The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa offers a variety of different health professions and health profession resources.

Dental Hygiene

Dental Hygiene (Bachelor’s Degree)

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 plaque, applying preventive materials to teeth), educating patients about nutrition and oral hygiene strategies, and office management.

Work Setting

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.

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).

Degree Conferred

Upon graduation from a dental hygiene program, students are awarded either
  • Associate of Science in Dental Hygiene (ASDH): eligible for licensure and professional practice
  • Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene (BSDH): eligible for licensure and professional practice
  • Master of Science in Dental Hygiene (MSDH): prepare students further in areas of education, administration, and research.

Type of degree depends on the program they enrolled in.

What to Expect in a Dental Hygiene Program

  • 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.

Program Options

  • 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
    • Eligible to pursue advanced degrees
    • 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.

The Licensing Examination(s)

  • Licensure requirements  are set by individual states
  • Most states require that students obtain a passing score on the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination
    • Licensed dental hygienists hold the title of “Registered Dental Hygienist” (RDH)
  • All dental hygienists must be licensed to practice.

UH Mānoa’s Dental Hygiene Program

Prospective students must be a UH Mānoa student and have a UHM GPA at the time of application. A total of 29 prerequisite courses must also be completed before submitting an application.
PHYL 103/103L or PHYL 141/141L and 142/142L Human Physiology and Anatomy or Human Anatomy and Physiology I and II 5 or 8 cr.
CHEM 161 or CHEM 151 or BIOC 241 General Chemistry I or Elementary Survey of Chemistry or Fundamentals of Biochemistry 3 cr.
MICR 130/140L General Microbiology 5 cr.
FSHN 185 The Science of Human Nutrition 3 cr.
COMG 151 or 251 Personal and Public Speech or Principles of Effective Public Speaking 3 cr.
ENG 100 Composition I 3 cr.
SOC 100 Introduction to Sociology 3 cr.
PSY 100 Survey of Psychology 3 cr
Applications are usually available from Dec.1 – Feb.1.

Contact Information

School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene
Webster 201
2528 McCarthy Mall
Honolulu, HI 96822

Department of Dental Hygiene
Hemenway 200-B
2445 Campus Road
Telephone: (808)956-8821

For pre-admission advising, contact:
Pam Sunahara, RDH, MEd
Kristine Osada, RDH, BSDH, MEd
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