Dental Hygienist School: Costs & Time It Takes to Graduate

Dental Hygienist School: Costs & Time It Takes to Graduate
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Dental Hygienist School: Costs & Time It Takes to GraduateClinical Content Reviewed by Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
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Table of Contents

  1. Dental Hygienist School Options
  2. Associate Degree
  3. Bachelor's Degree
  4. Popular Dental Hygiene Schools
  5. Financing for School Expenses
  6. References

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.

Costs of Dental Hygienist School

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
  • Universities

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.

Associate Degree

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).
  • Transportation.
  • 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.

Bachelor’s Degree

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.

If you are considering advancing your education and seek a master's degree, you can expect to pay around $30,421.

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.

Scholarship Opportunities
Check with local nonprofit and community organizations as well as the school you are interested in attending. All these may offer scholarships that are based on merit, need, or a combination of both.
Offered through state and federal agencies as well as businesses, grants are similar to scholarships in that they do not have to be paid back.
Financial Aid
There are federal, state, and college-based financial aid options open for students. These are primarily based on financial need.
Students Loans
These will need to be paid back. They can provide you money up front to help pay for school expenses, including tuition, fees, room and board, books, and supplies.
Payment Programs
Schools may offer payment programs to break up tuition payments over time. This makes payments more manageable, so they can fit within your specific budget.
The cost of dental hygiene school can often pay for itself rather quickly as the field continues to grow. The degree can open more doors for you and provide financial opportunities quickly.


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.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.