Becoming a Dental Hygienist in Tennessee

Becoming a dental hygienist requires going to school for at least two years and passing exams to get licensed. The efforts are well worth it, though, because demand for licensed professionals in dental hygiene is high in Tennessee and elsewhere. It’s also a rewarding career that you can enjoy for years without getting bored and while enjoying a great salary. Find out about dental assistant schools in Tennessee

What You Need to Become a Dental Hygienist

In Tennessee, you need to achieve state licensure to work as a dental hygienist. There are a few different paths to getting licensed, but all begin by completing a post-secondary dental hygiene program that has been accredited by the American Dental Association (ADA). Once graduating from a program, you will need to apply with the Tennessee Board of Dentistry and get passing scores on certain exams. An accredited program will have prepared you to pass those tests.

Accredited Dental Hygiene Programs

The ADA’s Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) is the entity that approves dental hygiene programs at colleges across the country. To become licensed in Tennessee, you must have completed one of these programs. There are several offered within the state, and these are just a few examples:

  • Chattanooga State Community College, Chattanooga. In Chattanooga, you can earn a two-year associate’s degree in dental hygiene. The program is popular, so admissions are selective. Completion rates are high at 99 percent, and 100 percent of graduates are licensed on their first attempt. The program also has a 100 percent job placement rate for students.
  • East Tennessee State University, Johnson City. East Tennessee uniquely offers a four-year bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene. Admissions can be selective here, so it is important to have good grades in high school and know what all the requirements are. The program includes standard classroom work as well as clinical experience working with real patients on campus.
  • Tennessee State University, Nashville. At Tennessee State in Nashville, you have the option to choose a two-year or a four-year degree. To be admitted, you must first gain admission to the University and successfully complete general education coursework. Then you can apply to the very selective dental hygiene program.

Tennessee Requirements for Licensing

Once you have completed an approved dental hygiene program, you will be prepared to take and pass the required exams for licensing in Tennessee. You must pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination and at least one clinical examination approved by the Board. These include demonstrating skills in such areas as X-rays and teeth cleaning.

With passing scores, you are prepared to apply for licensing through the Tennessee Board of Dentistry. You will need to complete an application and include all the evidence of your degree and exam scores. You also have to show you have CPR certification and that you have cleared a background check. If you are already licensed in another state and have worked for at least three years, you may not have to take the exams to apply.

Once approved and licensed in Tennessee, you will also have to maintain that license. This requires that you complete 30 hours of continuing education every two years and renew CPR certification. The Tennessee Dental Hygienist Association is a useful resource for finding opportunities for continuing education.

Career Outlook and Salary Expectations

Job growth in dental hygiene is very strong in Tennessee. The growth is predicted to be 27.6 percent through 2026. This means that by that year there will be more than 1,000 new jobs added in the state for dental hygienists. Qualified individuals will be in demand for years to come and should be able to find jobs easily.

The salaries in Tennessee are competitive for dental hygienists. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2017 the average salary for the profession was $31.79 per hour and $66,120 per year. Higher earners can make up to $87,950 and more by earning more qualifications, taking on leadership positions in dental offices and having years of work experience.

Where to Find Work as a Dental Hygienist

Far and away the most common place for a hygienist to work is in a dental office. Minor alternative employers include hospitals and community clinics. Look for the greatest number of job openings in big cities and suburbs such as Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga. Of course, dental hygienists are also needed in rural and mores sparsely populated areas, and with such high demand you should have your pick of jobs once you get licensed.

Popular Programs

College Listings

Memphis, TN-MS-AR

Concorde Career College-Memphis

5100 Poplar Avenue, Suite 132, Memphis, Tennessee 38137-0132
(901) 761-9494
https://www.concorde.edu/dental-programs/dental-hygiene

The Associate’s degree program is imparted at the college’s Memphis campus. This program of study is accredited by the American Dental Association. Most of the school’s 1,228 students are on 2-year programs. The dental hygiene program has annual tuition fees of $14,135 and material costs of $1,031. The average completion time for the program is 17 months.

Johnson City, TN

East Tennessee State University

Johnson City, Tennessee 37614-0000
(423) 439-1000
https://www.etsu.edu/crhs/alliedhealth/bsdh/

The Bachelor’s degree program is imparted at the college’s Johnson City campus. This program of study is ADA accredited. This is a full, 4-year private college with 15,133 students, of which 81% are undergraduates. In-state tuition fees are approximately $7,249 per year. The fees for out-of-state students are $22,561.

Eastern Tennessee nonmetropolitan area

Hiwassee College

225 Hiwassee College Drive, Madisonville, Tennessee 37354-4001
(423) 442-2001
https://www.hiwassee.edu/academics/degrees-programs/dental-hygiene

The Associate’s degree program is imparted at the college’s Madisonville campus. This program of study is accredited by the American Dental Association. Most of the school’s 385 students are on 4-year programs. Fees at the school are around $13,320 per year. Tuition for out-of-state students is $13,320.

Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN

Remington College-Nashville Campus

441 Donelson Pk Ste 150, Nashville, Tennessee 37214
(615) 889-5520
https://www.remingtoncollege.edu/locations/nashville/nashville-dental-hygiene-associate-degree/

The Associate’s program at Remington College is taught at their Nashville campus. This program of study is accredited by the ADA. This private, not-for-profit college has around 357 students in total, with the majority of students on 2-year programs. Fees at this school are around $15,995 per year. Tuition for students from other states is $15,995.

Knoxville, TN

Roane State Community College

276 Patton Lane, Harriman, Tennessee 37748
(865) 354-3000
http://www.roanestate.edu/?127-Dental-Hygiene

The Associate’s degree program is imparted at the college’s Harriman campus. This private, not-for-profit college has approximately 6,508 students in total, with the majority of students on 2-year programs. In-state tuition is approximately $3,621 per year, while students from other states will pay $14,061.

Chattanooga, TN-GA

Southern Adventist University

4881 Taylor Cir, Collegedale, Tennessee 37315-0370
(423) 236-2000
https://www.southern.edu/course-sequences/1997.html

The Associate’s degree program is imparted at the college’s Collegedale campus. This is a full, 4-year private college with 3,319 students, of which 87% are undergraduates. Fees at the school are about $19,790 per year. The fees for out-of-state students are $19,790.

Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN

Tennessee State University

3500 John A. Merritt Blvd, Nashville, Tennessee 37209-1561
(615) 963-5111
http://www.tnstate.edu/dentalhygiene/aas_degree.aspx

The Associate’s program at Tennessee State University is taught at their Nashville campus. This program of study is ADA accredited. Of the 8,740 students, about 23% are postgraduates. Typical in-state tuition fees are approximately $6,498 per year. Tuition for students from other states is $19,218.

Knoxville, TN

The University of Tennessee

527 Andy Holt Tower, Knoxville, Tennessee 37996
(865) 974-1000
http://www.uthsc.edu/dentistry/educational-programs/dental-hygiene/index.php

The Bachelor’s degree program is imparted at the college’s Knoxville campus. This is a full, 4-year private college with 29,833 students, of which 70% are undergraduates. The retention rate of full-time students at this college is 85%. In-state tuition fees are approximately $11,194 per year, while the fees for students from other states are $29,684.

The University of Tennessee

527 Andy Holt Tower, Knoxville, Tennessee 37996
(865) 974-1000
http://www.uthsc.edu/dentistry/educational-programs/dental-hygiene/masters.php

The Master program at The University of Tennessee is offered at their campus in the city of Knoxville. Of the 29,833 students, about 30% are postgraduates. Typical in-state tuition fees are approximately $11,194 per year. Tuition for students from outside the state of Tennessee is $29,684.

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