Required Training to Become a Dental Hygienist

If you are thinking about working in the dental field, here is what you need to know about the training required to become a dental hygienist.


You’ll need to graduate from a dental hygienist program with a Certificate in Dental Hygiene, an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Dental Hygiene, or a Bachelor’s Degree in Dental Hygiene.

Entry Requirements

These requirements vary by school, but most programs require:

  • Students to be at least 18 years of age
  • A high school diploma or GED
  • A C average or better in high school
  • A personal interview with the program’s faculty

Skills Students Learn

Most dental hygiene students learn:

  • Hand and ultrasonic instruments for advanced sealing and root planning methods
  • Digital and traditional x-ray techniques
  • Computerized dental management and charting software
  • Intra-oral cameras

Prerequisite Courses

Students may find their prerequisite courses differ slightly, but many programs require:

  • Composition
  • College Algebra
  • Chemistry
  • Speech and Oral Argumentation
  • Biological and physical Sciences
  • American History
  • Anatomy and Physiology (some schools offer separate courses)
  • Sociology
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences


Dental hygienist students take many courses that specifically relate to the occupation such as:

Tooth and Root Morphology – Provides students with knowledge of external and internal morphological characteristics of human primary and secondary dentition. Topics include dental terminology, dental anomalies, and oral cavity anatomy.

Preclinical Dental Hygiene Lecture – Students learn the skills that need to be utilized in the delivery of optimum patient care by dental hygienists. Topics include charting, emergencies, patient assessment, and ethics and professionalism.

Clinical Dental Hygiene I Lab – This course continues to develop a student’s knowledge in patient care. Covered topics include treatment planning, applied techniques, and patient management.

Pharmacology – Introduces the principles of basic pharmacology as they relate to the practice of dental hygiene and dentistry. Topics will include drug effects, legal and ethical considerations, and pain control.

Radiology Lecture – Designed to teach students the application of radiology principles in the study of teeth and their surrounding structures. Topics include imaging theory, legal issues of dental radiology, and radiographic quality assurance.

Radiology Lab – This course covers topics such as digital radiography principles and techniques, radiographic interpretation, and radiation safety.

Periodontology – This course gives students information on periodontal anatomy as well as introduces them to modern rational periodontal therapy such as surgical and non-surgical methods.

Biochem/Nutrition Fundamentals for Dental Hygienists – Topics for this course include instrument sharpening, pulp vitality testing, whitening, patient assessment, and root planning.



Master of Science in Dental Hygiene

Students who pursue a master’s will take courses such as:

Progressive Dental Hygiene Theory – This course involves the critical analysis of the dental hygiene process of care that relate to advanced preventive and therapeutic interventions to various population groups, outcomes, and technology.

Special Care Populations – Designed to provide concepts related to providing oral healthcare for special populations.

Community and Global Health – This is the study of population groups that have an increased risk of poor health.

Program Development and Evaluation – Students are given an overview of general teaching principles and learning and evaluating in academic and community oral health programs.

Administration and Management of Healthcare Organizations – This course combines theoretical knowledge with practical applications of principles and techniques for managing a healthcare environment and employees associated with providing care.

Leadership Strategies to Improve Healthcare – Application of leadership and management theory that relate to professional issues, conflict resolution, legal and ethical principles, and professional advancement.

No matter which degree you decide to earn, the program needs to be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation, so you will be eligible to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination.

Becoming a dental hygienist is a great career choice. If you have any questions about the courses or schools, please contact us for more information.