dental hygienist entry-level education

What are the Entry Level Requirements for Dental Hygienists?

The healthcare industry is booming, with high employment rates from doctors to physical therapists and dentists. And all these professions have many more skilled professionals supporting them, such as nurses, physician assistants, and dental hygienists. Good dental hygiene can reduce the risk of diseases like endocarditis, stroke, and heart disease.

If you are interested in the healthcare industry and passionate about helping patients care for their oral health, consider a career as a dental hygienist. Let’s explore the general and entry-level educational dental hygienist requirements to help you determine if this is the right career for you.

What is a Dental Hygienist?

Dental hygienists are highly skilled, adept, and knowledgeable professionals providing routine preventive care, screening for dental diseases, and educating patients on oral health.

They work with patients directly and use various advanced equipment, such as hand, power, ultrasonic, and sometimes lasers, as well as techniques to clean, polish, and protect patients’ teeth. They also examine patients for signs of oral diseases, like gingivitis.

Other responsibilities include:

  • Applying sealants and fluorides to help protect teeth
  • Taking and developing dental X-rays
  • Documenting patient care and treatment plans
  • Assessing patients’ oral health and reporting findings to dentists

The type and amount of tasks dental hygienists perform, and whether a dentist must supervise them, depends on the state in which they work.


Want to learn more about how you can make a difference, one smile at a time? Check out our Dental Hygiene Get Started Guide and find out if this career path is the right fit for your future!


What are the General Requirements for Becoming a Dental Hygienist?

Like in any career, individuals interested in a career as a dental hygienist must strengthen, sharpen, and polish their skills.

First and foremost, you will need an associate degree in Dental Hygiene to become a dental hygienist. Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Dental Hygiene are also an option, but not as popular or common. These advances degrees are primarily sought later on to work in research, teaching, or clinical practice in public or school health programs.

Depending on whether a student enrolls full or part-time, Associate Dental Hygiene programs can take two to three years to complete.

Students will typically take major core requirements like English and mathematics, non-major core requirements like chemistry, anatomy, and physiology, and their remaining credits in dental hygiene courses like periodontology, dental materials, community, public health dentistry, and even pharmacology and pain management.

Remember that some colleges and universities will require students in their dental hygienist programs to complete prerequisite courses. Students should research to know exactly what will be expected of them.

The final dental hygienist requirement is obtaining licensure, which is possible once the hygienist completes their associate degree program. Licensure requirements will likewise vary by state they want to practice in. Typically, however, candidates need official transcripts and reports from their state’s required exams.

For example, in Connecticut, dental hygienists must:

What are the Entry-Level Educational Requirements to Become a Dental Hygienist?

Much like the general requirements, the dental hygienist’s entry-level education requirements will be determined by the dental hygiene program a person chooses.

Typically, programs offering an associate degree in Dental Hygiene will require applicants to apply with their high school transcript, become CPR certified, and take specific prerequisite courses. Many programs use these requirements to ensure candidates stay competitive in the program and industry.

Take Goodwin University’s rigorous and intensive Dental Hygiene program, for example. Our limited enrollment admission standards are based on specific entrance criteria and a ranking point system where candidates must:

  • Submit an application for admission and be accepted to Goodwin University.
  • Have a high school diploma or GED.
  • Have a minimum college 2.7 GPA.
  • Undergo a criminal background check and drug screen before the first semester.
  • Have complete prerequisite courses in:
    • Math and chemistry (with a C or better)
    • Anatomy and Physiology I and II and Microbiology (with a C+ or better)
    • Introduction to Psychology and English Composition (passing grades)
  • Submit documentation of eight hours of observation of dental hygiene services in the past twelve months.
  • Interview with Goodwin University’s College Dental Hygiene program faculty.
  • Submit a five-hundred-word essay.

Pursuing a career as a dental hygienist starts in a dedicated and accredited dental hygienist program. It’s why our students participate in clinics, rotations, and community enrichment activities to prepare them physically, mentally, and emotionally for a dynamic and rewarding career as a dental hygienist.

Students gain the theoretical knowledge needed in the classroom from our expert faculty. Then, they combine that knowledge with the required clinical expertise in state-of-the-art dental hygiene facilities from working with actual patients in community health centers, preschools, senior centers, and addiction facilities.

Plus, with an employment growth rate of nine percent by 2031, which is much faster than the average of all occupations, and a median annual salary of $77,810 per year— all according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics—there is no better time to pursue this dynamic, challenging, and fulfilling career.

Check out our Associate of Science (AS) in Dental Hygiene guide for everything you should know to prepare for your journey toward your degree and career in dental hygiene.

We offer flexible classes during the day with on-campus, online, and hybrid options and a rotating clinical schedule of days, evenings, and weekdays. In addition, our variety of financial aid opportunities and support services ensure our students are supported in any way possible.

Contact us or apply to earn your associate degree in Dental Hygiene today. We’re ready when you are!