College – Youngwood
Pennsylvania College of Technology – Williamsport

At the undergraduate level, all the above schools confer the Associate in Applied Science in Dental Hygiene degree, with the exception of The University of Pittsburg, which grants a Certificate. The time to complete an accredited program is typically 2 years of full-time study.


Educational requirements vary among schools. Below is an overall list:


  • High School Diploma or General Education Diploma (GED)
  • Prerequisite Courses of Biology, Chemistry, and Math
  • SAT or ACT Scores
  • Allied Health Test



  • CPR Certification
  • Academic/Professional References – from a teacher, employer, or guidance counselor
  • Personal Essay
  • Dental and Physical Exams, including TB Testing and Immunization
  • Medical Insurance
  • Criminal Record Check, FBI Clearance, and Child Abuse Clearance
  • School Application


Course titles and descriptions vary among schools, but the overall education is the same. All accredited programs consist of two components, classroom instruction and clinical application. Below are some of the fascinating subjects you’ll study:

Classroom Instruction


  • dental pain control
  • nutrition analysis
  • dental anatomy
  • pharmacology
  • clinical techniques
  • dental materials
  • ethics
  • community dentistry

Clinical Instruction

Clinical rotations provide the opportunity to develop hands-on skills in a patient care setting. Some schools have their own on-campus clinics, while others utilize off-campus facilities. You will receive the supervision of a faculty member and overseeing dentist while treating patients.


Tuition varies according to type of school, degree awarded, and your residential status. Programs at community colleges tend to cost less than those at private schools and universities. The average annual tuition at a Pennsylvania community college ranges from $7,000-$8,000. Private school tuition averages $15,000-$20,500 per year. University tuition averages $24,000 annually.


As of the Fall Semester, 2014, Pennsylvania has instituted a mentor program sponsored by the state’s Dental Hygienists’ Association. A mentor can give you valuable insight toward getting the most from your education. Guidance is also provided for a smooth transition to employment. DHA mentors are practicing dental hygienists. Through the “Virtual Mentor Program,” you are connected to professionals who are happy to answer questions, offer encouragement, and provide support. Communication is conducted via e-mail. For further information about the PDHA Virtual Mentor Program, click here:


To practice in Pennsylvania, a dental hygienist must be licensed. Requirements include:


  • Completing an accredited dental hygiene program
  • Passing the National Dental Hygiene Board and Northeast Region Board exams
  • Certification in CPR


To remain licensed in Pennsylvania, you will need to obtain 20 credits of continuing education within the 2 years prior to renewal.


Dental hygienists have a wide variety of practice settings to choose from. Upon licensure, you can work in a private dental practice, marketing company, school system, hospital clinic, or military base. You can specialize in geriatric, pediatric, and special needs populations. With a bachelor’s or master’s degree, you can teach, perform research, and work for a government agency. You can choose to work part-time, full-time, evenings, and weekends. As you build on your education and experience, there will be ample opportunity for advancement. With dentists delegating more of their responsibilities to dental hygienists, the scope of practice continues to expand.


Salary varies according to type of practice and location. Your level of education and experience are also factors. The average annual salary is $56,300.1/


Pennsylvania is one of the highest ranking states in terms of the number of dental hygienists employed. It places third among all states with respect to hiring. The number of jobs in this profession is expected to increase by 30% within the next 2 years. Therefore, your prospective future is promising and bright!


You can be that person who generates happiness wherever you work. You can send people back into their lives feeling more comfortable and at ease. You can create a trail of beautiful smiles from those you care for. You can enjoy a solid reputation as a skilled professional who is sought out for your dental expertise.

Take the first step toward becoming a dental hygienist in Pennsylvania. Set your sights on an accredited school, and watch your thrilling future unfold.

1/ www.careeroverview.com/usa/pennsylvania/philadelphia/healthcare-practitioners-and-technical/dental/dental-hygienist/