Becoming a Dental Hygienist in South Carolina

Becoming a dental hygienist is a great career choice for anyone interested in healthcare and in working with people. As a hygienist, you will be responsible for removing tartar and plaque for patients, educating them about oral health and hygiene, taking X-rays and communicating with the dentist about patient health. Working as a hygienist requires at least two years of education and state licensing, but the job growth and salaries in South Carolina are both strong and well worth the effort to qualify.

How to Qualify in South Carolina

The South Carolina Board of Dentistry is responsible for licensing all dental professionals in the state, including hygienists. In order to work as a dental hygienist in the state, you will first need to complete an accredited, post-secondary educational program and then take the appropriate exams and meet all the requirements set by the state. An application with a fee is required along with proof of passing scores and other qualifying factors.

Accredited Dental Hygienist Programs

The Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) of the American Dental Association approves dental hygiene programs throughout the country. To become licensed as a hygienist in South Carolina, your first step will be to enroll in and complete one of these. A few examples of CODA-accredited programs in the state are:

  • Greenville Technical College, Greenville. Greenville’s associate’s degree program in dental hygiene includes two phases. You must first complete phase I general education courses, before applying for phase II, the dental hygiene courses. The program culminates in actual real-world experience at the school’s dental hygiene clinic, working with patients with oversight from instructors.
  • York Technical College, Rock Hill. York also offers students a two-year associate’s degree program in dental health. Admission is selective and many students are wait-listed to get into the program with an average wait time of two years, so it is important to plan ahead and to be sure you meet admissions requirements.
  • Midlands Technical College, Columbia. At Midlands, students can choose to complete the associate’s degree program in dental hygiene, which includes a first phase, pre-dental hygiene program and a second phase with career-related courses. Coursework includes clinical work experience.

See this page for information on dental assistant schools.

State Licensing

After successfully completing an accredited dental hygiene program you should be prepared to meet the rest of the criteria for licensing in South Carolina. The Board of Dentistry lists several requirements, proof of which must be submitted with the application for a license:

  • Graduation from an accredited dental hygiene program
  • A passing score on the National Board Examination
  • Either a passing score on a clinical exam approved by the Board, an active license and three years of practice in another state, or a license from no more than two years ago in a state with exam requirements that are similar to South Carolina’s
  • Explanations for any issues that arise from a personal history questionnaire, with the goal of proving good moral character
  • Three letters of recommendation from licensed dentists

Once the application has been sent in with the fee, you will have to take the state’s jurisprudence examination. A passing score of 70 or better is required. Once licensed you must complete seven credit hours of continuing education per year, although you will be exempt from this requirement in the period before your first renewal.

Popular Programs

Salary Expectations and Job Outlook

Job growth and salaries for licensed dental hygienists are strong in all states. With demand for qualified professionals, finding a job should not be difficult. In South Carolina, job growth in the field from 2016 to 2026 is projected to be more than 20 percent, which is much faster than average growth for all jobs.

Salaries are also strong in the state and reflect the education and licensing requirements. In 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, dental hygienists in South Carolina earned on average$30.79 per hour and $64,040 per year. The highest paid hygienists in the state made more than $83,250 annually.

AreaTotal EmployedMean Hourly WageMean Annual Salary
Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC320$28.28$58,810
Charleston-North Charleston, SC530$33.51$69,710
Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC1,700$33.99$70,710
Columbia, SC530$27.80$57,830
Florence, SC90$24.09$50,110
Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin, SC430$27.86$57,940
Hilton Head Island-Bluffton-Beaufort, SC90$28.23$58,710
Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC-NC150$26.75$55,640
Spartanburg, SC**$30.06$62,520
Sumter, SC40$23.23$48,320

Where to Work

Most dental hygienists, 99 percent, work in dental offices. They work directly with patients and along with and under the indirect supervision of licensed dentists. Wherever there are dental offices, including big cities, suburbs and rural areas, you should be able to find a position. The greatest number of opportunities will be in and around Columbia, Charleston, Mount Pleasant and Rock Hill, the state’s largest cities. Consider joining the South Carolina Dental Hygienists’ Association for networking and job opportunities and continuing education.

College Listings

Florence, SC

Florence-Darlington Technical College

2715 W. Lucas Street, Florence, South Carolina 29501
(843) 661-8324
https://www.fdtc.edu/academics/programs/detail/Dental-Hygiene-(510602)-AAS/

The Associate’s degree program is imparted at the college’s Florence campus. This program of study is accredited by the ADA. This private, not-for-profit college has approximately 6,002 students in total, with most students on 2-year programs. Annual tuition fees for in-district students are $3,838, while fees for in-state and out-of-state students are $4,100 and $5,934 respectively.

Charleston-North Charleston, SC

Trident Technical College

7000 Rivers Avenue, Charleston, South Carolina 29423-8067
(843) 574-6111
https://www.tridenttech.edu/academics/divisions/hlthsc/hlthsc_dentHyg.htm

The Associate’s degree program is imparted at the college’s Charleston campus. This program of study is accredited by the ADA. The college has around 17,224 students in total, with the majority of students on 2-year programs. Yearly tuition fees for in-district students are $3,822, while fees for in-state and out-of-state students are $4,238 and $7,210 respectively.

Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC

York Technical College

452 S Anderson Rd, Rock Hill, South Carolina 29730
(803) 327-8000
https://www.yorktech.edu/Major/Dental-Health-Professions/

The Associate’s program at York Technical College is offered at their campus in the city of Rock Hill. This program of study is ADA accredited. The college has about 4,849 students in total, with most students on 2-year programs. Annual fees for in-district students are $4,145, while fees for in-state and out-of-state students are $4,493 and $8,921 respectively.

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