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Degree Overview: Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Dental Hygiene

Majors Overview March 14, 2015

Get information about bachelor’s degree programs in dental hygiene and their education requirements, coursework, job and wage outlook, and continuing education choices.

Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Dental Hygiene

Students enrolled in four-year bachelor’s degree programs in dental hygiene are provided with both clinical and theoretical understandings of the oral health field. Students become adept at preparing patients for examinations, performing necessary tests, providing preventative services, using x-ray equipment, applying sealant to teeth, and administering fluoride treatments. They also gain a firm grasp of biomedical, dental, and clinical sciences.

Before they graduate, students are required to log 1,000 hours of clinical and pre-clinical work experience supervised by faculty members and licensed dentists. Licensure is compulsory for dental hygienists in every state. Though licensure standards vary by state, usual standards include graduation from an accredited training program and passage of practical and written exams.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a GED certificate or a high school diploma. Undergraduate students are often required to complete courses in English, communication, physical sciences, and basic college-level mathematics before they are allowed to begin core coursework.


Coursework in a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Dental Hygiene program is typically a combination of courses related to anatomy and health science augmented by clinical experience. Core coursework may include such topic areas as the following:

•Head and neck anatomy
•Preventive Dentistry
•Oral radiology
•Pharmacology for dental hygiene
•Dental materials
•Tooth morphology
•Oral histology and embryology
•Oral pathology
•Local anesthesia
•Clinical dental hygiene

Job and Wage Outlook

Over the 2012 – 2022 decade, a higher-than-average job growth rate of 33% has been predicted for dental hygienists; in 2012, there were 192,800 dental hygienists employed in the country (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). In May 2012, these professionals brought home an average annual wage of $70,210 (BLS).

Continuing Education Choices

Licensed dental hygienists who have obtained licensure, in addition to a baccalaureate degree can seek continuing education by earning a Master of Science (M.S.) in Dental Hygiene. While few schools, if any, offer the terminal degree program, it is usually suited to the requirements of dental hygienists seeking leadership positions in community health environments. Completing this degree program can also lead to careers in research in a particular aspect of the dental field.

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