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Dental Hygienist Certification and Licensure

Proper training is essential for dental hygienists who are often called upon to perform the vast majority of their patient's hands-on dental care. Common tasks for dental hygienists include performing basic dental procedures such as cleaning, applying sealants and fluoride, and taking dental x-rays. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov), these tasks may be performed with or without direct supervision by a licensed dentist. Most of the skills required by dental hygienists can be learned in an accredited dental hygiene school. However, some of the skills required for dental hygiene, such as compassion and interpersonal skills, can be learned nearly anywhere. In addition to learning the hands-on skills required for a career in dental hygiene and an appropriate bedside manner, all dental hygienists must also become licensed in order to practice in the profession. The following article details how licensure works and why it is essential for anyone pursuing this career.

Dental hygiene educational requirements

According to the American Dental Association, dental hygienists generally receive their associate or bachelor's degree in dental hygiene by attending dental hygiene programs offered by community colleges, universities or technical schools. A few schools may offer dental hygiene certification programs, but they generally require the same amount of study as associate degree programs. Upon completion of a dental hygiene program, students must then take the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination and apply for licensure in their state. Other requirements for licensure vary from state to state, but can include:

  • Graduation from an accredited dental hygiene program
  • Passing grade on the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination
  • Passing grade on any applicable regional or state clinical board examination
  • Proof of CPR certification
  • A recommendation letter from dentists in the state where you plan to work
  • High school and college transcripts
  • Official letters from board of dentistry

Benefits of dental hygiene licensure

Professional certification in the dental hygiene profession generally comes in the form of licensure. According to the BLS, all dental hygienists must gain licensure in their state in order to work in their chosen profession, though licensing requirements can vary greatly from state to state. Becoming licensed as a dental hygienist not only makes a career in dental hygiene possible, but it also protects the dental industry and dental patients by ensuring high standards and uniformity for all dental procedures and basic care.

Completion of all licensing requirements in your state means you are then allowed to use "R.D.H." after your name in order to show that you are a Registered Dental Hygienist. This designation should be displayed with pride since it shows that you have completed all licensing requirements and displayed your proficiency and knowledge of dental hygiene and patient care.

Sources:

Dental Hygienists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dental-hygienists.htm#tab-1

Dental Hygienist Education and Training Requirements, American Dental Association, 2014, http://www.ada.org/en/education-careers/careers-in-dentistry/dental-team-careers/dental-hygienist/education-training-requirements-dental-hygienist

Licensure, American Dental Hygiene Association, 2014, http://www.adha.org/licensure

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