How to Become a Dental Hygienist

How to Become a Dental Hygienist

If you have a passion for oral health and enjoy working with patients, a career as a dental hygienist may be ideal for you. Dental hygienists are responsible for providing full oral care to patients, including cleaning teeth, taking radiographs, and developing treatment plans. They work closely with dentists and orthodontists to help patients maintain optimal oral health.

To become a dental hygienist, you’ll need to complete a two-year associate degree program in dental hygiene. Some colleges and universities also offer bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in dental hygiene, which can provide additional opportunities for career development.



During your education, you’ll take courses in subjects such as anatomy, physiology, radiology, and oral pathology. You’ll also learn how to perform dental procedures, including cleaning teeth and applying fluoride treatments. In addition to classroom instruction, you’ll gain hands-on experience through clinical projects and internships in dental clinics.

After graduating from an accredited dental hygiene program, you’ll need to pass a licensure examination. The specific requirements for licensure vary by state, so it’s important to check with your state dental board for the most up-to-date information. In addition to the licensure examination, some states also require dental hygienists to obtain a Dental Hygiene National Board (DENTPIN) and complete continuing education courses to maintain their licensure.

As a dental hygienist, you can work in a variety of settings, including dental offices, clinics, and even orthodontic practices. Some dental hygienists also choose to specialize in certain types of treatment, such as orthodontics or Invisalign. This can provide additional opportunities for career advancement and higher earning potential.

If you’re interested in becoming a dental hygienist, it’s important to start planning early. Research different dental hygiene programs and their admission requirements, and reach out to program coordinators for more information. Consider factors such as location, cost, and program length to find the program that’s right for you. With the right education and licensure, you can make a meaningful difference in patients’ lives and enjoy a rewarding career in dental hygiene.



Requirements for Becoming a Dental Hygienist

Before pursuing a career in dental hygiene, it is important to understand the requirements and qualifications needed to become a dental hygienist. This guide will provide you with a comprehensive view of what it takes to enter this rewarding profession.

Education and Training

To become a dental hygienist, you will need to complete a dental hygiene program from an accredited institution. Most dental hygiene programs are two-year associate degree programs, although some may offer four-year bachelor’s degree programs. These programs provide students with the necessary knowledge and skills to perform dental hygiene procedures.

Licensure and Certification

After completing your dental hygiene program, you will need to obtain a license to practice as a dental hygienist. Licensure requirements vary by state, but most states require candidates to pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE) and a state or regional clinical examination.



The NBDHE is a comprehensive written exam that assesses your knowledge and understanding of dental hygiene concepts. The clinical examination evaluates your clinical skills and ability to perform dental hygiene procedures. Some states may also require candidates to pass an additional jurisprudence exam, which tests your knowledge of dental laws and regulations.

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Once you have obtained your license, you may choose to become certified in additional areas of dental hygiene, such as orthodontic assisting or administering local anesthesia. These certifications can enhance your skills and make you more marketable in the dental industry.

Continuing Education

As a dental hygienist, it is important to stay up-to-date with the latest advancements in dental hygiene. Many states require dental hygienists to complete continuing education courses to maintain their licensure. These courses cover topics such as infection control, radiography, and new dental technologies.

Continuing education not only helps you maintain your licensure, but it also allows you to expand your knowledge and skills in the field. By staying current with the latest dental hygiene practices, you can provide the best possible care to your patients.

Becoming a dental hygienist requires a combination of education, training, and licensure. By completing a dental hygiene program, passing the necessary exams, and staying current with continuing education, you can pursue a successful career in dental hygiene. The responsibilities of a dental hygienist are varied and important, and the work-life balance in this profession is often desirable. If you are passionate about oral health and enjoy working with patients, dental hygiene may be the right career path for you.

Steps to Pursue a Career in Dental Hygiene

If you are interested in becoming a dental hygienist, there are several steps you need to take to pursue this rewarding career. Here is a detailed guide on how to become a dental hygienist:

  1. Earn a high school diploma or GED: To begin your journey towards becoming a dental hygienist, you must first complete your high school education or obtain a General Education Development (GED) certificate.
  2. Research dental hygiene programs: Look for accredited dental hygiene programs in your area or in locations where you are willing to relocate. Consider factors such as program length, cost, and whether the program provides the necessary skills and knowledge for your career goals.
  3. Complete a dental hygiene program: Enroll in a dental hygiene program and successfully complete the required coursework and clinical training. These programs typically take two to three years to complete and result in an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene.
  4. Obtain licensure: After graduating from a dental hygiene program, you must become licensed to practice as a dental hygienist. The specific requirements for licensure vary by state, so it is important to research the licensing requirements in the state where you plan to practice. In general, licensure requires passing written and clinical examinations.
  5. Consider further education: While not always required, obtaining a master’s degree in dental hygiene can open up additional career opportunities and allow you to specialize in areas such as education, research, or public health.
  6. Stay updated on industry trends: As a dental hygienist, it is important to stay current with the latest advancements in dental technology and treatment methods. Attend continuing education courses, conferences, and workshops to enhance your skills and knowledge.
  7. Seek employment: Once you are licensed and have completed your education, you can start looking for employment as a dental hygienist. Dental hygienists can work in a variety of settings, including dental offices, clinics, hospitals, and educational institutions.
  8. Advance your career: As you gain experience and expertise in the field, you may have opportunities to advance your career. Some dental hygienists choose to specialize in areas such as orthodontics or periodontics, while others may become dental hygiene educators or practice managers.

By following these steps, you can begin your journey towards a rewarding career as a dental hygienist. Remember to stay committed to lifelong learning and professional development to ensure you provide the best possible care for your patients and stay up to date with the ever-changing field of dental hygiene.

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Education and Training for Dental Hygienists

Becoming a dental hygienist requires a significant amount of education and training. This profession provides individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to perform various dental procedures and assist dentists in providing oral healthcare to patients.

To begin a career in dental hygiene, individuals must first earn a degree from an accredited dental hygiene program. These programs are typically offered at universities, community colleges, or technical schools. The length of these programs can vary, with some taking as little as two years to complete and others requiring up to four years of study.

During their education, dental hygiene students will learn about various topics such as dental anatomy, radiography, periodontology, oral pathology, and dental hygiene theory and practice. They will also gain hands-on experience through clinical rotations, where they will work with patients under the supervision of a licensed dental hygienist or dentist.

After completing their education, aspiring dental hygienists must pass a licensing examination in order to practice. The specific requirements for licensing vary by state, so it is important for individuals to research the licensing requirements in the state where they plan to practice. The examination is typically administered by a state dental board or a regional testing agency.

In addition to licensing, dental hygienists may also choose to pursue certification in specialized areas of practice. For example, some dental hygienists may become certified in orthodontics or alternative methods such as Invisalign. Certification in these areas typically requires additional education and training.

Continuing education is also an important aspect of a dental hygienist’s career. Many states require dental hygienists to complete a certain number of continuing education credits in order to maintain their license. This ensures that dental hygienists stay up-to-date with the latest advancements in the field and continue to provide high-quality care to their patients.

In summary, becoming a dental hygienist requires a significant commitment to education and training. It takes dedication and hard work to complete the required degree programs and pass the licensing examination. However, for those who are passionate about oral healthcare and enjoy working with patients, a career in dental hygiene can be highly rewarding both personally and professionally.

Licensure and Certification for Dental Hygienists

Obtaining licensure and certification is a crucial step in becoming a dental hygienist. It ensures that you have met the necessary requirements and have the skills and knowledge needed to practice in this profession.

The first step in the licensure process is to graduate from an accredited dental hygiene program. These programs are typically offered by institutions such as community colleges, technical schools, or universities. During your education, you will learn about dental anatomy, radiography, oral health assessment, and patient care.

After completing your education, you will need to pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE). This exam is administered by the American Dental Association (ADA) and consists of two parts: a written exam and a clinical exam. The written exam assesses your knowledge of dental hygiene principles, while the clinical exam evaluates your ability to perform dental hygiene procedures on patients.

In addition to the NBDHE, some states require dental hygienists to pass a state or regional clinical board exam. This exam typically involves demonstrating your clinical skills and knowledge in a simulated patient setting.

Once you have successfully passed the required exams, you can apply for licensure in your state. The specific requirements for licensure vary by state, so it’s important to research the requirements in the state where you plan to practice.

Some states also require dental hygienists to obtain certification in specific areas of practice, such as local anesthesia or nitrous oxide administration. These certifications typically involve additional education and training beyond the basic dental hygiene program.

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Continuing education is also an important aspect of maintaining licensure and certification as a dental hygienist. Most states require dental hygienists to complete a certain number of continuing education credits every year or every few years to stay current in their field.

Overall, obtaining licensure and certification as a dental hygienist is a necessary step to begin your career in this profession. It demonstrates your commitment to providing quality oral healthcare and ensures that you have the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed in this field.

Financial Support for Aspiring Dental Hygienists

When it comes to pursuing a career in dental hygiene, there are various financial support options available to help aspiring dental hygienists achieve their goals. Whether it’s through scholarships, grants, loans, or work-study programs, financial assistance can make the journey to becoming a licensed dental hygienist more accessible and affordable.

Many colleges and universities offer scholarships specifically for students pursuing a career in dentistry or dental hygiene. These scholarships can provide financial support to cover tuition fees, books, and other educational expenses. It’s important for aspiring dental hygienists to research and apply for these scholarships to maximize their chances of receiving financial aid.

In addition to scholarships, grants are another form of financial support that can help aspiring dental hygienists cover their educational expenses. Grants are typically awarded based on financial need and do not need to be repaid. Students can explore federal, state, and private grant options to find the ones that best suit their needs.

Loans are another option for financial support. Many students rely on student loans to finance their education. It’s important for aspiring dental hygienists to carefully consider their loan options and understand the terms and conditions before taking on any debt. They should also explore loan forgiveness programs that may be available for dental hygienists who work in underserved areas or for certain periods of time.

Work-study programs can provide an opportunity for aspiring dental hygienists to earn money while gaining valuable experience in the field. These programs allow students to work part-time in dental offices, clinics, or other healthcare settings, assisting licensed dental hygienists or other dental professionals. This not only provides financial support but also allows students to develop their skills and expertise in a real-world setting.

Financial support is crucial for aspiring dental hygienists, as the education and licensing process can be expensive. However, it’s important to note that the financial support options available may vary depending on the location and the specific college or university. Therefore, it’s essential for individuals to research and reach out to the colleges or universities they are interested in to learn more about the financial support options available to them.

FAQ

What is a dental hygienist?

A dental hygienist is a licensed oral healthcare professional who works alongside dentists to provide preventive dental care to patients. They perform tasks such as cleaning teeth, taking X-rays, and educating patients on oral hygiene practices.

What education is required to become a dental hygienist?

To become a dental hygienist, you typically need to complete an associate’s degree in dental hygiene from an accredited program. Some programs may also offer bachelor’s or master’s degrees in dental hygiene.

How long does it take to become a dental hygienist?

The length of time it takes to become a dental hygienist can vary depending on the program and the level of degree you pursue. Generally, it takes about 2-4 years to complete the necessary education and obtain a license.

What are the licensure requirements for dental hygienists?

Licensure requirements for dental hygienists vary by state, but typically include completing an accredited dental hygiene program, passing a written and clinical examination, and obtaining CPR certification. Some states may also require a background check.

Can internationally trained dental hygienists practice in the United States?

Internationally trained dental hygienists can practice in the United States, but they must meet certain requirements. They may need to complete an educational program or pass an equivalency exam to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. Additionally, they must meet the licensure requirements of the state in which they wish to practice.

Dave Pennells

By Dave Pennells

Dave Pennells, MS, has contributed his expertise as a career consultant and training specialist across various fields for over 15 years. At City University of Seattle, he offers personal career counseling and conducts workshops focused on practical job search techniques, resume creation, and interview skills. With a Master of Science in Counseling, Pennells specializes in career consulting, conducting career assessments, guiding career transitions, and providing outplacement services. Her professional experience spans multiple sectors, including banking, retail, airlines, non-profit organizations, and the aerospace industry. Additionally, since 2001, he has been actively involved with the Career Development Association of Australia.