Best Dental Hygiene Schools in Washington – 2023

Written By: Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH

Whether they’re employed in dentists’ offices, community health agencies, hospitals or schools, in Washington State, dental hygienists can only work under the general supervision of a licensed dentist. That “general supervision” caveat is interpreted broadly: Under Washington law, you can remove deposits and stains from the surfaces of teeth, perform gingival scaling, apply sealants and topical anesthetics, and take X-rays without the physical presence of a dentist so long as that dentist can be easily reached if issues arise. Dental hygiene is a challenging career that allows you to make a comfortable salary while helping others. We’ve ranked the best dental hygiene programs in Washington to make it easier for you to start this dynamic career track.


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

Dentists deal with diseases of the teeth and gums while hygienists prevent dental disease and promote wellness. To that end, dental hygienists need to have a strong foundation in dental science as well as first-rate clinical skills.

Dental Hygiene schooling starts off with a thorough understanding of basic science, including anatomy, physiology, pathology, and pharmacology. Once you’ve mastered this body of information, you’ll move on to studying oral anatomy, dental pharmacology, and principles of pain relief. You’ll also be taught the clinical skills you’ll use on a day-to-day basis as you work with clients. You’ll learn how to remove plaque and stains from teeth, examine oral mucosa for signs of disease and administer topical anesthetics and nitrous oxide. Dental hygiene schools in WA entail opportunities to practice your new skills both in clinical lab settings and throughout clinical rotations.

Dental Hygiene Program Length & Cost in Washington

In Washington, three different educational tracks are available to aspiring dental hygienists. The one you pick will depend upon how you want to advance your career. An associate degree is perfectly sufficient for an entry-level hygienist. It will take you between 20 and 30 months to complete an associate degree, and depending upon whether you attend a community college or a tech school, it will set you back between $4,230 and $46,980.

A bachelor’s degree will teach you management skills as well as clinical skills, and this may be useful if you hope to supervise a team of dental hygienist assistants in a large practice. If you’re a resident of the Evergreen State attending a four-year school that’s partly subsidized through public tax dollars, tuition starts at $19,600. Attending a private college or university is more expensive and may cost as much as $85,920. Master’s degrees are preferred if your goals include teaching or research. A Master of Dental Hygiene degree takes between one and two years to complete and costs between $25,540 and $78,880.

Type of Program Length Cost
Associate Degree20 - 30 Months$4,230 - $46,980
Bachelor's Degree4 - years$19,600 - $85,920
Master's DegreeBetween 1 and 2 years$25,540 - $78,880


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

1. Eastern Washington University, Cheney

Entry-Level Bachelor of Science
Degree Completion Bachelor of Science
Master of Science

2. Clark College, Vancouver

3. Yakima Valley College, Yakima

4. Bellingham Technical College, Bellingham

5. Pima Medical Institute, Seattle

6. Lake Washington Institute of Technology, Kirkland

7. Pierce College-Fort Steilacoom, Lakewood

8. Shoreline Community College, Shoreline

9. Columbia Basin College, Pasco

10. Seattle Central College, Seattle


Dental Hygienist Career Information For Washington - 2023

How Many Dental Hygienists are Currently Employed in WA?


Where do Dental Hygienists Work in Washington?

6,760 Washington dental hygienists work in dentist’s offices. Their scope of practice may be very broad: In addition to cleaning teeth, they may do gingival scaling, perform X-rays and administer certain types of anesthesia; but they will be doing these procedures under the general supervision of a dentist. Another 90 hygienists work for federal, state and local governments at community clinics where their scope of practice is far more limited. An additional 70 hygienists are affiliated with doctors’ offices.

IndustryNumber of Dental Hygienists
Offices of Dentists6,760
Offices of Physicians70

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

The average dental hygienist salary in Washington is $111,430 per year. Hygienists who work more than 20 hours a week may also be eligible for benefits. Benefit packages vary from dental practice to dental practice but typically include health insurance, vacation time and other types of paid leave.

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) $44.87 $7,780 $93,330
1-4 years $49.75 $8,620 $103,490
5-9 years $52.51 $9,100 $109,230
10-19 years $59.51 $10,320 $123,780
20 years or more $60.68 $10,520 $126,210
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Dental Hygienist Average Salary Comparison: Washington vs. National

Hygienists in the Evergreen State earn substantially higher salaries that they do in other parts of the U.S. Washington, on the whole, is a health-oriented state, and its residents understand that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Washington National Difference
Number %
$111,430 $84,860 +$26,570+31.31%
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Job Outlook

Demand for hygienists in the Evergreen State will continue to grow. By 2030, Washington will need 37 percent more dental hygienists than it has presently. Washingtonians understand that white teeth and healthy gums are not only attractive, but they’re also correlated with a decrease in other types of chronic systemic diseases. Washington is also home for many affluent senior citizens who want to keep their natural teeth for as long as they possibly can.

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

More than half of Washington’s population lives in the lively, prosperous Seattle/Tacoma/Bellevue metropolitan corridor, and that’s where you’ll find the largest concentration of dental hygienists—4,390 to be precise. The Emerald City is a metropolis that appeals to upwardly mobile professionals who understand that a bright, attractive smile will give them a competitive edge. Dental hygienists make slightly more than the state average in Seattle. Olympia has fewer dental hygienists, but average salaries are higher than they are in Seattle. Dental hygienist salaries are lowest away from the coast in central and eastern cities such as Kennewick and Spokane.

Metro Employment Average Salary
Hourly Monthly Annual
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 4,390 $56.42 $9,780 $117,350
Spokane-Spokane Valley, WA 550 $45.52 $7,890 $94,680
Olympia-Tumwater, WA 310 $49.75 $8,620 $103,480
Kennewick-Richland, WA 260 $48.45 $8,400 $100,780
Yakima, WA 210 $49.33 $8,550 $102,600
Bellingham, WA 190 $49.78 $8,630 $103,550
Bremerton-Silverdale, WA 170 $52.69 $9,130 $109,600
Wenatchee, WA 110 $47.85 $8,290 $99,530
Mount Vernon-Anacortes, WA 100 $50.66 $8,780 $105,380
Longview, WA 90 $50.66 $8,780 $105,380
Walla Walla, WA 40 $46.90 $8,130 $97,550
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Useful Dental Hygienist Organizations & Associations in Washington

Washington State Dental Hygienists' Association (WSDHA)

Joining the Washington State Dental Hygienists' Association will qualify you for membership in the Sound Credit Union and also make you eligible for other benefits such as attractively priced disability, proliability, and medical insurance packages.

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.