Best Dental Hygiene Schools in Illinois – 2024

Written By: Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH

The state of Illinois offers numerous opportunities for dental hygienists. You can earn a fantastic salary and enjoy a job outlook that is well above average when compared with other careers here. If you have considered this occupation and you are interested in starting the process of getting the required education, it is important to find the best dental hygiene schools in Illinois if you want to succeed. Below, we have ranked the best possible programs and have also provided you with career outlook information to help you make better decisions about your future as a dental professional.


What Skills and Knowledge will I Gain from a Dental Hygiene Program?

A dental hygienist in IL provides many of the same services as a dentist, including cleaning their patients’ teeth and providing important dental care information. As a result, dental hygiene programs in IL should provide you with a well-rounded education that prepares you for your career.

First and foremost, you will learn how to interact with patients across their entire lifecycle, including young children, the elderly, and everyone in between. You will learn how to identify and diagnose common dental health issues, including cavities and gum disease. You will also learn to take diagnostic images like x-rays, how and when to use various types of dental equipment, and the differences in the dental materials you will use each day during your career.

Dental Hygiene Program Length & Cost in Illinois

The overall cost and length of time it will take to complete your program in IL depends on the type of program you choose. You can earn an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree. Whereas an associate degree costs between $3700 and $41,130 and takes up to 30 months to finish, a bachelor’s degree takes about four years and costs up to $75,230. You might also go on to earn a master’s degree, which costs another $22,370 to $69,070 and takes an additional one to two years to complete.

Type of Program Length Cost
Associate Degree20 - 30 Months$3,700 - $41,130
Bachelor's Degree4 - years$17,160 - $75,230
Master's DegreeBetween 1 and 2 years$22,370 - $69,070


(Based on our Ranking Methodology, below are the 10 best dental hygiene programs in Illinois. The list includes both campus-based and online programs.)

1) Southern Illinois University, Carbondale

Southern Illinois University is the only dental hygiene school in the state that offers a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene. Extra supervised hours of clinical practice, internships in rural areas and clinical rotations in various clinical settings, thoroughly prepare students to kick start their career with aplomb.

The college offers three types of programs in dental hygiene.

Bachelor’s Degree: You can enter this dental hygiene program directly after high-school and enroll as a freshman in SIU or alternatively apply after you complete your freshman year from any other accredited college. Regardless of how you enter, you must complete the 32-credit pre-requisite coursework either during your first-year at SIU or during your freshman year at the college you are transferring from. From the sophomore year onwards, you will start the professional sequence with courses in dental hygiene that take three years to complete. So, totally to earn your bachelor’s degree you are required to complete four years of study; one year of pre-requisite courses (either at SIU or at any other accredited college), followed by three years of dental hygiene courses.

Degree completion program: This program is offered to registered dental hygienists with an accredited associate degree looking at advancing their education. A 60-credit coursework must be completed to earn your bachelor’s degree.

Online Dental Hygiene Management/Education: This is an online program designed for dental hygienists who hold an associate degree and are interested in entering the field of education and management. A 31 credit hours coursework that includes courses in management and education prepare you with the necessary skills and knowledge required to hold managerial and faculty positions.

2) Lake Land College, Mattoon

Lake Land College emphasizes strongly on skill development that helps dental hygiene graduates smoothly transition into the workforce. Also, it’s higher than average pass rates on the national and state licensing exams are proof enough of its high-quality teaching pedagogy.

The college offers an associate degree in dental hygiene that takes approximately two years to complete. To be eligible for this program you must have graduated from high school with an average grade of at least “C.” To enhance your chances of admission, it is recommended that you complete pre-requisite courses in anatomy, physiology, microbiology, and chemistry with a minimum grade “C.” Once accepted into the program, you must complete all the courses at Lake Land with grade “C” or better. The 71.5 credit coursework includes courses in anatomy, dental histology, dental anatomy, dental radiology, periodontology, nutrition, introductory psychology, pain management, pharmacology, dental public health, dental terminology, communication, and dental laws and ethics.

3) William Rainey Harper College, Palatine

William Rainey Harper College’s dental hygiene training comes with real-time experience of working with patients at its well-equipped dental clinic. Besides, graduates are taught a curriculum that prepares them to excel on the state and national licensing exams, after all, its 100% exam pass rates are a testament of this fact.

The college’s associate degree in dental hygiene is a two-year, full-time program that is offered each fall. Each year 36 students are accepted into this program who complete the coursework through four semesters, including a summer. Each semester is of 17 weeks, except for the summer session that lasts only eight weeks. To graduate, you must complete the 81-credit coursework that includes pre-requisites in human anatomy, physiology, chemistry for health sciences, English and an introduction to psychology. The dental hygiene coursework prepares you to demonstrate competencies required for quality patient care, oral health promotion, disease prevention by using evidence-based critical thinking and applying dental laws and ethics wherever applicable.

4) Fox College, Midway Campus in Bedford Park

Fox College is a dental hygiene school in Illinois that is equipped with advanced facilities, and its on-site simulated dental clinic is just one of them. Students are provided with ample hands-on practice without jeopardizing a patient’s health, using equipment that is used in dental clinics. This simulated experience, facilitated by personalized attention from faculty trains graduates with job-ready skills.

The associate degree in dental hygiene, offered by the college is an accelerated program that takes 20 months to complete. The faculty uses their years of work experience and designs a curriculum where students learn relevant skills that ensure a successful career stint. Upon completion of this program, you will be able to clean and polish teeth, process dental x-rays, examine, evaluate and teach patients about proper oral hygiene and the right nutrition and administer local anesthesia. After passing the national and state licensing exams, you can go on to work in private and community dental clinics, hospitals, university dental clinics, and nursing homes.

5) College of Lake County, Lakeshore Campus in Waukegan

College of Lake County is armed with an experienced faculty that brings in their experience to the classroom and groom students to confidently face the real-world. The on-campus dental clinic provides students with opportunities to perform various dental procedures on a diverse set of patients.

To become a dental hygienist in IL, you can consider this associate degree that prepares you to work as an entry-level dental hygienist at a variety of settings such as dental offices, community health centers, hospitals, dental supply companies, and schools. To earn your degree, you must complete all the course requirements that include biomedical, behavioral, and dental sciences and dental hygiene courses with a minimum grade “C.” To be considered for this program you must have a cumulative high school GPA of 2.0 and should have completed courses in chemistry, biology, anatomy, and physiology with a minimum grade “C.”

6) Rock Valley College, Rockford

Rock Valley College has been providing goal-oriented dental hygiene education since the past ten years. Its close-knit environment, small sized classes and a dedicated faculty help in achieving a successful academic outcome.

The dental hygiene program offered by the college is an associate degree that can be completed in about two years. The program starts every fall and requires completion of 80 credits. To acquire the professional skills and knowledge, you will go through a combined learning experience of classwork, lab training, and clinical rotations. The well-rounded curriculum integrates 27 credits of general education courses with 53 credits in dental hygiene courses. Before starting the program, the college requires you to complete courses in math, biology, chemistry, and communications with a minimum grade “C.”

7) Lewis and Clark Community College, Godfrey

Lewis and Clark Community College extensively uses its clinical laboratory and dental hygiene clinical learning center, both state-of-the-art facilities to teach students hands-on skills under the expert guidance of dental professionals. The equipment used is at par with the industry, thereby providing students with the most authentic learning experience.

This dental hygiene program in IL is offered in a unique format that entails completing a one-year accredited program in dental assisting before starting with the dental hygiene coursework. This works for those who wish to work after their first year of study and gain some valuable work experience. While some courses are transferred from dental assisting to dental hygiene, the minimum required credits for graduation are 60. Upon completing this program, you will be eligible to take the state and national licensing exams and work as an entry-level dental hygienist at an array of clinical settings.

8) Parkland College, Champaign

Parkland College strives to promote each of its student’s professional development with the help of a dedicated dental hygiene faculty that works towards a common goal of improving oral health. The college prepares you for positions in teaching, oral care, education, and research.

The dental hygiene program at Parkland College is an associate degree that starts in fall each year. This full-time course requires completion of 79.5 credits in biological, behavioral, social and dental sciences along with dental hygiene courses. Additionally, apart from the required coursework, you can complete three optional courses; oral care in a long-term facility, basic dental assisting for a dental hygienist and board exam preparation. These courses certainly add value to your professional skills and knowledge; however, they are not a requirement for graduation.

9) Illinois Central College, East Peoria

Illinois Central College’s caring staff and faculty cater to each dental hygiene student’s individual academic needs. Also, for those who wish to pursue higher education, you will be guided through transfer options to seamlessly transfer credits towards a bachelor’s degree at other universities.

With this associate in dental hygiene, you can become an integral member of a dental team. You will complete this program along with 23 other students, with a total of only 24 being admitted each year. Strengthening of biology, math, chemistry, and communications is recommended in high-school to ensure you successfully sail through the program. The 76.5 credit curriculum is delivered through didactic teaching, lab sessions, and clinical training. Students enhance their critical thinking, evidence-based decision making, and communication skills upon completion of this program that covers broad topics, ranging from fundamentals of dental science to periodontology.

10) College of DuPage, Glen Ellyn

College of DuPage offers affordable Dental hygiene education in a state-of-the-art learning facility. Graduates who plan to advance their education enjoy the advantage of being eligible for a discounted bachelor’s degree in healthcare management that is offered in collaboration with Concordia University.

DuPage’s associate in dental hygiene degree takes five semesters to complete. This full-time program is intensive, and it is advised that you avoid work commitments while you are enrolled to ensure program success. The 82-credit curriculum provides a well-rounded education by covering areas such as humanities, social and behavioral sciences, physical and life sciences, dental science and dental hygiene. The dental hygiene coursework helps you gain professional proficiency with courses in anatomy of the mouth, head and neck, periodontics, community dental health, dental materials, dental pharmacology, dental ethics and laws, management for the dental hygienist and principles in dental hygiene.


Dental Hygienist Career Information For Illinois - 2024

How Many Dental Hygienists are Currently Employed in IL?


Where do Dental Hygienists Work in Illinois?

Some 7,980 of the 8,430 dental hygienists working in the state of Illinois – or just over 96% - work in dentists’ offices. The remaining 4% work for the federal, state, or local government or in doctors’ offices.

No matter where you choose to work, you will provide a variety of services to your patients. Much of your time will be spent providing deep cleanings and educating patients on the best ways to care for their teeth and gums at home, but you may also find yourself assisting with various intensive procedures at times, and you will likely perform a wide range of clerical tasks, too.

In some cases, you may work with a highly specialized dentist who excels at treating children or patients who have very specific conditions. These dentists may run their own private practices, but they might also share a practice with other doctors, dentists, or specialists like orthodontists.

IndustryNumber of Dental Hygienists
Offices of Dentists7,980
Offices of Physicians80

What is the Average Salary of a Dental Hygienist in Illinois?

The average dental hygienist salary in Illinois is $76,120 a year, which comes out to $36.60 an hour or $6,340 a month. Dental hygienists provide important oral healthcare services and are crucial for supporting dentists, and because they take on so much responsibility – and in many cases treat patients on their own – they earn a much higher salary than other support roles, such as dental assistants. You can increase your salary by gaining experience, obtaining higher education, and working in a more affluent part of Illinois.

Type Salary
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Salary Based on Years of Experience

Years of Experience Hourly Monthly Annual
Less than 1 year (Starting) $23.24 $4,030 $48,340
1-4 years $31.47 $5,450 $65,450
5-9 years $38.25 $6,630 $79,560
10-19 years $42.91 $7,440 $89,250
20 years or more $45.19 $7,830 $93,990
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Dental Hygienist Average Salary Comparison: Illinois vs. National

Across the country, dental hygienists earn $84,860 a year, so your average $76,120 salary in Illinois is $8,740 (or 10.30%) less than the national average.

Illinois National Difference
Number %
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Job Outlook

Though employment across IL is expected to grow between the years of 2020 and 2030, it will grow much more slowly than in other states. In 2020, there were 7,600 dental hygienists across the state, and by 2030, there will be 930 more for a total of 8,530. This represents growth of 12.24%, and while that is positive and higher than the average growth across all occupations, dental hygienist employment growth in Illinois is slower than in other states.

There are several reasons for this, but perhaps the most influential one is the slow population growth across IL. Though cities like Chicago will continue to grow, other locations – including cities like Champaign and Peoria – have very slow population growth. As a result, fewer new dental hygienists will be needed here than in other states. The slow growth can also be attributed to the lack of large metro areas across IL; much of the country is rural farmland, which plays a role in the slow population growth.

Employment Employment Growth (2020-2030)
2020 2030 Number Percent
(Source: careeronestop)

Annual Job Openings

New Replacement Annual Job Openings (New + Replacement)
(Source: careeronestop)

Metro Wise Employment & Salary Data

If you want to give yourself the best possible job opportunities and maximize your income, you will need to think about the metro area where you choose to work. As you may have suspected, most of the dental hygienists in the state, or just over 81%, work in the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin metro. They earn an average annual salary of $78,610. However, in the Decatur metro area, which is much smaller and less affluent than Chicago, there are only 50 dental hygienists in total, and they earn a much lower average annual salary of $68,850.

When considering where you will work in the state of IL, think about where you will have access to the best possible job opportunities with the most appealing environment and salary. Chicago seems to offer an outstanding balance of excellent opportunities and a high salary, but if you choose to work in the Rockford area, which employs 240 of the state’s dental hygienists, you can earn a salary that tops out at over $78,000 a year – more than the national average.

Metro Employment Average Salary
Hourly Monthly Annual
Chicago-Naperville-Elgin 6,900 $37.79 $6,550 $78,610
Rockford 240 $37.50 $6,500 $78,000
Peoria 190 $33.53 $5,810 $69,750
Springfield 140 $34.31 $5,950 $71,360
Champaign-Urbana 120 $34.29 $5,940 $71,320
Bloomington 110 $34.00 $5,890 $70,720
Kankakee 60 $30.84 $5,350 $64,140
Carbondale-Marion 50 $30.92 $5,360 $64,320
Decatur 50 $33.10 $5,740 $68,850
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Useful Dental Hygienist Organizations & Associations in Illinois

Illinois Dental Hygienists Association

The Illinois Dental Hygienists’ Association is an excellent resource for both existing and aspiring dental hygienists. The group offers scholarships and other forms of support for students who are pursuing undergraduate or graduate degrees in dental hygiene. The IDHA strives to improve the overall dental health across the state of Illinois and ensure professional competency among hygienists. They also promote ongoing research and innovation that is designed to advance dental hygiene.

Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH
Pattie Trumble is a nurse who worked in both California and New York for many years as an emergency room nurse. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and an Associate Degree in Nursing from the Samuel Merritt Hospital School of Nursing. After 10 years of providing direct care, she went back to school and earned concurrent Master’s degrees in both public policy and public health from the University of California, Berkeley. Thereafter, she worked for various public health agencies in California at both the community and state levels providing economic and legislative analysis.

Dental Hygiene Schools in other States

  • California
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Washington