For dental hygienists, certification is another way of referring to dental hygienist licensure. Dental hygienists pursue mandatory certification, or licensing, for each state they wish to practice in. All states have slightly different requirements, but in general certification involves passing an examination after graduating from an accredited dental hygienist training program.
Dental hygienist certification proves to the healthcare and academic communities that dental hygienists are properly trained to practice professionally. Since dental hygienists perform a significant amount of dental work on patients, states require certification in order to ensure all practicing dental hygienists meet minimum state qualifications.
Dental Hygienist Certification Requirements
To become certified (licensed), a dental hygienist must meet three general criteria. Please note that since certification is slightly different for each state, criteria at the state level may vary from state to state.
In general, to become certified a dental hygienist must:
- Graduate from a formal dental hygiene training program at an accredited dental hygienist school
- Pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination to become licensed for the US
- Pass an individual state board examination for any state in which the dental hygienist wishes to practice
For this process, dental hygienists will need to:
- Become CPR certified, or demonstrate CPR certification
- Pass a jurisprudence exam reviewing applicable regulations for the state of licensure
- Obtain transcripts from any schools attended, including high school
- Obtain letters of recommendation from the dentistry board and from practicing dentists in the state of licensure
The national certification and licensure exam (accepted in all states and the District of Columbia) is administered by the American Dental Association’s Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations. The state-level clinical examination is administered by state or regional testing agencies.
In most states, dental hygienists must renew their license by participating in continuing education. For the majority of states this occurs every two years, though for several states the cycle is one or three years.
For each renewal cycle, each state requires a particular number of hours of continuing education. Most states are within a range of about 15 to 40 hours of continuing education per cycle. A list of state requirements for continuing education is available in PDF courtesy of the American Dental Hygienists Association (ADHA).