Pre-Dental Hygiene at UH Mānoa
Text compiled from the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) website, American Dental Education Association (ADEA) website, American Dental Association (ADA) website, the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) website, and the UHM 2015-2016 Catalog.
Dental Hygiene Programs in Hawai`i: UH Mānoa School of Dental Hygiene, UH Maui College Dental Hygiene Program
Dental hygienists are healthcare professionals who work closely with dentists to prevent and treat oral diseases and to protect patients’ oral and overall health.
Dental hygienists perform a number of services, including patient screening (e.g., assessment of oral health, reviewing patient histories, dental charting), taking and developing dental radiographs (X-rays), performing dental cleanings (e.g., removal of calculus and plague, applying preventive materials to teeth), educating patients about nutrition and oral hygiene strategies, and office management.
Although most dental hygienists work in dental offices or clinics, some work in hospitals, universities, corporations, governmental and non-profit agencies, and other settings. Career opportunities in dental hygiene are abundant, and in addition to clinical practice, include jobs in education, oral health research, administration, public health, and entrepreneurship.
For more information on job outlook, click here.
Related Careers: dentistry, dental assistant, dental laboratory technician, nursing.
Dental Hygiene Programs
Years of Schooling Required to Become a Dental Hygienist:
3+ years of education:
- Certificate or Associate’s Degree (2-3 years) or
- Bachelor’s Degree (4 years);
- Master’s Degree (~2 years, optional).
What to Expect in a Dental Hygiene Program:
The Licensing Examination(s):
Prerequisites for Admission
Most importantly, remember that requirements vary from school to school! You must research to create a list of all the prerequisites you will need to apply to the schools you are interested in attending. Some dental hygiene schools accept students directly from high school; others accept students at the sophomore or junior level; others accept students only after they have completed a set number of credits or course prerequisites.
The following UHM courses are commonly required for admission to dental hygiene schools:
|PHYL 141/141L and 142/142L||Human Anatomy and Physiology I and II||8 cr.|
|CHEM 161||General Chemistry I||3 cr.|
|MICR 130/140L||General Microbiology||5 cr.|
|ENG 100||Composition I||3 cr.|
|PSY 100||Survey of Psychology||3 cr.|
|SOC 100||Introduction to Sociology||3 cr.|
|COMG 151 or 251||Speech and Public Speaking||3 cr.|
Click here for a list of UHM’s School of Dental Hygiene’s prerequisite requirements.
Experience and Personal Development
Gaining experience in the health professional field in which you are interested is a huge benefit in figuring out if that is the field you want to work in and provides you with a deeper understanding of the field. Some professional schools want to see that you have experience in their field and some schools may require a large amount of particular experience such as hands-on, patient contact experience or experience shadowing a professional in that field. Schools need to be certain that the students they accept are capable of completing the curriculum and are likely to become strong professionals in the field. Schools may see this through the experiences students had.
Admissions committees seek students who have completed the pre-requisites, have high overall and science/math GPAs, performed well on the entrance exam, and have balanced course loads which are challenging yet realistic. These are indications that students are capable of completing the curriculum. Opportunities for exam preparation can be found here: Entrance Exam Preparation Opportunities.
Experiences can provide proof that students will likely be strong practitioners. Admission committees seek students who demonstrated empathy, compassion, and a commitment to public service which can be shown through community service or volunteer work. Committees also want to see high ethical and moral standards and a conscientious work ethic as well as demonstrated maturity through judgement, responsibility, and dependability. Work ethics can be shown through employment opportunities.
Committees seek students who understand the field and what it entails. Different experiences that could provide exposure to the field include enrichment opportunities, internships, shadowing, or volunteering. Through experiences students may show that they have excellent communication skills and a high degree of professionalism in all aspects of life, and potentially gain strong letters of recommendation from supervisors.
Students should aim to have a well-rounded life that balances academics which include a broad liberal arts education with the humanities and social sciences, research, social activities, and personal interests (hobbies, skills, sports, etc.) through Clubs and Organizations.
Please click on the following links to explore the different opportunities.
- Clubs and Organizations
- Community Service
- Entrance Exam Preparation
There are currently about 335 accredited entry-level dental hygiene programs in the US, each unique in its mission, philosophy, criteria, and strengths. Students can research schools using program directories provided by the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) website.
Although there are resources that “rank” schools, the rankings are rarely pertinent for individual applicants. More important is whether there is a good match between applicant and school.
To find schools that are a good fit for you (PAC peer advisors can help with this process):
- Assess your individual strengths and weaknesses, your professional interests, learning style, and personality;
- Start by considering all programs, which usually includes all 335 programs;
- Create your “Long List” by omitting the schools that do not match your professional interests, learning style, and personality;
- Once you have your entrance exam scores, create your “Short List” by categorizing the schools on your Long List into “Reach,” “Match,” and “Safety,” ranking the schools by preference, and finally choosing how many schools to apply to. Be sure to apply to schools in all 3 categories (“Reach,” “Match,” and “Safety”).
If possible, visit the schools to see their facilities, talk to admissions directors, and chat with students.
Many dental hygiene schools require applicants to submit scores from the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), ACT, or other standardized tests. Students are encouraged to check with their prospective schools regarding their specific exam requirements.
Commercial Test Preparation Companies:
The Application Process
There are three general steps in applying to dental hygiene schools: the primary application, the secondary application, and the interview.
1. Primary applications for some schools must be filed with the ADEA Dental Hygiene Centralized Application Service (DHCAS), which is a centralized application system. It asks you to include professional and volunteer experience and a personal statement. Once the application is complete, DHCAS forwards it to whichever schools the students has designated. The DHCAS application fee is about $95 for the first program and $45 for each additional program.
2. Secondary applications, or supplementary forms are specific to individual schools; dental hygiene schools send these to applicants only after they have received the DHCAS application. Both frequently request additional information, essays, and letters of recommendation. Some schools screen applicants before the applications or forms are sent out. However, secondary applications and supplementary forms differ in that the latter is not a formal application.
Note: Most dental hygiene schools do not participate in DHCAS. Students interested in applying to other schools must complete each of their prospective schools’ individual applications. For these schools, the application process consist only of steps 2 and 3.
3. Interviews: After reviewing the primary and secondary applications (or supplementary forms), a few dental hygiene schools invite promising applicants to interview. Applicants are responsible for all costs incurred while interviewing, including airfare, lodging, ground transportation, professional attire, and meals. To learn more about interviews, attend our upcoming interview-related orientations and workshops here. For sample interview questions click here.
- The more you know about the school, the better your chances of being accepted.
- Contact individual schools’ admissions offices to find out how they handle:
- Advanced Placement (AP) credits
- International Baccalaureate (IB) credits
- College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) credits
- military credits
- courses taken at a community college
- non-US coursework
- courses taken for credit/no credit instead of a grade
- residency issues
- time limits on prerequisite courses
Financial Planning is a crucial step in applying to dental hygiene schools. It is important for students to create a plan and make decisions in their educational expenses. Students are highly encouraged to budget their finances before, during, and after dental hygiene school. To learn more about financial planning, click here.
School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene
2528 McCarthy Mall
Honolulu, HI 96822
Department of Dental Hygiene
2445 Campus Road
UH Mānoa’s Pre-Health/Pre-Law Advising Center (PAC) has reference books, lists of volunteer opportunities, academic planning worksheets, and one-on-one advising by peers who can help you prepare for and apply to dental hygiene school.