For some, the dentist is a scary place to be. But for others, a dental care facility is a place of health and care where patients experiencing problems with their mouths and teeth can go to seek treatment.
You’ve probably been to the dentist many times yourself for regular cleanings. A nice person has probably attended to your teeth cleaning while making idle chatter before the dentist inspects your mouth. This person who cleans your teeth is known as a dental hygienist, and they play an essential role in keeping dental offices running so their patients can receive the best care possible.
If you’re interested in becoming a dental hygienist, you’re in the right place. We have five of the best schools where you can get a bachelor's degree in dental hygiene.
What do dental hygienists do?
Cleaning your teeth before the doctor comes into the room may seem simple, but it takes an eye for detail and an intimate knowledge of dentistry to be able to do the work that dental hygienists do.
But dental hygienists also do much more than clean your teeth. In addition to checking your mouth for any harmful bacteria or immediate red flags, a dental hygienist will assist the doctor with surgical procedures, x-rays, good dental hygiene education, and much more. Without dental hygienists, dental offices would simply be unable to care for all the patients they see throughout the day.
So what should you do if you’re interested in becoming a dental hygienist yourself?
Becoming a dental hygienist
Unlike many other medical fields, the process of becoming a dental hygienist takes significantly less time to complete. Most dental practices require that a dental hygienist possess at least an associate's degree in dental hygiene, although most prefer a bachelor's degree.
The good news for any future dental hygienists out there is that there are plenty of schools across the United States that offer great programs for students looking to go into this field of medicine.
All of the schools on this list offer bachelor's degrees in dental hygiene which are intended for students who are still new to the field. However, there are many schools (including some on this list) that also have associates degrees in dental hygiene available, so make sure to keep that in mind when you’re shopping around for schools. Many dentist offices only require that someone has an associates degree in dental hygiene to work for them.
You’ll also want to remember that while a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene may give you the skills to succeed in the dentistry world, you still must take a certification exam that varies by state in order to legally practice medicine in your chosen field.
The good news is that all of the schools on this list can help you get the education you need to pass the exam with flying colors.
For schools that offer bachelor's degrees in this field, they must be registered as an accredited school for dental hygiene. Otherwise, your degree may be moot! Before entering any program, be sure to double-check the school’s accreditation to ensure that you are receiving an education that will be recognized by people beyond your institution. The accreditation that most dental practices use is called COBA (Commission On Dental Accreditation).
Read on to see what the best colleges for dental hygienists are, in no particular order.
The University of Alaska Anchorage
In one of the most northern parts of the country, you will find a great dental hygiene program. The University of Alaska Anchorage has a program that is not only accredited by the Commission On Dental Accreditation, but also helps students get into the workforce immediately after graduation.
A dental hygiene degree at UAA is not only competitive but rigorous. Students are admitted to the program as pre-majors and must fill in certain requirements to be admitted to the program full-time.
And full-time really is full-time. Students at UAA can expect to put in 40 hours each week towards their dental studies, so be prepared to put the work in for this degree.
If that’s not your jam, try out the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Associate of Applied Science in Dental Assisting. The UAA offers not only a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene but an associate’s degree that you can complete in just one year. Sounds pretty awesome, right?
Not to mention that Alaska has some of the best scenery in the nation, so you’ll have just as much to do outside the classroom as you’ll have in it.
University of Southern Indiana
The University of Southern Indiana really knows what’s what about dental hygiene. They were the first school in the state of Indiana to adopt a dental hygiene for undergraduates, after all.
But USI has a lot more to offer than just being the first to offer a dental school in Indiana. They also have a state of the art dental clinic which serves an enormous and diverse population in the state. Students, supervised by staff, are able to give patients of all ages up to three and a half hours of one-on-one dental care.
It’s hard to beat that type of hands-on training.
The University of Southern Indiana is completely devoted to helping students get the dental education they need to thrive after graduation, and you’ll be well on your way to a great career as a dental hygienist with a degree from USI.
Northern Arizona University
While this small school in Northern Arizona might seem unnoticeable at first glance, you’ll definitely want to pay attention to NAU, and especially to its dental program.
Offering a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene, Northern Arizona University packs a punch in its program. With two years of foundational education requirements followed by two years of professional education, this cozy university in the mountains will teach you all you need to know about dental hygiene.
A great aspect of their program is the hands-on practice. NAU has an 18-chair dental clinic and a five chair radiographic facility all for students who want to learn the nitty gritty about dental hygiene.
And this is quite impressive given Northern Arizona University’s small size. As a university with under 30,000 students, you’ll find your dental hygiene classes to be much smaller than many universities have to offer.
But don’t worry, the small class size doesn’t affect the quality of your education. If anything, it will increase it. Small class sizes help you get more one-on-one education that is tailored to you so that you can truly succeed in your dental hygiene program.
The University of Michigan
The University of Michigan is one of those huge state schools that has so many amazing programs to offer students from all over the country. And one such program is their bachelor’s in dental hygiene.
At UM, students can expect to get their undergraduate degree in dental hygiene in as little as two years.
Considering the time that it takes most students to complete an undergraduate degree is four years, this is a pretty impressive feat.
And, if you’re feeling like diving into more detailed study after your undergrad degree, the University of Michigan also offers a master’s degree in dental hygiene, which may help you take your career as a dental hygienist to the next level.
Combine these fantastic degrees with a state school that’s got some major school spirit and nationwide recognition, and you'll be ready to be a Wolverine in no time!
New York University
As one of the most famous private institutions in the United States, New York University has plenty to offer students in its bachelor’s degree program for dental hygiene.
While NYU offers dental hygiene students the amazing opportunity to work beside DDS students in the field, where they really excel is in their different track offerings.
NYU provides incoming dental students three tracks of study to choose from upon entering the program. The tracks of study available seek to accommodate first time students, transfer students, and students holding a previous degree, respectively.
Not many schools are so flexible in their dental hygiene offering, so the fact that New York University seeks to meet all dental hygiene students wherever they are at gives them a lot of extra points in our book.
Wherever you decide to go to school, you can rest assured that you will find a fantastic place of study. So many different schools around the United States provide students with amazing dental hygiene programs that it would be hard to pick one that doesn't have plenty to offer its students.
And, your prospects after graduation are pretty great too. The demand for dental hygienists is growing rapidly in America, and many students secure employment in a dentist’s office immediately after graduation.
This positive outlook for the profession of dental hygiene has led many students towards this field, and you could be one of them! While your career might start at some of the best colleges for dental hygienists, it certainly won’t stop there.