Dental Hygienist School: Costs & Time It Takes to Graduate
Byte content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed doctor, orthodontist or dentist in our Expert Dental Network. They ensure the information is factual and current.
We have strict sourcing guidelines and each page contains a full list of sources for complete transparency.
Table of Contents
- Dental Hygienist School Options
- Associate Degree
- Bachelor's Degree
- Popular Dental Hygiene Schools
- Financing for School Expenses
On average, a dental hygiene education takes about three years to complete. However, there are programs that can be completed faster and those that take longer as well.
The cost of dental hygienist school will be based on the program you choose, the length of time for the program, and where you go to school. There are many options to help you pay for dental hygienist school, including financial aid and payment programs.
Dental hygiene is a rapidly growing field. Employment opportunities are expected to grow faster than average for other occupations — 6 percent growth is expected from 2019 to 2029. Dental hygienists make close to $80,000 per year on average and require at least an associate degree from an accredited school.
Dental Hygienist School Options
To work as a dental hygienist, you will need to complete at least an associate degree in an academic program, take state and national licensure exams, often take and pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, and obtain a state or regional license to practice.
Dental hygiene academic programs must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). There are over 300 CODA-accredited dental hygiene programs to choose from. These programs are going to focus on science and health care. They also include clinical and practical approaches to dental hygiene as well as hands-on learning opportunities.
You can go to school to become a dental hygienist at any of the following:
- Community colleges
- Technical colleges
- Dental schools
To be a dental hygienist, you need at least an associate degree, however there are also bachelor’s degree options as well. The cost and length of time it will take you to graduate depends on the exact program you choose and where it is located.
To become a dental hygienist, you must at least have an associate degree from an accredited school. This can include both community and technical colleges as well as dental schools.
An associate degree generally takes at least two years to complete. There are some dental hygiene programs that can be completed in as little as 17 months if you go to school full-time with no breaks.
On average, an associate degree for dental hygiene will cost you $22,692 in tuition if you are attending school as an in-state resident. If you are classified as an out-of-state resident, tuition typically costs more. This is the price for tuition only. It may not include:
- Books and supplies.
- Room and board.
- Necessary dental hygiene instrument rentals or purchases.
- Medical insurance (required for students).
- Personal and/or miscellaneous expenses.
A dental hygiene associate degree at a community college or technical college will generally cost less than one from a university or four-year school.
Often, a degree in dental hygiene can require nearly a year of prerequisite courses before entering into the degree program itself. This can make going for a bachelor’s degree an appealing choice. If it is going to take you three to four years to get your associate degree, it may be a better choice to get a bachelor’s degree, which typically takes four years to complete, instead.
With a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene, you have the added option of being able to go into public health, teaching, or administration. You also have the opportunity to seek your master’s degree in dental hygiene or a related field.
On average, a baccalaureate degree in dental hygiene will cost $36,382 in tuition for in-state residents. You can usually graduate with a bachelor’s degree in four years. It can sometimes take up to five years, or it can be fast-tracked to three years, depending on your school and full-time status.
Popular Dental Hygiene Schools
There are many choices when it comes to dental hygiene schools. It can be helpful to search your immediate area, as in-state tuition is generally going to be a lot less expensive than attending a school out of state. Many universities even have a specific dental school attached to them.
Texas A & M University (TAMU), for example, is home to the Caruth School of Dental Hygiene, Texas A & M College of Dentistry. They offer a baccalaureate degree program in dental hygiene.
The Ohio State University College of Dentistry is the fourth-largest public dental school in the country, offering both a bachelor’s and master’s degree option for dental hygiene with high exam pass rates. It is also a research school with a lot of opportunities for students.
At New York University (NYU) College of Dentistry, you have the option for either an associate or bachelor’s degree program in dental hygiene as well as fast-track options that can help you complete the program in less time. The AAS (associate in applied science) fast track takes 17 months to complete, while the BS (bachelor of science) can be completed in as little as three years.
Many local community colleges and technical colleges will also have an option for an AAS in dental hygiene. Check with local colleges to find out what options are available in your immediate area.
Financing for School Expenses
Community colleges often cost less than universities, which can save you money on a dental hygiene degree. Shorter programs are often less expensive, but they can be more intensive, so make sure you can commit to the intensity of the program you choose.
There are multiple ways to help pay for dental hygiene school.
Dental Hygienists. (April 2021). U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Date Fetched: July 5, 2021.
NBDHE General Information. (2021). Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations. Date Fetched: July 5, 2021.
Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). (2021). Commission on Dental Accreditation. Date Fetched: July 5, 2021.
Search for Dental Programs. (2021). Commission on Dental Accreditation. Date Fetched: July 5, 2021.
Program Costs. (2021). American Dental Education Association (ADEA). Date Fetched: July 5, 2021.
Frequently Asked Questions. Dentistry Texas A & M University (TAMU). Date Fetched: July 5, 2021.
College Overview. (2021). The Ohio State University College of Dentistry. Date Fetched: July 5, 2021.
Dental Hygiene Programs. NYU College of Dentistry. Date Fetched: July 5, 2021.
Dental Hygienist Education and Training Requirements. (2021). American Dental Association (ADA). Date Fetched: July 5, 2021.