Requirements to Become a Dental Hygienist


Dental hygienics is a burgeoning health care field, as jobs are expected to grow exponentially in the next decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While license requirements vary by state, if you plan on going into this field, you should expect to complete a training program and pass a series of exams to receive a license. As a dental hygienist, you will conduct routine inspections and cleanings, take X-rays, and remove sutures.

Education Requirements

  • Most dental hygienist candidates begin taking an interest in the field in high school. There they may take biology, chemistry and math classes. They will likely have to take a college entrance exam, as many dental hygienist programs require these scores.

Post-secondary Education

  • Some dental hygiene programs insist on students having completed at least one year of college coursework at a school accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA) before enrolling in the program. After you have met the admission requirements outlined by the dental hygiene program, you will receive lab, clinical and classroom instruction. Some programs offer an associate's, bachelor's or master's degree, or a certificate. Coursework likely will include anatomy, pathology and nutrition. After completing the program and receiving your degree or certificate, you will be eligible to take the license exam.

License Exam

  • Most states require candidates to complete a dental hygienist program and pass a two-part exam. The written section is administered by the American Dental Association's (ADA) Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations to students in all states except Alabama, which has a separate state-administered exam. Additionally, students must pass the clinical portion of the test; some states also require candidates to pass a jurisprudence exam to receive their licenses. The jurisprudence exam tests students' grasp of state laws and regulations that govern the practice of dental hygienics.

Practical Experience

  • On-the-job training is generally a requirement in hygienist programs, as students are encouraged to volunteer or turn to entry-level positions at dental offices to gain experience. You will likely shadow a licensed hygienist or work under the supervision of a dentist to gain experience while learning about the nuances of the job.

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