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.


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

Dental Hygienist Schools

Refine School Matches
Hide filters


    See More



    Please enter valid US or Canada Zip.
            Results open in new window

            Searching Searching ...

            Matching School Ads
            4 Program(s) Found
            • Provides a 24/7 myCampusLink system that lets students access their records, e-mail, communicate with faculty, and more.
            • Designated a 2014 Military Friendly School by Victory Media.
            • Educates with the mission to serve the needs of the local community and graduates by matching opportunities to skills.
            • Offers career education in nursing, dental, business, information technology, and more. 
            • Has 44 campus locations across 15 states, with online options as well.
            Show more [+]
            • Financial Aid
            1 Program(s) Found
            Get allied health training with Ross Medical Education Center. We offer programs in dental assisting, medical assisting, medical insurance billing and office administration, and pharmacy tech.
            • Financial Aid
            1 Program(s) Found
            • Dallas campus named 2013 School of the Year by the National Association for Health Professionals (NAHP).
            • Tuition covers course-required materials for campus students, including books, lab equipment, and class supplies.
            • Offers flat tuition rate to continuously enrolled students who are on track toward program completion.
            • Campus accreditation by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
            • 18 campuses across the United States, with online options as well.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            1 Program(s) Found
            Beckfield College , Cincinnati

            • Founded in 1984 by Dr. Harry L. Beck.
            • Offers programs with various degree levels in allied health, business & technology, criminal justice, paralegal studies, and nursing.
            • Career services help students and graduates with job search assistance, resume development, interview coaching, personalized career planning, and more.
            • 2 campuses located in Tri-County Cincinnati, Ohio and Florence, Kentucky, with online options as well.
            • Approved A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) since 2008.

            Show more [+]
            • Accredited
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            1 Program(s) Found
            Lincoln Tech , Brockton
            • Encompasses the Lincoln Tech, Lincoln Culinary Institute, and Lincoln College of New England brands.
            • Lincoln schools made more than $15 million available nationally through scholarships to qualified students in 2015.
            • Designated a Military Friendly School for the 6th year in a row by Victory Media; offers exclusive scholarship for servicemen and women and their families.
            • First Lincoln Tech campus opened in 1946; now 30 campuses in 15 states across the United States.
            • Campuses are accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), Accrediting Commission of Career Schools (ACCSC), Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES), and New England Association of Schools and Colleges – Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (NEASC)
            Show more [+]
            • Accredited
            • Financial Aid