FAQ for Foreign Trained Dental Hygienists

A license is required in order to practice as a dental hygienist in the United States (U.S.). To obtain a license, you must be a graduate of an accredited U.S. dental hygiene program, take and pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination and a state or regional clinical licensure exam. Specifically, an applicant must meet the following requirements:

  • Graduate from a dental hygiene education program accredited by the American Dental Association (ADA) Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).
  •  Successful completion of the written National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE) administered by the American Dental Association Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations (JCNDE).
  •  Successful completion of the Clinical State or Regional Board Examination.
  •  Upon completion of the above items, one must then apply for licensure in the state where he/she wishes to practice and successfully complete a state jurisprudence examination.

Dental hygienists and dentists who have not graduated from a CODA accredited program may not take the NBDHE without first submitting evidence to the JCNDE that the program attended is equivalent to an accredited program.

  • Canadian Programs
    By reciprocal agreement, programs that are accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation of Canada (CDAC) are recognized by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). However, individuals attending dental programs in one country and planning to practice in another country should carefully investigate the requirements of the licensing jurisdiction where they wish to practice. For additional information, please visit the Canadian Dental Association website at http://www.cda- adc.ca/cdacweb/en/.
  • International Dentists/Dental Hygienists
    All graduates of non-accredited dental programs not accredited by CODA or CDAC must have their official dental school transcripts evaluated by the Educational Credential Evaluators (www.ece.org), and must meet all other eligibility requirements to take the NBDHE. ECE does not evaluate dental hygiene. Please refer to the NBDHE Guide for specific information.

Should you decide to study dental hygiene in the United States, you should begin to think about the type of degree you wish to earn and the type of dental hygiene program to attend. A listing of all accredited dental hygiene programs in the United States can be found here .

Dental hygiene programs are typically 3-4 years in length and are located in Universities, Community Colleges and Technical schools. Graduates of accredited dental hygiene programs may be awarded a certificate, associate or baccalaureate degree.

Colleges and Universities that accept students from outside the United States require a Test of English as a Foreign Language or TOEFL test. TOEFL requirements will also vary from school to school.

All dental hygiene programs will require some type of prerequisites. Any courses taken outside of the U.S., such as those taken in your professional course of study; will probably need to be evaluated by a transcript service to ensure that they are compatible with courses offered here. The dental hygiene programs will then decide whether these previous courses may be accepted toward the degree offered at their school.

For specific information about applying for licensure in the state where one wishes to work, contact the appropriate licensing authority for information about application procedures and requirements. A listing of these state licensing authorities can be found in the Licensure section of our website.

For specific information about the regional or state clinical examinations contact the appropriate examining agency for information about eligibility requirements and the application process.

NBDHE is administered by the ADA. For additional information regarding the NBDHE, contact the Joint Commission on Dental Examinations.

TELEPHONE: (800) 232-1694
Email: [email protected]
Website: National Board Dental Hygiene Exam