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Dental Hygiene

Degree: BS

Campus: Columbus

Division: Dental Hygiene

A dental hygienist is a preventive oral health professional that is licensed in dental hygiene. Dental hygienists provide educational, clinical and therapeutic services supporting total health through the promotion of oral health. The dental hygienist works with the dental team in the prevention and control of dental disease. 

During the first two years at Ohio State, students take prerequisite courses to qualify for admission to the dental hygiene undergraduate professional program.

Required courses include the following: 

  • First-year writing course
  • Intermediate Essay Writing
  • Basic Human Anatomy  
  • Introductory Biology
  • General Chemistry  
  • Introductory Physiology
  • Fundamentals of Human Nutrition
  • Basic and Practical Microbiology  
  • Mathematics  
  • General Psychology  
  • Introductory Sociology 

Students apply for admission to the dental hygiene major during autumn of the sophomore year and enter the major in autumn of the junior year.

For admission, students must complete the required course prerequisites, the general education curriculum and a minimum of 20 hours observing dental hygienists. Admission is selective and competitive and is based on overall academic performance in college with special attention given to science grades.

Successful applicants are admitted to the dental hygiene undergraduate professional program for the junior year. The first year of professional training includes dental sciences, dental hygiene sciences and pre-clinic. Students begin patient treatment in the dental clinic spring semester.

The senior year includes advanced dental hygiene courses and continuing patient treatment each term. Students also choose an area of specialization in restorative expanded functions, dental hygiene education or an individualized program, and all students will complete a practicum during spring semester of the senior year. 

As part of the professional training in dental hygiene, students treat patients under the supervision of faculty in a variety of clinical settings. At the Ohio State Dental Clinic, dental hygiene students work side by side with dental students to provide comprehensive patient care. Other clinical experiences include specialty clinics in the College of Dentistry and the Nisonger Center on campus. A dental hygiene student will treat over 100 patients prior to graduation. 

As part of the community service requirement, students are expected to participate in community health fairs, school screenings and other educational events.

A minimum of 124 semester hours are required to complete the degree requirements.

During the senior year, dental hygiene students participate in a practicum which provides additional experience in a work setting. Many of the practicum opportunities are in off-campus and/or non-traditional work settings for dental hygienists. 

The Dental Hygiene Honors Program is designed to challenge high-ability students through participation in research and enhanced leadership opportunities. While completing the pre-dental hygiene curriculum, honors students benefit from smaller class sizes and priority scheduling. Once enrolled in dental hygiene, they receive the added benefit of working closely with faculty mentors.

The Health Sciences Scholars Program includes students from a variety of programs in health sciences and health care. The Health Sciences Scholars Program encourages students to pursue a thoughtfully planned co-curricular program that will help to prepare them for success. 

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Registered dental hygienists work in a variety of professional settings. The public is most familiar with dental hygienists in the private dental office, where they perform numerous critical services designed to detect and prevent diseases of the mouth. Beyond the private dental office, dental hygienists can be found in numerous other settings: nursing homes and long-term care facilities, hospitals, corporate health facilities, school systems, and public health clinics.

In the public health field, dental hygienists conduct research studies and epidemiological surveys to evaluate the oral health needs of people in various population groups, such as the elderly, the disabled and children.

Dental hygienists also work as educators and researchers—teaching in dental hygiene and dental school programs, providing continuing education seminars, conducting clinical research, or collecting and analyzing scientific data.

For additional information about the profession of dental hygiene, visit the American Dental Hygiene Association (ADHA) website at

The annual median salary for a dental hygienist is $72,330. Salaries may vary according to the hygienist’s experience and responsibilities, geographic location, and the type of practice or other setting in which the hygienist works.

1. The dental hygiene program will prepare students for practice and licensure as a registered dental hygienist.

  • Students will be prepared to provide appropriate dental hygiene therapy for patients with different oral health needs utilizing assessment, planning, implementation and evaluation skills.
  • Students will utilize case management skills, interpersonal communication skills and practice management principles to provide quality dental hygiene care in a safe, efficient and humanistic manner. 

2. The dental hygiene program will prepare students to provide quality care to patients in an ethical and professional manner. 

  • Students will understand and practice according to the ADHA Code of Ethics.
  • Students will understand and adhere to state and federal laws and guidelines pertaining to the practice of dental hygiene. 

3. Dental hygiene graduates will have a good understanding of research methods and will be able to use current research in their dental hygiene practice. 

  • Students will demonstrate an understanding of the concepts of sound research design.
  • Students will demonstrate an understanding of statistical tools used in research.
  • Students will be able to interpret and apply professional research to dental hygiene practice. 

4. Dental hygiene graduates will have experience providing community service and outreach and will understand the importance of continuing these activities after graduation. 

  • Students will demonstrate social responsibility by initiating and participating in the delivery of dental health care and education in the community.
  • Students will understand the dynamics of and participate in a variety of interdisciplinary health care settings.

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The dental hygiene program at Ohio State is the only program in dental hygiene in the state of Ohio that is affiliated with a college of dentistry. 

Interested in a career in health care?

Check out the Health Care Pathway to discover the many majors Ohio State offers that can lead to a health care career.