Best Dental Hygiene Schools in North Carolina – 2024

Written By: Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH

When it comes to providing preventative dental care in North Carolina, dental hygienists stand on the front line. Where dentists diagnose and treat diseases affecting the teeth and gums, dental hygienists do their best to make sure those diseases don’t occur. They clean teeth, perform periodontal scaling and root planning, and educate patients about the right kinds of oral hygiene routines they’ll need to practice at home to keep their smiles bright. Some dental hygienists can administer numbing shots and do dental X-rays. If this rewarding profession sounds like the right career choice for you, we’ve listed the best dental hygiene programs in North Carolina to give you a leg up with the application process.


What Courses will I be Taking During my Dental Hygienist Training?

The core classes students take at dental hygiene schools in NC include biology, microbiology, chemistry, anatomy, physiology and pathology. Aspiring hygienists may also take specialty courses like oral anatomy, dental pharmacology, a dental materials lab, radiology and pain management. Communicating with patients is a key part of a hygienist’s role, so students may also be encouraged to take communications classes. The dental hygienist curriculum typically has a didactic classroom component and an experiential component during which students will work in real-life situations under the supervision of a licensed dentist.

Dental Hygiene Program Length & Cost in North Carolina

If you enroll at a community college in North Carolina for your dental hygiene studies, you can complete an associate degree in 20 to 30 months, paying as little as $3,660. An associate degree affiliated with a Dental College may set you back as much as $40,620.

An increasing number of four-year schools are offering Bachelor of Dental Hygiene degree programs. State colleges and universities that are partly supported through taxes are the most affordable options; residents of the Tar Heel State will end up paying just under $17,000 in tuition while those who pursue their studies at a private university may end up paying nearly $75,000.

There are also masters’ degree programs for dental hygienists who are interested in research or teaching. These programs take one or two years, and their costs range between $22,000 (for North Carolina residents at a school that accepts public funding) to $68,200 (at a private university.)

Type of Program Length Cost
Associate Degree20 - 30 Months$3,660 - $40,620
Bachelor's Degree4 - years$16,940 - $74,290
Master's DegreeBetween 1 and 2 years$22,080 - $68,200


(Based on our Ranking Methodology, below are the 7 best Dental Hygiene programs in North Carolina. The list includes both campus-based and online programs.)

1) University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

University of North Carolina has the distinction of being the first dental school in North Carolina and the only one that offers a baccalaureate level program in dental hygiene.

To become a dental hygienist in NC, you can pursue either the certificate or bachelor’s program at UNC. While the core curriculum for both these courses is the same, the baccalaureate level program entails completing additional general education courses in liberal arts and social sciences. Depending on your career goals, you can choose between the two. The certificate, equivalent to an associate, will take two years to complete and opens-up career avenues in private and government dental clinics, hospitals, correctional facilities and local health department. With a baccalaureate you can even go on to teaching and research.

Additionally, to cater to the needs of students keen on taking advanced positions in the allied dental field, the college also offers a 22-month Master’s in Dental Hygiene. You must hold a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene to be eligible for the program.

2) Wayne Community College, Goldsboro

In its 50 years of existence, Wayne Community College has played a significant role by imparting high-quality education. Its faculty is highly educated and strives towards creating a learning environment that is fruitful and brings about a positive academic outcome.

This dental hygiene program in NC is an associate degree that can be competed in four semesters. The coursework starts with an orientation that briefs you about the learning environment and how to succeed in your chosen field. Upon completing the entire coursework, you will acquire competence in performing oral hygiene procedures such as scaling, polishing, taking ex-rays and applying preventive agents. You will also be eligible to take the National Board Dental Hygiene exam and the North Carolina state licensure exam. As a licensed dental hygienist, you will be able to work in dentist’s offices, hospitals, schools and dental supply companies.

3) Central Carolina Community College, Sanford

Central Carolina Community College offers quality dental education that is complemented by its state-of-the-art facility, equipped with the latest equipment. With industry partnerships, students benefit from exceptional clinical experiences and internship opportunities that often translate into permanent job placements.

The college offers an Associate Degree in Dental Hygiene starting in fall, each year. This five- semester program offers a part of the coursework online, thereby adding considerable flexibility to your schedule. Graduation requires completing 71 credits in courses such as human anatomy, physiology, orofacial anatomy, infection control, dental radiology, biological chemistry, dental pharmacology and dental materials. To promote professional growth, the college encourages students to actively participate in the events and activities of American Dental Hygienists Association and other similar associations.

4) Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, Asheville

Ashville-Buncombe Technical Community College prepares students to confidently face the challenges that an allied dental-field poses. Moreover, it’s beautiful campus, located amidst a mountainous terrain offers an exciting mix of serenity and a vibrant culture, as there are many recreational options to choose from in close- proximity.

By completing this Associate in Applied Science, you will become a vital member of the dental team, where you will work independently with patients to plan and implement dental hygiene procedures. The rigorous program runs through five semesters, during which you will go through extensive didactic, lab and clinical experiences. You will learn to fulfill patient care functions such as teeth cleaning, scaling, applying preventive agents, taking x-rays, and evaluating and planning oral care. Before you start the first semester, the college requires you to complete general education courses in anatomy, physiology and biochemistry.

5) Halifax Community College, Weldon

Halifax Community College’s campus offers the benefit of close-proximity to the metropolitan areas in North Carolina as well as the calm of a rural setting. The beautiful Lake Gaston, situated close by, adds to the tranquility of this place.

This 73-credit dental hygiene associate degree will open-up a plethora of job opportunities in the ever-growing allied dental field. During the 2-year intensive training you will learn to provide dental hygiene care and be part of a dental care team in a collaborative manner. Prior to enrolling you are required to have some sort of dental assisting experience to help you know whether this career is right for you and what to expect out of your training. Upon completion of the coursework you can go on and take the state licensure and the national dental hygiene board examinations.

6) Fayetteville Technical Community College, Fayetteville

Fayetteville Technical Community College is a dental hygiene school in North Carolina that offers an educational experience that fine tunes students for an exciting allied dental career. In its endeavor to serve the community, the college runs a dental hygiene clinic on its campus, where patients can avail a variety of dental services. The clinic also provides an opportunity for students to witness and experience the day to day functioning of a dental hygienist from close quarters.

This five-semester associate degree program educates you with the theoretical knowledge and skills required to clean teeth, remove plaque, take x-rays, record patient history, perform scaling and instruct patients about oral hygiene. Apart from the core coursework, taking general education courses in anatomy, physiology, microbiology, computer basics and public speaking will make you proficient in patient-communication and, also ensure you receive a well-rounded education. To be eligible for this program, you must complete prerequisite courses in biology, algebra and chemistry.

7) Central Piedmont Community College, Charlotte

At Central Piedmont Community College, you benefit from the extensive hands-on training you experience at the college’s dental clinic. While treating patients under faculty supervision, you learn the nuances of this career even before you land your first job.

The 76-credit hour, full-time Associate in Applied Science Degree is offered in fall and enrolls a maximum of 25 to 30 students, each year. The program takes six semesters to complete and prior to enrolling you are required to complete a course in chemistry and, pass the CPR & First Aid test. Coursework includes general education courses in anatomy and physiology, microbiology, expository writing, public speaking, math and sociology. The well-rounded curriculum, along with core courses in dental hygiene prepares you to work in a host of work settings, including dental offices, schools, dental material companies and research facilities.


Dental Hygienist Career Information For North Carolina - 2024

How Many Dental Hygienists are Currently Employed in NC?


Where do Dental Hygienists Work in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, dental hygienists cannot operate on their own but must be supervised by a licensed dentist. It shouldn’t be surprising then that the vast majority of dental hygienists in North Carolina work in dentists’ practices. In most instances, this means that a dentist must be physically present in the office where the dental hygienist is working. In a few instances, though, dental hygienists can practice without direct supervision if a licensed dentist has written out instructions about what the hygienist will be doing. This caveat is used to cover the 80 or so dental hygienists who work in community clinics operated by federal, state or county governments. An additional 60 dental hygienists work with medical physicians who specialize in the treatment of oral conditions.

IndustryNumber of Dental Hygienists
Offices of Dentists6,210
Offices of Physicians60

What is the Average Salary of a Dental Hygienist in North Carolina?

On average, dental hygienists in the Tar Heel State earn more than $78,000 annually. Vacation, sick leave, and health care insurance vary by employer: Dentists typically hire dental hygienists to come in a just few days a week, and benefits may not be available for part-time employees. Those who want to earn a full-time dental hygienist salary in North Carolina often work for more than one employer.

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) $31.18 $5,410 $64,860
1-4 years $36.39 $6,310 $75,690
5-9 years $38.08 $6,600 $79,200
10-19 years $39.52 $6,850 $82,210
20 years or more $44.45 $7,710 $92,460
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Dental Hygienist Average Salary Comparison: North Carolina vs. National

Dental hygienists in North Carolina are no exception to the generalization that ancillary health care professionals earn less in the South than in other parts of the U.S.: Hygienists in the Tar Heel State make considerably less than the national average.

North Carolina National Difference
Number %
$78,470 $84,860-$6,390-7.53%
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Job Outlook

The demand for qualified dental hygienists in North Carolina is projected to grow by nearly 11 percent by 2030. Baby Boomers are far more interested in keeping their natural teeth than the generations that came before them were, and this means regular teeth cleanings and other preventative dentistry services are extremely important to them. White, healthy-looking teeth are also important for younger individuals since, increasingly, a beautiful smile is a sign of social status.

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

You can predict the distribution of dental hygienists throughout North Carolina by looking at the distribution of dentists. The largest number of hygienists work in the Tar Heel State’s two biggest metropolitan areas: Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia (1,630) and Raleigh (1,030) Salaries in these two cities are also among the highest in the state. Dental hygienists are well represented, too, in the college towns of Durham and Chapel Hill (440) Poorer cities like Fayetteville and Wilmington, where the percentage of people living under the federal poverty line hovers at or above 20 percent, have far fewer hygienists, and the hygienists who work there earn less than the state average.

Metro Employment Average Salary
Hourly Monthly Annual
Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia 1,630 $40.33 $6,990 $83,890
Raleigh 1,030 $38.05 $6,600 $79,150
Greensboro-High Point 600 $38.25 $6,630 $79,570
Durham-Chapel Hill 440 $35.28 $6,120 $73,380
Winston-Salem 400 $38.50 $6,670 $80,080
Asheville 360 $36.33 $6,300 $75,560
Wilmington 310 $37.10 $6,430 $77,160
Fayetteville 260 $34.87 $6,040 $72,520
Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton 210 $37.88 $6,570 $78,790
Greenville 120 $35.56 $6,160 $73,960
Jacksonville 110 $34.99 $6,060 $72,770
Burlington 100 $38.31 $6,640 $79,680
New Bern 80 $35.71 $6,190 $74,270
Goldsboro 70 $34.64 $6,000 $72,050
Rocky Mount 70 $35.77 $6,200 $74,400
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Useful Dental Hygienist Organizations & Associations in North Carolina

North Carolina Dental Hygienists' Association

Joining the North Carolina Dental Hygienists’ Association will give you access to a job board and continuing education classes as well as to discounts on professional and personal services nationwide from affiliated partners.

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
  • Illinois
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Washington