How to Become a Dental Hygienist
Dental hygienists remove tartar and plaque from teeth.
Dental hygienists typically need an associate’s degree in dental hygiene. Programs typically take 3 years to complete. All states require dental hygienists to be licensed; requirements vary by state.
Education for Dental hygienists
Dental hygienists typically need an associate’s degree in dental hygiene. Bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in dental hygiene also are available but are less common. A bachelor’s or master’s degree usually is required for research, teaching, or clinical practice in public or school health programs.
Dental hygiene programs are commonly found in community colleges, technical schools, and universities. In 2018, the Commission on Dental Accreditation, part of the American Dental Association, accredited more than 300 dental hygiene programs.
Programs typically take 3 years to complete and offer laboratory, clinical, and classroom instruction. Areas of study include physiology, nutrition, radiography, pathology, medical ethics, anatomy, patient management, and periodontics, which is the study of gum disease.
High school students interested in becoming dental hygienists should take courses in biology, chemistry, and math. Most dental hygiene programs also require applicants to complete prerequisites, which often include college-level courses. Specific requirements vary by school.
Examination and Licensure for Dental Hygienists
In addition to achieving an associate’s degree in dental hygiene from an accredited institution, individuals interested in becoming dental hygienists must successfully pass a state-authorized licensure examination, as well as the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination. Generally, the national examination assesses a candidate’s knowledge of the practice of dental assisting, while state or regional examinations are typically designed to assess a hygienist’s clinical skills.
Other typical requirements for state licensure as a dental hygienist include the successful completion of a state jurisprudence examination and CPR certification.
A state license is required to legally practice dental hygiene in the U.S. Dental hygienists who achieve state licensure are permitted to use the acronym RDH to identify themselves as Registered Dental Hygienists.
Dental hygienists discuss diet and other topics that affect a patient’s dental health.
Dental hygienists held about 207,900 jobs in 2018.