Dental Hygiene

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Dental Hygiene

Start Your Dental Hygienist Career

Dental hygienists help prevent, detect, and treat diseases of the mouth, playing a key role in the pursuit of optimal patient health via education and treatment planning. Hygienists work independently with patients.

Dental hygienists remove calculus deposits and stains from teeth, polish teeth, apply sealants and fluoride, take X-rays, record medical and dental histories, and educate patients on how proper brushing, flossing, and eating habits can help maintain a healthy mouth.

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Kirkwood offers more than $3 million in scholarships for students each year, and there are many specifically for students enrolled in Dental Hygiene and other applied sciences/allied health programs. Students in this program may be eligible to have half their tuition paid for by the Kibbie Grant.

Graduates of the Dental Hygiene program will be able to:

  • Demonstrate the ability to perform preventive measures as an entry-level registered dental hygienist.
  • Demonstrate the ability to perform patient assessment measures as an entry-level registered dental hygienist.
  • Demonstrate the ability to perform maintain asepsis as an entry-level registered dental hygienist.
  • Demonstrate the ability to perform intra-oral procedures as an entry-level registered dental hygienist.
  • Demonstrate the ability to perform radiographic procedures as an entry-level registered dental hygienist.
  • Demonstrate the ability to perform lab activities as an entry-level registered dental hygienist.
  • Demonstrate the ability to perform pain control measures as an entry-level registered dental hygienist.
  • Demonstrate professional behavior as an entry-level registered dental hygienist.

A one-hour program conference is required prior to acceptance to the program. You'll learn more about the program, specific admissions requirements and have the opportunity to have questions answered by program faculty and staff.

Program Costs

Dental Hygiene 

Program Entry Semester: Fall 2021


Credits: 12 12
Tuition: $2,232 $2,232
Fees: $210 $210
Books: $950 $950


Year One

Credits: 16 17 33
Tuition: $2,976 $3,162 $6,138
Fees: $1,087.50 $215 $1,302.50
Books: $850 $600 $1,450



Credits: 9.5 9.5
Tuition: $1,767 $1,767
Fees: $385 $385
Books: $450 $4050


Year Two

Credits: 14.5 17 31.5
Tuition: $2,697 $3,162 $5,859
Fees: $430 $2,000 $2,430
Books: $520 $310 $830




Costs provided are estimated and based on in-state tuition rates. Book cost estimates are for new books. Individual expenses may vary. These costs also do not factor in potential financial aid benefits. For a complete view of your specific cost expectation, visit our Cost Estimator Tool.
Included fees: Technology Fee, Lab Course Fee, Third Party Credentials (National and Regional Board Exams), Class Related Supplies (Safety Glasses, Uniform, Shoes, Nametag), and Ancillary Expenses (Health Screenings, X-Ray, TB, HepB), Clinical Expenses (Conference/Seminar), Miscellaneous (Background Check, ATI TEAS Test, Student Organization Fee). Health insurance is required for this program, costs will vary depending on coverage.
Clinical travel and parking expenses not included. Program offered in collaboration with contracted external partner.
Current Tuition Rates per Credit Hour: $ 186 In-State; $ 249 Out-of-State; $ 372 International
Updated: 1/27/2021

Additional Program Requirements

To get into the Dental Hygiene program, you must meet the following additional standards. These steps/requirements are in addition to Kirkwood's steps to become a student.

  • Attend a program conference
  • Apply to the program
  • ATI TEAS Test (see more on that below) with a required Adjusted Individual Score of 67.3 percent
  • Completion of Dental Hygiene prerequisite courses with a C- or better
  • Have placement test scores or course equivalents on file with the Allied Health office. If college-level placement is not met, students are recommended to meet with an advisor.

Kirkwood and Dental Hygiene admissions policies and procedures are subject to change at any time. After all admissions criteria are met, students are accepted or placed on the waitlist to the Dental Hygiene program.

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After successful completion of both the National Board Dental Hygiene and the regional board for the area of the county in which you want to work, you apply for licensure. If licensure is granted, you become a registered dental hygienist.

Successful completion of this program qualifies you to test for licensure and/or certification in any state in the U.S.

The Iowa Board of Dental Examiners is the state agency charged with the overall responsibility of regulating the professions of dentistry, dental hygiene, and dental assisting in the state of Iowa.

The Dental Hygiene program is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation and has been granted the accreditation status of compliance without reporting requirements.

The Commission is a specialized accrediting body recognized by the United States Department of Education. Dental Hygiene graduates are eligible to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination and the regional board examinations of their choice. Successful completion of both board examinations is required to receive a license to practice dental hygiene.

The Commission on Dental Accreditation
211 East Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611-2678

Dental hygienists are employed in private practice dental offices and dental clinics. Many dental hygienists work for public health departments, dental product companies, and insurance companies. Hospitals and educational settings also employ dental hygienists.

Dental hygienists can be compensated in a variety of ways; including an hourly wage, commission or a combination of several methods. Graduates can expect a base salary $27.64/hr (source: graduate survey - 2006 grads) For additional information on the job outlook go to

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The ATI TEAS was developed to measure basic essential skills in the academic content area domains of reading, mathematics, science, and English and language usage. These entry-level skills were deemed important for PTA, Dental Hygiene, and Medical Laboratory Technology program applicants by a panel of program curriculum experts.

The ATI TEAS is a 150-item, four-option, multiple-choice assessment. To prepare in an organized and efficient manner, you should know what to expect from the real assessment.

Students will now need to use the ATI TEAS Study Manual.

Content Area Number of Test Items* Amount of Time Allotted
Reading 53 64 minutes
Mathematics 36 54 minutes
Science 53 63 minutes
English & Language Usage 28 28 minutes
Total 150 209 minutes

*There are 20 unscored questions throughout the exam for a total of 170 questions total.

Testing Center ATI TEAS Exam Schedule:

Test Registration Procedure

1) Register for an available exam time. Using the link below, choose between taking your exam at main campus in Cedar Rapids or the Iowa City Campus.

ATI TEAS Test Registration

2) You must create an account on the ATI TEAS website, click on "create account."

We recommend students use their Kirkwood student email when creating an account. Remember your username and password when you come to take your test.
3) On the day of your scheduled test, bring the following: 

  • Photo ID
  • Facemask (required during testing)
  • ATI TEAS account username and password
  • Debit or credit card to pay for the exam. 

*The cost of the exam is $65 (as of July 1, 2019)

On your scheduled date and time, you will take your test at the test center located on the second floor of Cedar Hall, check-in at room 2055. Leave all personal belongings at home, you will not be able to take your phone, smart watches, etc. in the room where you test.
Please look at the following link for some useful information on how to prepare for the exam: ATI TEAS Tips for Success.

A minimum of 30 days is recommended between ATI TEAS exam attempts. It is recommended that students remediate in the areas identified by the Individual Profile Sub-Scales scores before retaking this exam.

Questions or concerns? Contact the Test Center at or 319-398-5456.


Three cumulative attempts are allowed to pass the ATI TEAS exam with the minimum score required by the appropriate program.

  • If a student fails the exam for a program three times, they are not allowed to change their program to take the exam three more times for a different program. It is three cumulative attempts.

  • Acceptable scores vary between programs. Therefore, an unacceptable score for one program may be considered acceptable for another.

After the second failed attempt, students will be strongly encouraged to set up a meeting with the appropriate program director to discuss strategies for success on the third attempt.
After the third failed attempt, students are no longer eligible to be admitted into any program that requires the exam. You cannot change programs to start the testing process over.
Students must wait three years if they want to try again if the third test failed to meet the minimum score.

The mission of the dental hygiene program is to prepare students for employment as dental hygienists and to provide the community and the profession of dentistry with competent personnel.

Frequently Asked Questions

Clinical courses are taught at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry. Therefore, travel is required and students are responsible for their own transportation. Students often car pool to the College of Dentistry.

The College of Dentistry has a large patient population, and quite a number of those are going to be utilized by the Dental Hygiene program. You are also welcome to bring anyone to the College of Dentistry as a new patient.

You need to have a current physical on file and have started your Hepatitis B Series when you begin the clinical portion of the program.

Biology, chemistry, psychology, sociology, English and computer classes will help prepare you for the Dental Hygiene curriculum.

Intro to Chemistry; Intro to Chemistry Lab, Applied Math, Microcomputer Literacy and Human Anatomy & Physiology I OR Human Anatomy.

In addition to the prerequisites, you may take Human Anatomy and Physiology I & II, Health Skills I, Professionals in Health, Microbiology, Fundamentals of Communication, Composition I, Intro to Sociology, and General Psychology.

An Associate of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene.

Have an official copy of your transcript sent to the One Stop Office. Your transcript will be evaluated for general education courses.

Degree completion can be achieved at universities and colleges nationwide. Dental hygienists often choose education, public health, nutrition, or business as majors. The University of Iowa offers a degree completion program, Health Occupations Education, and they are currently developing a degree completion focusing on oral health.

It doesn't shorten the length but it does lighten your class load per semester.

The curriculum is very intense and your class schedule is quite busy, which makes it difficult to work while in the program. Taking general education classes before beginning the program will lighten your class load.

You will be required to purchase a lab coat for classes at Kirkwood. This will be done during registration. Lab coats for clinic at the College of Dentistry will be supplied. You will also be required to purchase scrubs to wear during clinical experiences.

Dental Assistant Dental Hygienist
Certified Dental Assistant Registered Dental Hygienist
Member of dental team Member of dental team
Assist DDS directly Provide direct patient care
Expose radiographs Patient assessment
Office duties Patient education
Infection control Expose radiographs
Inventory control Treatment planning



Allied Health
2164 Linn Hall