This paper reports the development of an international dental hygiene educational programme between Japan and Canada, and the evaluation of its outcomes. In 2004, a unique collaborative programme with Canadian dental hygiene schools was introduced as part of a 3-year dental hygiene curriculum. This international programme mainly consists of three parts: a spring (full Japanese faculty and student exchange to Canada), fall (select Japanese faculty and student exchange to Canada for focused professional development) and summer (select Canadian student exchange to Japan) component. The spring component provides an opportunity for all Japanese students to visit the Canadian dental hygiene schools at the end of their second year. Students and faculty members share information about their programmes and culture through instructional presentations, chair-side hands-on clinical simulations, and table clinic presentations. For the fall component, selected Japanese students and faculty re-visit the Canadian school for more extensive learning and exchange with Canadian students. Workshops are held for faculty on educational and research topics. For the summer component, selected second year Canadian students visit Japan. The Japanese students' basic knowledge of Canada and Canadian dental hygiene showed statistically significant improvement (P < 0.001) as assessed by pre- and post-tests. Other programme evaluations including faculty and students' surveys have so far identified positive outcomes in learning and research. The programme has offered opportunities for faculty professional development and joint research projects. In conclusion, the findings reported here demonstrate that incorporation of the international collaborative programme can be a significant addition to dental hygiene education.