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Last Updated: April 24, 2022

Dental Hygienist Certification

Dental Hygiene is a career field that is growing exponentially especially due to the increasing demand for experts in the field. Unlike being a dentist, one will be easily able to get certified as a dental hygienist if they take an associate degree in the field and get certified. Though there is less career variety in the field, one will be able to receive high salaries and remain flexible with respect to their schedules if they opt for this profession.

The job role of a dental hygienist includes cleaning teeth and reducing the risk of cavities. Unlike dental assistants, they will be licensed to independently provide care to patients along with dentists. Since their job role involves performing dental work on patients, the certifications and licensing requirements for the same are high. Dental hygienists need to have a degree in the field and then they have to clear the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination. After this, they are required to get a state certification as well if they wish to practice in clinics.

Becoming a Dental Hygienist

Candidates who wish to regularly practice as dental hygienists are required to have a graduate degree from an accredited dental hygienist school. The training program that is most commonly opted for is an associate degree which is provided by community colleges, dental schools, and other medical universities. The programs offered by community colleges and dental schools are mostly taken up by students who wish to pursue a career in the field. Those who take up university degrees including master’s programs in the subject often go for research opportunities in this field of study.

After completing the degree, one must get a license to practice as a dental hygienist. This will require clearing the National Board of Dental Hygiene Examination. This is the only national certification provided for the dental hygienist profession. It is accepted throughout the US and in Colombia. Candidates will also have to get a state certification except for practicing in Alabama.

Course Requirements for Dental Hygienist

Candidates who wish to take up a dental hygienist program will require a background in the sciences during their high school. This will include subjects like biology, health, psychology, chemistry, human anatomy, physiology, etc. The pre-requisites for the program can vary from institution to institution including the specialized courses they are supposed to do before enrolling.

A few programs will require students to have a CPR certification which they will have to submit with other documents like high school transcripts and letters of recommendation.

Top Universities Offering Dental Hygienist Programs

Candidates will be able to take dental hygienist programs from different community colleges, technical colleges, and dental schools. Some universities also offer dental hygienist programs at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. They will be able to take entry-level programs, MS programs, degree completion programs, or online programs for this field of study. A few of the universities offering the best dental hygienist programs include- The dental program one chooses should be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation.

NBDHE Certification

The National Board Dental Hygiene Examination is the only national examination one has to take to practice as a dental hygienist. It is provided by the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations which is part of the American Dental Examination. Apart from this examination, one will have to take a state certification examination that has different requirements according to the state that one wishes to practice the profession.

A student is eligible to appear for the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination after they have completed an undergraduate degree program in dental hygiene from an accredited institution. This can either be a bachelor of science or an associate degree that is accredited by CODA. The fee for the test is estimated to be around $415.

Exam Format for NBDHE

The exam has 350 questions all of which are divided into two sections. The first section will have 200 MCQs which are discipline-based and the second section will have 150 questions that are case study-based. The exam has a duration of 9 hours in all which includes a 1-hour lunch break and other section breaks. The first section is provided a time duration of 3.5 hours whereas the second session is provided 4 hours in all.

Exam Dates for NDHCE

The examination is conducted in the test centers that are spread across the country and its territories. Students will be able to schedule their tests at any time of the year and they are required to reach the test center at least 30 minutes before the exam begins.

Renewing Dental Hygienist License

Most states require dental hygienists to renew their license with the criteria for renewal being the number of hours they spent in continuing education. The number of hours that one requires is dependent on the state. This can be anywhere between 15 to 40 hours. The duration within which candidates have to renew their license can be anywhere between 1 to 3 years with 2 years being the most common duration in many states.

Roles and Responsibilities of a Dental Hygienist

While dental assistants are responsible for preparing patients for treatment, cleaning the equipment, and helping with the office work, dental hygienists examine the gums and teeth and chart the dental conditions of patients. Dental hygienists will have to deal directly with patients and will mostly have a lot of hands-on work in clinics, unlike dental assistants. They will also play a vital role in dressing and preventive treatment. Dental hygienists will have to get state certification to practice in their state unlike dental assistants and they will also have to continue education if they wish to recertify themselves time and time again.

A few of the job responsibilities of a dental hygienist include-

Job and Salary of Dental Hygienists

Candidates who have a dental hygienist degree and are willing to take the national and state certifications will be able to research in this field or enter the teaching or public health domain. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is an estimated growth of 11% in this field between 2020 and 2030. There is a projected estimate of 15,600 job openings in this field every year.

The median salary per year for the profession of a dental hygienist is around $78,000 with the mean pay per hour being around $37. The lowest 10% of the workforce earned an estimated amount of $60,000 which is still roughly twice the amount earned by dental assistants.

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