Dental hygienist careers are booming in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Opportunities are anticipated to increase 38 percent over the next five years. Dental hygienists must complete, at a minimum, an associate degree. However, there are some more aggressive programs for students who want to excel in the field. Findthebest.com conducted a 2013 ranking of the top dental hygienist programs in the country. This ranking is based on graduation rate, affiliation with a dental college, average grade-point average, and acceptance rate and class size. The American Dental Hygienists Association (ADHA) also offers student advisor resources for potential students who may need more personalized guidance about which program to select.
University of Michigan School of Dentistry
The University of Michigan School of Dentistry indicates that its dental hygiene program is typically ranked one of the top in the country. Findthebest.com ranks it as the top program as of 2013. The program offers opportunity to work side-by-side with dental students, and focus on a number of specialties, ranging from oral health to periodontal disease. Students enter the program as sophomores, and complete the program in three years to receive a bachelor's degree. Applicants must complete an online application form, write three required essays, submit test scores, and have a minimum 2.5 grade-point average (GPA).
University of Minnesota School of Dentistry
University of Minnesota offers a bachelor's degree in dental hygiene, and findthebest.com ranks it as the second-best dental hygiene program in the United States as of 2013. Students can also continue on to receive a master's in dental hygiene. The program blends in-clinic work with a liberal arts education. The university admits 24 students to the program each fall. These applicants must complete all online forms, as well as the ACT exam, have a minimum GPA of 2.8, complete several science prerequisite courses, and complete an online application.
University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine
The University of Pittsburgh is one of the highest-ranked dental hygiene schools with a certificate program that students can complete in two years. Findthebest.com ranks the University's program third in the country as of 2013. The dental hygiene school provides dental services to patients of the school, including nutritional analysis, fluoride treatments and periodontal scaling. Applicants must have completed high school chemistry and biology with a grade of "B" or higher. They also must submit an essay, take part in an interview, complete a CPR certification and the online application forms.
University of Maryland-Baltimore College of Dental Surgery
The University of Maryland-Baltimore offers a variety of programs for dental hygiene students, from online studies, to entry-level course work to the four-year Bachelor Degree program. The four-year program, according to the university, emphasizes the development of creative and critical thinking in a clinical setting. Findthebest.com ranks this program as Top 4 in the country as of 2013. Applicants must complete all online application forms, two letters of recommendation, a shadowing form and resume.
Ohio State University College of Denistry
The Ohio State University (OSU) boasts a dental hygiene program that is the first of its kind in Ohio, and clinched the fifth spot on findthebest.com's program ratings as of 2013. The program accepts a handful of students each fall for both full-time and part-time course work. Students not only complete clinical coursework, but focus on a leadership role they could play in their offices and communities. Current OSU and non-OSU students may apply to the program after three semesters of university coursework. Applicants are also expected to complete 20 hours of observation at a dental office.
University of the Pacific Dugoni School of Dentistry
University of the Pacific has an accelerated, three-year bachelor's degree program in dental hygiene for the student who may want to jump into the field earlier. Findthebest.com ranks the program sixth in the country as of 2013. The school indicates that this degree can also prepare students for master's degree work and research positions. Applicants interested in the program must submit a one-page essay, an academic evaluation, official transcripts and any applicable test scores.
Loma Linda University School of Dentistry
Loma LInda University offers both a bachelor's and associate degree in dental hygiene, nabbing the seventh spot in the Top 10. Loma Linda emphasizes that its students will need to not only focus on lectures and classroom education, but critical thinking exercises and practical application of skills. Applications must complete 20 hours of shadowing at a dental facility, three letters of reference, official transcripts and a formal interview. Loma Linda University is a Seventh-Day Adventist organization. As such, prior religious coursework is preferred and one of the references must be from a spiritual leader.
Texas A&M Health Science Center
The Caruth School of Dental Hygiene at Texas A&M helps prepare students to serve in private clinics, health agencies, schools, hospitals and public health agencies. Findthebest.com rates the program eighth in the country as of 2013. Applicants must submit any records of completed coursework, a photograph, a biographical sketch, transcripts and verification of 16 hours of observation. Accepted students must also complete a physical examination before classes begin.
Louisiana State University School of Dentistry
Louisiana State University (LSU) has a strong dental hygiene program that earned a top nine position. It should be noted that the university's dental hygiene program is open to Louisiana residents only. The bachelor's degree curriculum covers microbiology to pharmacology to clinical nutrition. Applicants must submit a copy of their driver's license, a passport-sized photo, proof of residency, a rating form completed by a faculty member, and official transcripts. Male applicants must submit a copy of their Draft Card status.
West Virginia University School of Dentistry
The West Virginia University (WVU) Division of Dental Hygiene offers a liberal arts and clinical curriculum. WVU rounds out the top-ten dental hygiene programs on findthebest.com as of 2013. Students of the program earn a bachelor's degree and can go on for a master's if they choose. The program does accept freshman students, and applicants must complete the ACT or SAT academic evaluation test, and have graduated in the top half of their high school class. While West Virginia residents are preferred for the program, out-of-state applicants will be considered.
2016 Salary Information for Dental Hygienists
Dental hygienists earned a median annual salary of $72,910 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, dental hygienists earned a 25th percentile salary of $60,500, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $86,390, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 207,900 people were employed in the U.S. as dental hygienists.
- BLS: Occupational Overview: Dental Hygienists
- University of Michigan: Dental Hygiene Program
- University of Minnesota: Dental Hygiene
- University of Pittsburgh: Dental Hygiene Program
- University of Maryland-Baltimore: Dental Hygiene
- University of Ohio: Division of Dental Hygiene
- University of the Pacific: Dental Hygiene Program
- Loma Linda University: Dental Hygiene
- Texas A&M: Caruth School of Dental Hygiene
- Louisiana State University: School of Denistry
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Dental Hygienists
- Career Trend: Dental Hygienists
- Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images