You are here because you have a passion for oral health and are considering a career as a dental hygienist. As a member of the dental hygiene community, you will secure your place as a critical part of the oral and overall healthcare team.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), increasing awareness of the links between oral health and overall health has only increased the demand for preventive dental care – and the importance of the profession of dental hygiene. The BLS projects 11% growth in the employment of dental hygienists from 2020-2030, with about 15,600 new jobs added during this time.

View Professional Roles of an RDH

What Does It Take To Become A Registered Dental Hygienist?

Dental hygiene is a profession that requires a license to practice as a Registered Dental Hygienist (RDH). Licensure is a means of protecting the health of the public and ensuring critical standards of practice. Licensure is granted by each individual state, and dental hygienists practice in accordance with requirements set by the practice acts of each state.

While the process may differ slightly depending on where you live, virtually every state follows a similar set of steps that lead to licensure.

  • Graduate from an accredited dental hygiene program
  • Successfully complete the written National Board Dental Hygiene Examination
  • Successfully complete a regional or state clinical board examination

Since licensing requirements vary by state, it is necessary to contact each licensing authority in a given state for its specific application requirements and procedures. View requirements by state here.

Are You an Internationally Trained Dental Hygienist?

A license is required to practice as a dental hygienist in the United States. Every U.S. state issues a license to practice in that state and requirements vary by state. Follow the link below for more information about practicing dental hygiene in the United States, including Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

FAQs for Internationally-trained Dental Hygienists

Finding The Right Dental Hygiene Program For You

Find an Accredited Dental Hygiene Program

In addition to understanding the admission requirements, program costs and time commitment, you might want to ask some questions to help you select the dental hygiene program that’s the best fit for you.

  • Is your program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA)?
  • Is there a waiting list to get into the program?
  • Does your DH program offer a part-time program of study?
  • How long does it take the average student in your program to acquire a degree in dental hygiene?
  • What makes your dental hygiene program unique?
  • Tell me about your faculty.
  • What were your attrition rates in the last several years?
  • In the last several years, what percentage of your graduates passed the national board exam on the first attempt?
  • In the last several years, what percentage of your graduates passed the clinical licensing exam on the first try?
  • In the last several years, what percentage of your students found full-time employment as a clinical hygienist within several months of graduation?
  • What resources are available to assist me in being successful?
  • Do you have any graduates of note working in the field?

What Does Accreditation Mean And Why Does It Matter?

The Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) is the national programmatic accrediting agency for dental and dental-related education programs at the post-secondary level. Accreditation is the ultimate source of consumer protection for prospective students. It is often a prerequisite for governmental funding.

Graduation from an accredited program is almost always stipulated by state law and is an eligibility requirement for licensure and/or certification examinations. In short, accreditation of a school or program is a student’s most important source of independent validation that the program has at least enough educational value to be “approved” by a credible (expertise-based), independent (free of outside influence), reliable (consistently applied standards) organization that has the U.S. Department of Education’s approval.