Education & Careers

Licensure

When you become a licensed dental hygienist you join the ranks of other licensed health care professionals such as nurses, physical therapists, dentists, physicians and dieticians. Licensure is the strongest form of regulation used today. In accordance with state law, licensed individuals are the only persons who meet the minimum qualifications necessary to practice their profession.

Foreign-trained professionals must obtain a license to practice in the U.S. To obtain your license you must be a graduate of an accredited U.S. dental hygiene program, take the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination and pass a state or regional clinical licensure exam.

The purpose

Licensure is a means of protecting the public from unqualified individuals and unsafe practice. In fact, in addition to initial graduation and testing, states require dental hygienists to complete continuing education courses to renew their license.

The process

Licensure is granted by each individual state. Dental hygienists practice in accordance with requirements of individual state dental practice acts.

In virtually every state, several steps are required before a license can be granted:

  • Graduation from an accredited dental hygiene program
  • Successful completion of the written National Board Dental Hygiene Examination
  • Successful completion of a regional or state clinical board examination

Once these steps have been completed, an applicant for licensure must then contact the state licensing authority in the state where he/she wishes to practice. As licensing requirements vary from state to state, it is necessary to contact each licensing authority in a given state for its specific application requirements and procedures.

What else you’ll need

  • Successful completion of a jurisprudence exam
  • Proof of CPR certification
  • Letters of recommendation from dentists licensed in the state in which you wish to obtain licensure
  • Official transcripts from high school and colleges attended
  • Official letters from the boards of dentistry where licensure is held

Typically state boards have the authority to deny a license to an applicant who has committed an act for which the board could revoke a license. Persons convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanor may be refused licensure, as well as those disciplined on the license application about prior convictions, discipline, etc. Most states conduct background checks on a case-by-case basis and may take into consideration the seriousness of the offense and other factors in making the decision to grant or withhold licensure.