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 2013-2014 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.
Related Careers: dentistry, dental assistant, dental laboratory technician, nursing.
Dental Hygiene Programs
Becoming a dental hygienist requires 3+ years of education:
Certificate or Associate’s Degree (2-3 years) or
Bachelor’s Degree (4 years);
Master’s Degree (~2 years, optional).
Upon graduation from a dental hygiene program, students are awarded the Associate of Science in Dental Hygiene (ASDH), Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene (BSDH), or Master of Science in Dental Hygiene (MSDH), among others, depending on the program they enrolled in. Graduates of accredited certificate, associate’s, and bachelor’s programs are eligible for licensure and professional practice; master’s programs prepare students further in areas of education, administration, and research.
Dental hygiene programs consist of roughly 2,900 hours of curriculum, including didactic instruction in areas such as English, social sciences, basic sciences, and dental sciences, as well as supervised clinical instruction. Most programs also require a clinical rotation in a community or public health setting.
Although all entry-level (certificate, associate’s, bachelor’s) programs prepare students for clinical practice, dental hygienists who hold bachelor’s degrees are more competitive for hiring and promotion, have greater career options in areas such as education and public health, and are eligible to pursue advanced degrees. All programs provide around the same number of didactic and laboratory hours, although bachelor’s programs typically provide more clinical hours and additional instruction in written communication, chemistry, oral health counseling, and patient management. Degree completion programs are available for licensed dental hygienists who hold a certificate or associate’s degree who wish to complete a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene or a related field.
Licensure requirements for dental hygienists are set by individual states. Most states require, in addition to state-based examinations and other requirements, that students obtain a passing score on the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, a written comprehensive exam. Licensed dental hygienists hold the title of “Registered Dental Hygienist” (RDH). All dental hygienists must be licensed to practice.
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.|
Additional requirements may include certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), or courses such as biology, college-level mathematics, biochemistry, nutrition, and humanities.
UHM’s School of Dental Hygiene’s prerequisite requirements differ slightly from those listed above. Prospective students are encouraged to contact the department directly regarding specific coursework requirements.
What makes a strong candidate?
Schools need to be certain that the students they accept are capable of completing the dental hygiene curriculum and are likely to become good dental hygienists.
Are you capable of completing the dental hygiene curriculum?
Admissions committees seek students who have:
- completed the prerequisites
- a high overal GPA
- a high science/math GPA
- performed well on an entrance exam (if applicable)
- balanced their course load so it is challenging yet realistic
Are you likely to become a good dental hygienist?
Admissions committees seek students who have:
- demonstrated empathy, compassion, and a commitment to public service
- high ethical and moral standards and a conscientious work ethic
- demonstrated maturity (judgment, responsibility, dependability)
- a broad liberal arts education that includes the humanities and social sciences
- experience in the field and with what dental hygiene entails
- a well-rounded life that balances academics, community service, social activities, and personal interests (hobbies, skills, sports, etc.)
- excellent oral and written communication skills
- a high degree of professionalism in all aspects of life
- strong letters of recommendation (if applicable)
There are currently about 332 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 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 332 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.
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.
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.
- 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
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.
|Associations||American Dental Hygienists' Association (ADHA)
American Dental Education Association (ADEA)
American Dental Association (ADA)
|UH-Manoa Programs and Opportunities||UHM's School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene
UHM Health Clubs and Organizations
|Researching Schools||ADHA - Dental Hygiene Programs|
|Applications||ADEA Dental Hygiene Centralized Application Service (DHCAS)|