If you’ve landed on this page you likely already have a passion or oral health and you are considering a career as a dental hygienist. Dental hygienists are 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 preventative 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 that time.
What Does it Take to Become a Registered Dental Hygienist (RDH)?
Dental hygiene is a profession that requires a license to practice. 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
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.
Are You A Foreign-trained Dental Hygienist?
Learn more about practicing in the United States here
Finding the Right Dental Hygiene Program for You
In addition to understanding the admission requirements, program costs and time commitment, there are some questions you might want to ask to help you determine the dental hygiene program that best fits your needs. Here are a few questions to get the conversation started:
- 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.