Take the First Step Toward Your Dental Career Now!

Requirements for Applying to a Dental Hygiene Program

Dental hygienists are in high demand. Main responsibilities include working with dentists to care for patients by cleaning teeth, examining gums for gum disease or oral cancers, taking x-rays, and applying sealants and protectants to preserve oral health.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that dental hygienists are expected to experience an increased demand of 7 percent by 2032. Dental hygiene is a great career to pursue, and getting started with schooling is the first step toward it. Read further to learn which requirements you’ll need to meet when applying for a dental hygiene program.

What Requirements are Needed for Dental Hygienist Programs?

No matter the educational route you choose, you will need to meet a few prerequisites to apply for a dental hygienist program; one being that you will need to be at least 18 years of age or older with a high school diploma or a GED equivalent.

Be sure to review your chosen school or program’s application carefully since every institution’s requirements may differ slightly. Again, if you are receiving your associate degree, you may be required to have one year of general education classes prior to enrolling in the program.

To apply to a dental hygienist program you may also need:

  • Any relevant school transcripts (high school or college)
  • Professional references/letters of recommendation
  • A personal statement
  • A physical exam
  • Ability to meet physical requirements (sit or stand for extended periods of time, lift 40-50 pounds, reach below waist/above shoulder level, ability to bend and squat)
  • Required immunizations
  • A controlled substance screening
  • CPR certification

Associate Degree vs Certificate Program as a Dental Hygienist

To become a dental hygienist, you will either apply to a trade or vocational school, or, an accredited certificate program.

Dental Hygiene Associate Degrees

Earning your associate degree in a trade/vocational school can take around two to three years to complete. Typically, an Associate of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene program is the most common degree for dental hygienists to earn.

Along with dental courses, you can expect to take additional general education classes in your program. You will also likely participate in hands-on learning. Some schools may require students to have taken a year of college classes before entering a dental hygiene program. It is important to check with your chosen school about their specific requirements.

Dental Hygiene Certificate Programs

Earning your certificate from an accredited vocational or trade school, on the other hand, can have you career-ready in about 1 to 2 years. An accredited dental hygienist program will also provide hands-on learning in addition to classes specific to dental hygienists only.

It is important to ensure that your program is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) to ensure that you will be eligible for future certification.

Getting your Dental Hygienist Certification

After completing schooling/a CODA accredited certificate program, it is important for dental hygienists to become certified before they can begin working. The certification exam is administered by the Joint Commission on National Dental Exams (JCNDE). Exams are multiple choice, and you must score a minimum of 70 percent to pass.

Since state and regional licensing requirements differ, you will also need to pass a clinical board exam in addition to your certification exam.

Take the First Step Toward Becoming a Dental Hygienist!

Whether you choose to begin your career as a dental hygienist by enrolling in a vocational/trade school or an accredited certificate program, you should feel prepared to have a rewarding career ahead. With the predicted job growth, now is a great time to begin.

Explore dental hygiene schools near you today to get started!

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