How Much Does it Cost to Go to School for a Dental Hygienist?

dental hygienistHave you ever heard the famous Benjamin Franklin quote, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? As workers in a preventive dental care specialty, dental hygienists demonstrate that truth daily. And you can enter the profession with a relatively small down payment – just two years of dental hygienist school tuition.

Dental Hygiene Programs
In order to become a licensed dental hygienist, you must complete an undergraduate dental hygiene program. There are currently more than 300 entry-level (certificate, associate degree, or bachelor’s degree) programs that are accredited by the Commission of Dental Accreditation (CODA) of the American Dental Association, an accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Dental hygiene master’s degree and degree completion programs are accredited by CODA as well.

An associate degree in dental hygiene requires about 86 credits (about 2,666 total clock hours of instruction) to complete, and a bachelor’s degree requires about 122 credits (about 3,093 total clock hours) to complete. The majority of dental hygiene programs are available in junior and community colleges, though four-year colleges and universities and vocational/technical schools also offer dental hygiene degrees.

The Cost of Dental Hygienist School
According to the American Dental Association and the American Dental Hygienists’ Association , the average estimated total cost of tuition and fees for an associate degree is $30,155; for a bachelor’s degree, $40,207; and a master’s degree, $23,133. Of course, you can find a small community college that charges just $5,000 for a degree program, or you could choose a program in a big city and pay upward of $70,000 for dental hygienist school tuition.

Typical dental hygienist school fees include uniforms, lab coats, shoes, professional association dues, computer fees, malpractice insurance, and licensing board exams. Textbooks also factor in to the cost of dental hygienist school, as do room and board if you choose to live on campus.
                                                   
Other essential items that may not be included in the listed cost of dental hygienist school are instruments and clinical lab supplies. If you are required to purchase supplies on your own, they may include hand mirrors, hand magnifying-glass, cart with drawers, safety glasses, clipboards, disposable gloves and face masks/shields, handpiece, radiation badges, dental typodonts, and more.

Dental Hygienist School Cost-Saving Opportunities
If you don’t want to pay bachelor’s-level dental hygienist school tuition now, you can become a dental hygienist by completing a certificate or associate degree program and enrolling in a degree completion program in the future. Your bachelor’s degree can be in dental hygiene or a related area, such as health science or health services administration. CODA has accredited about 60 dental hygiene degree completion programs.

Another way to defray the cost of dental hygienist school is to pursue a bachelor’s degree that allows you to earn a certificate in dental hygiene first and then complete your four-year degree once you’re working and drawing a salary. Some bachelor’s degree programs are designed for this very purpose, with class schedules tailored to your work schedule.

And when you do earn a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene, your bank account can benefit from opportunities to move beyond the dental office and work in dental hygiene education, administration, sales, and research.

If you want to prevent patients’ health problems and your own potential financial distress, pay the relatively low cost of dental hygienist school. That’s certainly something worth smiling about.