Training to become a Dental Hygienist

Dental Hygenist

To qualify as a dental hygienist in the U.K.  students must gain a Diploma in Dental Hygiene. Courses are full time and usually take two years ( twenty seven months, to be precise) to complete. There are nineteen different training schools/institutes who provide these courses around the  U.K.  Many hygiene courses are closely linked with dental therapy courses, however they are separate courses resulting in different qualifications and responsibilities.

Entry Requirements

To be accepted on a dental hygiene course there are specific qualifications that are required, although there are exceptions students usually need five GCSE’s from grade A-C, including a biological science, and two A levels grade A-C, preferably one of which should include a science based subject. Some schools accept a dental nursing qualification in place of A levels, but as these courses are extremely popular with limited places available, A levels are often preferred. Equivalent Scottish qualifications are also accepted. Some teaching schools require higher grades than others so ensure you carefully research each training institutes requirements carefully before applying.


All dental applications are handled by UCAS, and many students now apply online. Courses start in September  each year and in order for applications to be considered they must be submitted between June and January of the year prior to the course start date. The earlier the application is made the better. For details on available courses and for advise on applying, potential students should visit the UCAS website – For further details about the selection process  for students individual dental school websites should be visited. It is also advisable to obtain additional information from related websites such as the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT), and The General Dental Council (GDC), for example, where questions can be answered, and advise can be given. Hygienists can also qualify through the armed forces, if you are interested in following this route you should arrange an informal interview with your local Navy, RAF or Army office to obtain all required information.

Health Requirements

All dental students will undergo a CRB check (Criminal Records Bureau), and will also have to fill out a form regarding their personal medical history, they will also have to have blood tests where screening for particular diseases takes place. Immunisation against certain diseases is offered such as Hepatitis B immunisation, and it is advisable  for students to accept this course of injections as dental hygienists must legally receive the Hepatitis B immunisation, in order to treat patients.

On the course

If you are successful in gaining a place on a dental hygiene course you should be prepared for topics that you will study while training. Topics include, anatomy and physiology, dental histology, pharmacology, diet and nutrition, behavioural science, pathology, oral medicine, treatment of periodontal disease, prevention of oral disease, radiography and many more. Training usually involves topics being addressed in separate modules, all dental schools course structure varies from place to place, so researching the different approaches of schools can help students to decide which school/course will suit them best. Training in all schools involves both theoretical study and clinical training. Students will progress from theory to practical lessons, beginning with treating artificial teeth  and finally moving on to treat real life patients!

Dental training Schools/Institutes

Defence Dental Services Training Establishment (Aldershot)

Queens University of Belfast Schools for Dentistry

BSc Dental Hygiene and Therapy Birmingham Dental Hospital

School of Dental Hygiene University of Bristol/ Dental Hospital

Training and Education Centre for DCP’s Cardiff University

Unit of Health Sciences Dundee Dental Hospital

School of Health Sciences Edinburgh Dental Institute

School for Professionals Complementary to Dentistry Glasgow Dental Hospital and School

School of Dental Hygiene and Therapy Leeds Dental Institute

Liverpool University Dental Hospital

School of Dental Hygiene and Dental Therapy Eastman Dental Hospital (London)

King’s College Hospital (London)

Bart’s and London Centre for Dental Care Professionals

Unit of Oral Health Science Manchester University

Manchester Outreach –Salford

School of Dental Hygiene Newcastle Dental Hospital

BSc Dental Hygiene and Therapy University of Portsmouth

Programme in Hygiene and Therapy School of clinical Dentistry University of Sheffield

Department of Health and Human Sciences University of Essex

About the author

I’ve been a dental nurse for over 13 years, and have worked in various parts of the country in orthodontic practices, general dental practices, within the community dental services, for both NHS and private practices. Within that time I’ve seen quite a few changes, not only with the way services are provided, changes in laws and regulations but also with the use of new materials and more advanced treatments. The one thing that hasn’t changed at all in my time as a dental nurse is the importance of people receiving and understanding clear information about dentistry, treatments, regulations and jobs for example.


  1. Dental Assistant says:

    Thanks for sharing such a nice information about this interesting topic. I am looking forward to save it and read it later on. Thanks

  2. Dental Nurse says:

    Thank you for your lovely comment, I’m really glad you enjoy my blogs…. its comments like yours that keep me researching and writing!! Thanks again.

  3. dental assistant job training says:

    I always wanted to be dental assistant or hygienist but I don’t where I am going to go. This post is really a big help to me because it has all the list of good schools where I can have training and also the things that I will need in applying in all those schools.

  4. Dental Nurse says:

    Hi, thanks for your comment.

    I’m really glad you found my website useful and that it gave the information you wanted.

    Good luck in choosing a place that suits you!


  5. Rachel Buckley says:

    Hi, I am a 12 years experienced dental nurse and am just about to qualify as a Dental Hygiene Therapist from The University of Sheffield. It’s taken 2 and a half years. But I can assure you it’s the best thing I have ever done. As a mature single student at nearly 30 years old and with a mortgage to pay, it’s been very hard but that shining light at the end of the tunnel is worth every single minute. DO IT!! YOU WILL NEVER LOOK BACK!

  6. Dental Nurse says:


    Thank you so much for your comment. Hopefully you have encouraged lots of people to really consider a career as a dental hygienist/therapist!

    I’m glad you are enjoying it, and good luck with your final exams!


  7. Kaz says:

    Hi, I have been a qualified DSA for 17 years, I have the Royal London Hospital qualification and the National one. Last year I qualified as an Oral Health Educator. My question is would this shorten the training time for hygiene or do I still have to do the full 2 years and would it heighten my chances of getting onto the course?
    Many thanks, Kaz.

  8. Dental Nurse says:

    Hi Kaz,

    Thank you for your comment.

    As far as Im aware your extra qualification in OHE, and the fact that you are doubly qualified will not have any effect on the amount of time you will spend training as a hygienist, you will most probably still have to do the full course…… may have an advantage over other students as you would already have that little bit more knowledge than most, but as I’ve already said, as far as I know, you will still have to do the whole course.

    On a positive note I do believe that your qualifications would increase your chances of actually being accepted onto a course, as it shows your enthusiasm and the fact that you have experience of dealing with patients on a one to one basis.

    Hope this information answers yor questions sufficiently.


  9. sheela says:

    i am very happy to get this information.

  10. Dental Nurse says:

    Hi Sheela, thank you for taking time to comment on this blog post. I am glad you have found it useful, please tell your friends about me.

  11. fatima says:

    Hi,I am an overseas qualified dentist from Bangladesh. I am preparing for the ORE exam,in the mean time I want to get involved in dental nursing, but, as far I am concerned ,their pay scale is low. I am hoping to do the oral hygiene course,so my question is, as I am already a dentist,do I have to do the whole 2 yrs course ?

  12. Tina says:

    Thank you for posting this, it has been a great help!

    Just a couple of things I was wondering if you could help me with. I am looking to join a dental practise and work towards a qualification in dental nursing but then I want to progress onwards and look to dental hygiene. How long do you think this would take me?

  13. Dental Nurse says:

    Hi Tina,

    There are lots of dental nurses who would like to become a dental hygienist, the important thing to remember is that although having a dental nursing qualification may help, you still need to have other qualifications to get on to a dental hygiene course…..usually A levels!

    Read up on becoming a dental hygienist in my post ‘Training to Become a Dental Hygienist‘ in the ‘Dental Courses’ section of my website. You should also be aware that places on hygiene courses are quite limited and it can be tough to get in.

    The time it would take you you achieve your goal largely depends on you and the qualifications you already have. The qualifications you may need to gain before even applying for the course could take 3 years!

    If you are serious about becoming a dental hygienist, research hygiene training courses, decide where you’d like to do your training, contact the university, find out what you need to do and make yourself a plan!

    Hope I’ve given you the information you wanted.


  14. Dental Nurse says:

    Hello Fatima, thanks for your comment.

    Im afraid foreign dental students are not a subject that I am particularly knowledgable about. I would think that you would need to complete a U.K. dental hygiene course in order to work as one in the U.K. I have worked with Indian people who are qualified dentists in their country but until they gain their U.K accepted qualification have worked as dental nurses over here – therefore I suspect that in order to work in the dental profession here until you pass your ORE exam that dental nursing may be one of your only options. I can only advise you to contact the British Dental Association (BDA) or the General Dental Council (GDC) to see what our laws are reagrding your wish to work as a dental hygienist in the U.K.

    Sorry I cant be more helpful.


  15. Juanita Martinez says:

    Hi Katy:
    I’m a Mum whose children are starting to be “ok” without me. I’m from Colombia and I don’t have any sort qualifications in the UK but I’m very interested in becoming a dental hygienist.

    I’m an UK citizen and I have being in Scotland for 8 years, but the time to do something for me is arriving… Any advice on how to start the process? Can I start doing/studying something now, until applying for the place next year?
    I look forward to your answer.

  16. fatima says:

    Hi Katy, thank you for replying to me. Recently I have contact to some of dental agency such as, dental gateway, they said me that, i can work as temporary nurse until get GDC registration, but they didn’t tell me the full way. After that have called GDC about this condition and said positively. But few other organization like temp dent ,they explain me that I need to complete NEBDN certificate to get GDC number as a nurse and also have to work as trainee nurse for 1 year. Moreover, their fees are also high as I am an overseas student. In this circumstances I’m quite confused what should I do. However, to be qualified in this country it will take for me at least 3 -4 years’ would like to know about NEBDN course that is in south of Manchester and how much it will cost. In addition to, if I can work as temporary dental nurse what are the regulations and do they provide any training to work as dental nurse here.

    Regards, Fatima.

  17. tasha says:

    Hi, i got an interview call for dental nurse. I want to know if i pass the dental nurse course can i continously apply for the dental oral and hygienic course. I have gcse’s but dont have enough A levels for applying for a degree course. Can u help me pls.

  18. Dental Nurse says:

    Hi Tasha, Thanks for getting in touch.

    The simple answer to your question is no, having a dental nursing qualification doesn’t mean that you would be successful if you apply to become a dental hygienist. There are several ways – depending on where you choose to train – of meeting entry requirements to be able to train as a dental hygienist, but in order to find out which route is best for you I would advise you to contact the dental hospital/training institute that you are interested in attending and ask them for the entry requirements you need. I hope this has been helpful.

  19. Dental Nurse says:

    Hello Juanita,
    Thank you for getting in touch.

    The best advice I can give is for you to do some research into becoming a dental hygienist in the U.K. There are a number of training institutes/dental hospitals who provide training for dental hygienists a list of which can be found in the ‘Dental Courses’ section of my website. Each individual training facility has its own set of entry requirements, most ask for potential students to have a number of G.C.S.E’s and two ‘A’ levels, at least one of which needs to be in a science based subject.

    If you are serious about becoming a hygienist and are prepared for several years of study, look into which institutes would be best suited to you and look at their website or contact them to find out what qualifications you need to even be considered as a dental hygiene student. I hope I have given the information you need.


  20. Dental Nurse says:

    Hi Fatima,

    The dental profession in the U.K is highly regulated, and more often than not people think getting into the profession is simpler than it actually is!

    The GDC is THE governing body for the whole of the dental profession, therefore if you have contacted them about your circumstances and what you would like to do career –wise; I would trust what they say, rather than what a dental nursing agency says!

    As far as I’m aware you can only work as a dental nurse in the U.K if you are working towards or have a dental nursing qualification. Once you are qualified, you HAVE to register with the GDC and pay an annual registration fee (which is currently £120.00 per year) and then you are given a registration number.

    I don’t know where specific dental nursing courses are held all over the U.K, the best people to ask are the NEBDN, contact them, and they should be able to advise you on specific courses and costs involved.


  21. jessy says:

    Hi Katy,
    Thank you for actually taking time out and sharing all this information with us!

    I have been nursing for over six years, and am very keen to apply to become a hygienist, but unfortunately I don’t have a GCSE or A level in science , do you reckon that I would need to do these before I actually apply to university or can I apply to the university based on a mature student application? I have completed a fluoride and radiography course with NEBDN. Many thanks..

  22. Lauren says:

    Hi, I am a fully qualified dental nurse (NVQ). I really want to do dental hygiene/therapy at uni, I have no A levels but do have 8 GCSE’s at grade C, 2 at grade B and one grade D. The grade D is science. I really really want to become a dental hygienist as I love being in the dental profession. What are my chances of achieving this and if so what can I do (courses etc) to help me progress into the career I want?

  23. Nick says:

    Hi Katy,

    I have studied and worked in IT for the last 10 years, but am now considering a career change into a clinical role, as I am genuinely interested in helping others.
    I am educated to postgraduate level in software engineering, but have no A-levels or any other clinical qualifications/background, so I’m guessing I would still need to do some pre-study before I would be accepted on a diploma in dental hygiene, or any clinical course.

    I was wondering if you could offer any advice for someone in my position?

    Thanks, Nick

  24. Dental Nurse says:

    Hello Jessy,
    Thanks for getting in touch. I would advise you to contact whichever training institute you are most interested in attending. As you have two extra qualifications in dentistry you may be able to meet entry requirements with either a GCSE in Science or with an Access course qualification for example. So, it’s well worth you getting in touch with the right people who can give you a definite answer to your question!!!

    As far as being a mature student is concerned, I’m afraid nearly every hygienist I know has started their training in their mid twenties or early thirties, so competition for a place on a course even as a mature student would probably be quite tough, however, you could enquire about that at the same time as asking whether your qualifications are sufficient or not!
    Good luck!

  25. Dental Nurse says:

    Hi Lauren,
    Of course you can achieve your goal of becoming a dental hygienist if you are really committed to it! However, you may have to complete a number of courses and gain a number of qualifications in order to meet the right entry requirements to be considered as a dental hygiene student.

    Have a look at two of my blog posts ‘Training to become a Dental Hygienist’ in the Dental Courses section of my website and ‘Being a Dental Hygienist’ in the Dental Jobs section of my website, there is a lot of good information for you to find out what qualifications you will need to get onto a dental hygiene course and there is also a list of training institutes which you could look at in more detail if you wish.
    I hope I’ve been of some help to you.

  26. Dental Nurse says:

    Hi Nick.
    I think you’re right; you are likely to need to do some pre-study before you are likely to be accepted onto a dental hygiene or other clinical course. I think the fact that you have a post graduate qualification and the fact that it is in IT is likely to work in your favour, it shows that you are intelligent, hard working, and experienced in effectively studying a particular subject. Of course having a good knowledge of computers is particularly useful in dentistry as most practices are now computerised.

    I would advise you to have a good look at the ‘Dental Jobs’ and ‘Dental Courses’ section of my website to help you to gain a better understanding of a number of clinical roles within the dental profession, and to hopefully help you to decide on a particular career choice! Once you have decided which clinical role most interests you, you can look at the list of training institutes in the U.K. and then do some further research into preferred entry requirements, length of time it takes to complete a course etc by looking at the institutes own websites.

    I would also advise, once a decision has been made by yourself, that gaining some experience in a clinical environment would be a big help to you when it finally comes to applying for the course of your choice, obviously knowledge and experience are two very different things. I hope that this advice is useful and that you become successful and happy in your chosen career.

  27. Sharmila says:

    Hi Katy,
    I am an overseas qualified dentist yet to clear the ORE . At present I am planning to work as a dental nurse and looking out for courses. After I get my GDC registration as a dental nurse,can I join a dental hygienist course? Are there any other options available for people like me

  28. Dental Nurse says:

    Hi Sharmila,
    If you have a look at my blog posts about training as a dental hygienist you’ll see that there are a number of entry requirements for getting on to a dental hygiene course and that places are extremely limited with a great deal of competition for the spaces available.

    I’m not sure whether equivalent qualifications from your own country would or wouldn’t be acceptable to apply for a place on the dental hygiene course.

    The best advice I can give is for you to contact the training establishment that you are most interested in attending to do the course and see what they suggest.

  29. Nina says:

    I’m currently in year 11 doing my gcse’s and I have a massive interest in becoming a dental hygienist, but I’m not sure what I have to do after leaving school. What to do you recommend? Many people say I need A level Biology, and some say you can take health and social care, others say I can go on an apprenticeship, which I dont think will be right for me because I think I’m too young and I will find it hard to fit in. I’m currently studing: 1 GCSE SCIENCE, and 2 BETEC SCIENCE.

    Do you think I should do a particular science subject as I might need science or is it alright if I do level 3 diploma health and social care, for me personally, I want to do health and social care mainly because I have the choice to do betec and no exams whereas if I do A level biology I have to sit exams?
    I need your advice, and would appriciate your time, and actually reply, thanks.

  30. Dental Nurse says:

    Hi Nina,
    I suggest you read my blog posts about training to become and working as, a dental hygienist. These posts will tell you all that you need to know about what to do after leaving school in order to increase your chances of being accepted on a dental hygiene training course.
    I hope they help.

  31. Beck says:

    Hi, I am currently working as a dental nurse I’m 36 years old and thinking of doing a dental hygienist course, but the problem I have is I haven’t got good GCSE and A’levels. I have been told I can take access course as equivalent would you be able to tell me which access course I need to take please?

    And also do you think i’m too old for this course?
    Thanks for your help.

  32. Dental Nurse says:

    Hi Beck,
    Firstly, no I don’t think you’re too old for this course!!!
    There are some dental hygiene training institutes that will accept an Access qualification rather than G.C.S.E’s and A levels, however they are few and far between. They seem to be getting more and more strict about the qualifications needed to gain entry to these courses, perhaps because places are so limited and they are very popular???
    The best thing for you to do is to contact the training institutes you are most interested in attending and speak to them about what qualifications you need, many will only accept A levels and G.C.S.E.’s, so it’s best you find out for sure where an Access qualification is accepted.
    Sorry I can’t be more helpful.

  33. Julia says:

    Hi Katy,
    3 years ago I applied for dental hygiene courses but I was unsuccessful as although I had good GCSE’s and A levels grade C in English and graphics, I only achieved an E in Biology, plus all the places seemed to just be accepting dental nurses. However since then I have got a BSc Hons Degree in Dental Technology, where I studied anatomy, pathology etc. Do you think I stand a chance if I applied to do the hygiene course again? I was thinking of working as a dental technician during the week, then finding a dental clinic that would let me shadow at the weekend.

  34. Dental Nurse says:

    Hi Julia,
    Thanks for your comment!

    Your CV would certainly show an interest in the dental profession and that you are quite intelligent, however, it would be best for you to gain some real experience in a dental laboratory before you choose to apply for dental hygiene course. I think its quite important to actually do something with the qualification you have gained, otherwise people may expect you to gain your hygienist qualification and then decide not to work in that field….as you have done so far with your dental technology qualification. I would also advise you to gain some experience which actually involves communicating with and dealing with patients.

    If you are prepared to do as you suggested and work in a dental lab during the week and shadow a hygienist (or even work as a trainee dental nurse) at the weekend for at least a year and then try applying for the hygienist course I think your chances of being accepted on the course would increase dramatically.

    I hope my advice helps.

  35. masego says:

    I am a dental therapist, and I trained and am working in Botswana. Can I practise as a dental nurse in uk.?

  36. Dental Nurse says:

    you can work as a dental nurse in the U,K, if you are working towards a recognised U.K dental nursing qualification! The dental profession in the U.K is highly regulated!

  37. Suzy says:

    Hi thanks for this great informative article. I am interested in training as a dental hygienist. However I am in my early forties and had a few years off work with ME/CFS from which I am now recovering.

    I have a degree and a teaching certificate as well as the full financial planning certificate as I used to work in finance. I’m interested in dental work as my own health problems turned out to be very much related to tooth problems and infections that I’d had for years and didn’t know about as well as problems with an early jaw fracture that led to severe TMJ and other issues.

    I’ve been wanting to train for a new career for some time and wanted to work in a field where you work with people as my previous teaching and financial services careers were working with people. Then due to my own experience with bad dental heatlh I became very interested in dental care and nutriition etc. Do you think my age and health issues would rule out a place on a course for me?

  38. Dental Nurse says:

    Hi Suzy, Thanks for getting in touch!
    Firstly I can’t see that your age would be an issue (aren’t we all going to be working into our 70’s now?). As for your ME/CFS I honestly don’t know if that would be an issue or not.

    You should make enquires with various hygienist training schools and see what they say. You certainly have experience at dealing with the public, of being involved with the dental profession, and have qualifications to show that you know how to study effectively, so you have a lot of positives in your favour.
    You have nothing to lose by making enquiries!

    I hope I’ve helped.

  39. Dental Nurse says:

    Hi Julie,
    Thanks for your comment.

    My initial response is ‘Good question!’

    I don’t honestly know if you have to be a qualified dental nurse or working towards a dental nursing qualification to do this job. I know you have to be immunised against hep B, but can’t personally see the need for somebody to be qualified as a dental nurse to do the job. I believe a qualification relevant to the CSSD job should be gained, but don’t think there is one in place.

    HTM01-05 is still a bit of a grey area in dentistry as it’s not the most informative publication and a lot of the information in it has no evidence to support the recommendations given, so many dentists and practices are still quite sceptical about the whole thing.

    I’m sorry I can’t give you a definite answer, but hopefully in time the specifics of HTM01-05 will be made clearer for everybody!

  40. Gee says:

    Hi Katy,

    I am new to your website and I have found the comments very interesting. I am looking to go on to study Dental Hygiene/Therapy like most of the others that have commented.

    I am a Dental Nurse, I’ve also completed my Dental Radiography and almost completed my Oral Health Promotion, I have GCSE’s but I do not have A levels in scientific subjects nor do I have GCSE in a science subject.

    Do you think I have a good chance of getting on to the course? I have been nursing for nearly 3 years now and Dental Hygiene is the way forward.

    Please let me know what you think, I look forward to hearing your comments.

    Thank you!

  41. Kez says:

    Hi, at 21 I have just got my diploma in dental nursing. I am keen to study dental hygeine and therapy, I have good a level and gcse grades none of which are sciences(I do have a C grade in gcse science but I don’t think this is what they want?) would love to be accepted somewhere around London or the south east, do I have a chance without biology grades? And am I looking at around £10000 for the course price which is what I have read per year?!

  42. Dental Nurse says:


    Thanks for your comment!

    The fact that you (hopefully) will soon have two post qualification qualifications could work in your favour, but it is important to remember that each course for dental hygiene has different entry requirements so it would be advisable for you to contact the places that you are most interested in studying at and ask them for details about their entry requirements, some places are strict about having A levels while some others aren’t. The more experience you have, the better, there will be hundreds of people applying each year for a few spaces that will be available, so do what you can to improve your CV some more and give it a go!


  43. Dental Nurse says:

    Hi Kez,

    Thanks for your comment.

    If I were you I would look at the dental schools that you are most interested in attending’s websites or contact them directly for details about their entry requirements and course costs, each place is different so do some research and hopefully you will find somewhere that suits your requirements. There is a list of places that provide dental hygiene training on the ‘Dental Courses’ area of my website, have a look and see where you would like to study, then get researching!


  44. gina says:

    Hi! I would like to enquire if it is possible for me to study as a dental nurse in UK even though I am not a UK resident. I live in the Philippines. I wanted to study in the UK and I am contemplating working in this field.

    My siblings lives in London. What is the nearest school in the South are of London that offers Dental Nursing course?

    It would be a great help if you could reply. Thanks so much.



  45. Dental Nurse says:

    Hi Gina,
    I’m afraid my knowledge as far as non UK dental students goes, is rather limited so I cannot give you a specific answer.

    I can, however, advise you to try contacting the General Dental Council (GDC), the British Dental Association (BDA) and the National Examining Board for Dental Nurses (NEBDN), I am sure that between them, they will be able to answer all of your questions!

  46. Lee says:

    Hi Katy,

    I have the first 2 years of a nursing degree and have spent my career so far working as a care coordinator with the elderly in residential care. I am trained with medication and first aid etc… I don’t have a levels but instead I did an access course. Would this be acceptable instead of the a levels?

    Also I wanted to ask if the dental hygiene courses can be done part time over a longer period or if they are all full time?

    Many thanks

  47. Dental Nurse says:

    Hi Lee,
    I think that all hygiene courses in the u.k. are full time….but there may be exceptions I don’t know about! Each hygiene training centre has it’s own rules as far as what qualifications they will accept, they each list the ideal entry requirement qualifications on their websites but again, I think they occasionally make exceptions. Your best bet is to contact the places that you are interested in studying directly, so that you can have definite answers to your questions. There is list of training providers in the ‘dental courses’ section of my website if you’d like to think about where you’d like to study.

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