How Hard is Dental Hygiene School?

Is Dental Hygiene School Hard?

Are you passionate about helping others lead healthier and longer lives but want a career outside the hospital and with an excellent work-life balance?

If so, you might consider the in-demand, flourishing, and rewarding career in the dental hygiene field.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of dental hygienists is projected to grow seven percent by 2031, faster than the average for all occupations. Plus, with a median annual salary of $81,400, it’s no surprise that many pursue this exciting career path.

Yet, many candidates also ask, “Is dental hygiene school hard?” This article will answer that question and provide information on what aspiring dental hygienists can expect from a Dental Hygiene program. Plus, we’ll provide even more tips to succeed in school and beyond.

What is a Dental Hygienist?

Dental hygienists play an important role in preventative healthcare as they examine patients for oral disease, teach patients about proper oral care, and clean teeth to help patients maintain good oral health.

These licensed dental professionals work alongside dentists to provide complete oral healthcare to patients in dentist’s, physician’s, and government offices. Dental hygienists perform and fulfill the following tasks and duties:

  • Screen patients and review health history and dental care.
  • Take and develop dental x-rays and impressions of patients’ teeth.
  • Remove plaque from surfaces of teeth.
  • Apply preventative materials such as sealants and fluorides.

How Do You Become a Dental Hygienist?

Unlike dentists, who must complete at least a Bachelor’s degree, two to four years of residency, and two to five years of training, dental hygienists can enter the workforce with an Associate degree in Dental Hygiene from an accredited college or university, after passing clinical and written board exams.

Dental Hygiene schools typically offer Associate degrees in Dental Hygiene that take two to three years to complete and offer students extensive laboratory, clinical, and classroom training and experiences to prepare them to become dental hygienists.

Other schools and programs, like Goodwin University, offer flexible and accelerated programs with three academic semesters each year, meaning that students can finish their degree in as few as twenty-four months.


Ready to change lives one smile at a time? Download our AS in Dental Hygiene Get Started Guide to learn more about becoming a dental hygienist at Goodwin University!


In addition to supervised training and clinical rotations in dental clinics, facilities, and functional offices, an Associate degree in Dental Hygiene program will include core courses in:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Community and public health dentistry
  • Nutrition
  • Pharmacology and pain management
  • Principles of dental hygiene

Upon completion of their degree, dental hygienists must also earn licensure by passing the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE) and fulfilling any other requirements of the state they wish to practice in. Students should do their research to understand the requirements.

How Hard is Dental Hygiene School? 4 Tips for Student Success

Anything worth doing, such as earning a degree in Dental Hygiene, comes with challenges. Firstly, Dental Hygiene programs are typically selective when accepting students. Secondly, the training is rigorous and challenging as students take classes and fulfill clinical training to work in this highly specialized healthcare job.

Yet, students can thrive in Dental Hygiene school with determination and passion.

Tip #1: Manage Your Time Effectively

Honing your time management skills is essential to success in school and your career as a dental hygienist.

Students should understand their own learning styles and give themselves the time they need to learn, study, and understand the information, not just cramming and memorizing information before their tests.

By managing their time and ensuring they fully understand and process what they are learning, candidates will be better prepared to answer board exams and patient questions alike. Plus, learning how to manage their time in school will ensure they can manage appointments and tasks in their future place of employment.

Tip #2: Practice Self-Care

Whether it’s getting exercise, reading a book for pleasure, or eating a nutritious meal, self-care can be the key to balancing the time dental hygiene students pour into their studying, courses, and clinical rotations.

Not only will this give you time away from your studies, but practicing self-care will help you prevent burnout and stay passionate about your future career and goals. Be curious and try different self-care techniques and activities to find what works best for you and make time for them each week.

Tip #3: Get Good Sleep

Much like self-care, getting good and enough sleep can make or break a student’s ability to succeed in a Dental Hygiene program.

A sleep-deprived student will have a harder time studying, passing exams, and retaining the new information they learn daily in school. Conversely, well-rested students have more energy and can stay alert in class to learn and retain the information.

Students should develop a nighttime routine, such as avoiding caffeine and ambient lighting from electronics after a particular time, and aim for between seven to nine hours of sleep per night.

Tip #4: Ask For Help

Dental Hygiene school can be difficult, but students are not alone.

From their peers to the faculty, staff, and support services at their college or university, students are surrounded by people and resources that can help them meet any challenge they encounter during their education and training.

Ultimately, it is up to each student to recognize when they are struggling and reach out for help. Consider forming a study group with other students to prepare for tests or meeting with your professor during their office hours for additional guidance, help, and support.

Completing Dental Hygiene school takes work. However, it is possible if you learn how to manage your time, problem-solve, and stay passionate about your studies and career goals.

Plus, with flexible, streamlined programs, like the Dental Hygiene program at Goodwin University, students can take classes during the day with on-campus, online, and hybrid class formats available. Clinical sessions also operated on a rotating schedule of days, evenings, and weekends, ensuring students never sacrifice their personal lives and responsibilities to get their degrees.

Contact us today to learn how you can achieve your Associate degree in Dental Hygiene and be well on your way to a successful career providing compassionate, patient-centered care as a dental hygienist! We’re ready when you are!