Is Dental Hygiene School Expensive? What You Can Expect to Pay

Imagine a career that promises a great work-life balance with a lucrative income. In 2021, 207,190 dental hygienists were practicing in the United States. Behind this promising career lies the crucial question: how much is dental hygiene school?

Being unaware of the financial commitment can lead to unexpected burdens and challenges. Being well-informed about the costs can empower students to seek financial aid. Keep reading to get more insights on these educational expenses.

How Much Is Dental Hygiene School?

Dental hygiene schools present a spectrum of costs that students must know. The typical tuition and associated fees for in-state dental hygiene schools are:

  • An Associate degree averages $22,692.
  • A Bachelor’s degree comes in around $36,382.
  • A Master’s degree is approximately $30,421.

Several factors can influence the expense of attending these institutions. The Reputation and Accreditation, location, and program duration impact the cost.

The institution is not the only cost. Students must also account for living expenses, books, and dental equipment.

Public vs. Private Institutions

State governments fund public dental hygiene schools. It presents a more affordable option for many students due to their lower tuition fees. These institutions benefit from taxpayer dollars, allowing them to offset some educational costs.

While more expensive, private schools offer advantages that some students find compelling. These institutions might boast smaller class sizes, ensuring more personalized attention from instructors. Private schools also provide:

  • Unique amenities.
  • State-of-the-art facilities.
  • Sometimes more diverse course offerings

Yet, these benefits come at a premium, which can increase the investment. Students need to access the pros and cons required to pursue a career as a dental hygienist.

What Is Dental Hygiene?

It’s the practice and science of maintaining oral health and preventing diseases. The role is pivotal in safeguarding individuals from potential dental complications.

Dental hygienists are the frontline warriors in this domain. Their responsibilities encompass:

  • Cleaning teeth to remove plaque and tartar
  • Conducting thorough examinations to detect oral diseases
  • Offering fluoride treatments
  • Educating patients on brushing techniques

The role of a dental hygienist is distinct from that of a dentist. Dentists handle more complex procedures. They treat root canals, tooth extractions, and restoration. They also diagnose advanced oral health conditions and devise treatment plans.

Dentist vs Dental Hygienist: Educational Paths

Both dental professions help promote oral health, but the depth and breadth of their training differ. It reflects the intricacies and responsibilities of each trade. Here are their educational paths:


Aspiring dentists first complete a bachelor’s degree, often in science-related fields. Then they enter dental school for an extra four years. They pursue a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree.

The curriculum covers in-depth subjects ranging from oral anatomy to surgical procedures. Post-graduation, they may also opt for specializations. The extra training requires more years in residency, like orthodontics or periodontics.

Dental Hygienists

The journey to becoming a dental hygienist is shorter than doctors and dentists. Most start with an associate’s degree, which usually spans two years. This program integrates classroom learning with hands-on clinical experience.

Topics covered include basic oral anatomy, dental cleaning techniques, and patient care protocols. Some may further their education with bachelor’s or even master’s degrees. This plan lets them access research, education, or administrative positions.


When people compare dat vs mcat, they often get them mixed up. Aspiring dentists face the challenge of the Dental Admission Test (DAT). This exam assesses the students:

  • Natural sciences knowledge
  • Perceptual ability
  • Reading comprehension
  • Quantitative reasoning

This test is a gateway to dental schools. Future medical doctors gear up for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). This exam evaluates their understanding of the following:

  • Biological and biochemical foundations
  • Chemical and physical foundations
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Critical analysis and reasoning skills

Each test demands intense study and preparation. It also comes with associated costs for registration.

The preparation materials and potential retakes can get pricey. Luckily, a dental hygienist doesn’t have to go through these examinations.

Duration of Dental Hygienist Programs

Most dental hygienist programs last two years, resulting in an associate’s degree. Some students opt for bachelor’s or even master’s degrees. This extra education can extend the duration and cost of education.

Geographic Variation in Tuition Fees

Location plays a significant role in determining the cost of dental hygiene school. Schools in metropolitan areas might have higher tuition fees than rural areas.

Dental Hygienist Salary Expectations

The investment in dental hygiene education can pay off. As of 2020, dental hygienists earn a median annual salary of $77,090. There’s an anticipated job growth of 11% from 2020 to 2030. Yet, this can vary based on location, experience, and the specific employer.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Many dental hygiene schools offer financial aid packages to eligible students. Scholarships, grants, and student loans can reduce out-of-pocket expenses.

More Costs: Books and Equipment

Beyond tuition, students should account for books, uniforms, and dental equipment costs. These extra expenses can add up but are essential for training and eventual practice.

Licensing and Exam Fees

After completing their education, dental hygienists must become licensed to practice. This process involves passing a national board examination and a state-specific test. Both of which come with associated fees.

The Value of Clinical Experience

Many dental hygiene programs integrate clinical experiences, providing hands-on training. These clinical hours can sometimes increase the program’s costs.

ROI: Long-term Benefits

The upfront costs can seem daunting, but the long-term financial benefits are worth it. With a strong job market, many dental hygienists were able to get their ROI. That means their educational investment yields significant returns over their careers.

Continuing Education and Specialization

Dental hygienists, like many professionals, often pursue continuing education. This extra training can come with higher costs but also opens doors. This opportunity leads to more specialization and higher earning potential.

The True Costs of Dental Hygiene Education

Dental hygiene offers rewarding opportunities for job satisfaction and financial compensation. Yet, the question of “How much is dental hygiene school?” isn’t one with a one-size-fits-all answer.

It varies based on institution type, location, duration, and personal choices. By understanding these costs, students can navigate their journey with confidence. For more insights into education, check out our other informative blog posts today!


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