Program Overview

Length: 2-Year Associate in Applied Science degree, beginning in the Fall semester
Application Period: September through December.  Check the Dental Hygiene Bulletin for specific dates.
Number of Students Accepted: 18

Tuition & Estimated Costs

See the Dental Hygiene Bulletin for specific details.

  • Costs may vary slightly from year to year.  Tuition is set by the North Carolina Legislature and can change without notice.
  • Each student will also be responsible for providing their transportation to the campus and to off-campus clinical rotation sites.  Also, students will need to budget for miscellaneous expenses such as binders, paper, pens, pencils, etc.
  • Students are encouraged to attend a board review session which is not included in the estimated expenses.

Dental Hygiene Program Goals

  1. To provide a student-centered teaching environment that engages the students as active learners.
  2. To educate dental hygiene students in the ethical, legal, and competent practice of dental hygiene.
  3. To comprehensively prepare students with the knowledge and skills to assess, formulate a dental hygiene diagnosis, plan, implement, and evaluate dental hygiene care for the individual and the community.
  4. To prepare dental hygiene graduates who provide patient-centered, comprehensive, evidence-based dental hygiene care.
  5. To develop the interpersonal and patient centered skills to interact effectively with diverse populations.
  6. To promote professional growth, scientific inquiry, and an appreciation for lifelong learning.
  7. To educate students on current technologies and the skills necessary to adapt to a rapidly changing healthcare system.
  8. To engage students in the promotion of dental health ideals through service to the community and involvement with professional organizations.

Dental Hygiene Program Competencies

  1. Apply a professional code of ethics in all endeavors.
  2. Adhere to state and federal law, recommendations, and regulations in the provision of dental hygiene care.
  3. Provide dental hygiene care to promote patient/client health and wellness using critical thinking and problem solving in the provision of evidenced-based practice.
  4. Assume responsibility for dental hygiene actions and care based on accepted scientific theories and research as well as the accepted standard of care.
  5. Continuously perform self-assessment for lifelong learning and professional growth.
  6. Advance the profession through service activities and affiliation with professional organizations.
  7. Provide quality assurance mechanism for health services.
  8. Communicate effectively with individuals and groups from diverse populations both verbally and in writing.
  9. Provide care to all clients, using individualized approach that is humane, empathetic and caring.
  10. Provide dental hygiene care for the child, adolescent, adult, and geriatric patient.
  11. Assess the treatment needs of patients with special needs.
  12. Provide dental hygiene care for all types of classifications of periodontal disease including patients who exhibit moderate to severe periodontal disease.
  13. Provide appropriate life support measures for medical emergencies that may be encountered in dental hygiene practice.
  14. Provide the dental hygiene process of care including assessment, planning, implementation, evaluation, and documentation.
  15. Demonstrate competency in assessing, planning, implementing, and evaluating community-based oral health programs.


In all states, Dental Hygienists must be licensed to practice.  Specific Dental Hygiene licensure requirements vary from state to state.  All states have three basic requirements: an educational requirement, a written examination requirement, and a clinical examination requirement.

North Carolina requires that a Hygienist must successfully complete an accredited Dental Hygiene program and receive a minimum of an Associate’s Degree in Dental Hygiene.  Also, licensees must pass the written National Board Dental Hygiene Examination and the clinical Council of Interstate Testing Agencies, Inc. (CITA) Examination.

During the final semester of their Dental Hygiene program, students take a computerized test known as the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE).  The purpose of the NBDHE is to assist state boards in determining qualifications of Dental Hygienists who seek licensure to practice dental hygiene.  The examination assesses the ability to understand important information from basic biomedical, dental, and dental hygiene sciences and also the ability to apply such information in a problem-solving context.  A passing score on the DHNBE ensures that each applicant for licensure has achieved the level of knowledge, skill, and judgment necessary to practice in a safe and responsible manner.

Following graduation from an accredited Dental Hygiene program and receiving a passing score on the DHNBE, licensees must successfully complete the CITA – ADEX Dental Hygiene examination.  The CITA – ADEX Dental Hygiene examination is based on specific performance criteria used to measure clinical competence.  This examination consists of two components.  These are a 100-question Computer Simulated Clinical Examination (CSCE), and a Patient Treatment Clinical Examination (PTCE), which is performed on patients.  Each component requires a passing score of 75% of greater.  Once candidates pass the CITA – ADEX exam, they have met the clinical examination requirement for licensure.  Each individual state has additional requirements before issuing a Dental Hygiene license.

In North Carolina, candidates must also pass online examinations administered by the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners in two subject areas: infection control/sterilization and North Carolina jurisprudence.  Once candidates pass these examinations, they may apply for a license to practice dental hygiene in North Carolina.

For more information concerning testing and licensure, please visit the following resources.

FAQs for Dental Hygiene Students

What does a Dental Hygienist do?
The tasks performed by a Dental Hygienist are varied.  Here are a few of the things a dental hygienist does.

  • Performs patient screening procedures.
  • Takes and develop x-rays.
  • Records the presence of diseases and abnormalities.
  • Removes hard and soft deposits from the teeth.
  • Applies preventive materials to the teeth (sealants and fluoride).
  • Teaches patients appropriate oral hygiene strategies.
  • Counsels patients about good nutrition.
  • Performs office management activities.
What is the difference between a Dental Hygienist and a Dental Assistant?
While there are some functions that both the Dental Hygienist and Dental Assistant perform, the Dental Hygienist primarily works independently to provide oral hygiene care to patients.  Basically, the Hygienist “cleans teeth” by removing hard and soft deposits.  Dental Assistants assist the dentist in a variety of treatment procedures and help provide patient care in general dentistry and the dental specialties.
Do I have to go to school to be a Dental Hygienist?
Yes.  North Carolina law requires that a Hygienist earn a minimum of a two-year degree in Dental Hygiene and pass a national and state board exam.  Currently, there is only one state (Alabama) that does not require formal education for Dental Hygienists.
How much do Dental Hygienists earn?
Pay varies greatly depending upon location and office.  Visit the College Foundation of North Carolina’s Find a Career page to learn more about salary ranges in this field.
Is Coastal’s Dental Hygiene program accredited?
Yes, the Dental Hygiene program is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation of the American Dental Association.  More information can be found in the Bulletin.
How long is the Dental Hygiene program?
The Dental Hygiene program is two academic years in length.  Students begin in the fall semester in mid-August.  The first year consists of two 16-week semesters plus one 5-week summer session.  There is a seven week break between first year and second year.  Dental Hygiene students complete requirements for graduation at the end of the spring semester of their second year.
Is it possible to attend the Dental Hygiene program on a part-time basis?
No.  All Dental Hygiene students are full-time students and must take all required courses when they are offered.  This is a block scheduled program so courses are only offered once each year.
Is it difficult to get into the Dental Hygiene program?
Yes.  The Dental Hygiene program is a limited enrollment program and admission is competitive.  The admissions process is designed to choose the best qualified students who have a greater chance of successful completion of the program.  More information on the admissions process can be found in the Dental Hygiene Bulletin.
What can I do to improve my chances of being accepted into the program?
The best way to position yourself well for admission into the Dental Hygiene program is to accumulate the greatest number of points possible.   See the Dental Hygiene Bulletin for more details.
I have taken several college-level courses, can any of my course work be substituted?
It is possible that courses you have taken can be substituted for the required related courses.  A list of course substitutions is located in the Dental Hygiene Bulletin.
Is it possible for me to compete for a spot in the Dental Hygiene program straight from high school?
Yes, it is!  Please see the Dental Hygiene Bulletin for details.
About how many hours will I be in school each week?
The actual schedule for Dental Hygiene courses varies from semester to semester.  A full load in the Dental Hygiene program ranges from 24-28 hours per week.  If you have taken all of the related courses prior to entering the program, the range is lower.
Is the program difficult?
The course work in the Dental Hygiene program is challenging.  It is necessary to cover a large amount of material in a short amount of time.  It takes a big commitment on the part of the student to successfully complete the program.  That said, the faculty works hard to provide assistance to students who need additional help.  Information is provided using a variety of teaching styles.  Counselors are also available to provide information on learning styles, study techniques and time management.  Our goal is to retain the greatest number of students possible.
What can I do to improve my chances of success in the Dental Hygiene program?
One thing you can do is take as many related college courses as possible prior to entering the program.  This allows you more time to focus on your Dental courses.  Also, the ACA 111 College Student Success course (though not required to complete the program) provides students with proven strategies for achieving success in college courses.  There has been a lot of research conducted concerning the factors that make college students successful.  One of the most important factors to consistently arise form this research focuses on attendance.  Students who regularly attend class perform better than those who don’t.
How much time should I set aside for studying on a weekly basis?
That really depends upon you and your study skills.  A general rule of thumb is that you should plan to spend about two hours of time outside of class for every one hour of class time.  That means that if you are in class for 20 hours each week, you should plan to study an additional 40 hours.  Of course, in the Dental Hygiene program, many of the class hours are lab and clinic hours which do not require as much outside study time.  The Dental Hygiene program is a full-time commitment.
How many hours can I work each week and still keep up with my school work?
That’s a tough question to answer because it varies from student to student.  The Dental Department recommends that students not work while in the Dental Hygiene program.  Aside from the approximately 25 hours per week you will spend in lectures, labs, and clinics, there will be times you will need to spend doing additional lab work.  Also, you will need sufficient study and rest time. While we recommend you not work, we realize that it is simply not financially feasible for some students not to have an income while in the program.  If you must work, try to limit your hours to no more than 10 per week if possible and seek a job that allows you flexibility in scheduling.
Do most graduates find a job easily?
The majority of Dental Hygiene graduates find employment very quickly.  In fact, many students already have jobs offers when they graduate.  The goal of the program is that at least half of the graduates responding to the Graduate Survey will report that they are employed in the dental field or that they are enrolled in further education.  The Dental Hygiene program always exceeds this goal.
What do employers say about Coastal’s Dental Hygiene graduates?
The dentists who hire our graduates consistently give them an overall rating of excellent on the Employer Survey.  100% of the employers have said that they would hire future Coastal graduates!
Why should I consider a career in Dental Hygiene?
Two years in the Dental Hygiene program can prepare you for a challenging and rewarding career.  Graduation from the Dental Hygiene program prepares graduates to work in private dental practices, public health clinics, hospital dental clinics, military dental clinics, and in dental schools.
Who do I contact if I want to learn more about the dental hygiene program?
Please contact the Admissions Office at or 910.938.6394 for more information.