If you are planning to begin a career as a dental hygienist, you must first earn a dental hygienist license. Although the requirements vary from one state to the next, the licensing process generally involves meeting two criteria:
- Graduating from an accredited dental hygienist school
- Passing national and state-level dental hygienist license exams
Before you enroll in a training program, make sure you research your state’s specific dental hygienist licensure requirements.
License Requirement 1: Dental Hygienist Training
The first step in obtaining your license is to earn a degree from a dental hygienist training program.
Most commonly, licensed dental hygienists have an associate’s degree. However, schools also offer certificates, and some dental hygienists hold bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees in dental hygiene. No matter which type of degree you plan on earning, you must attend an accredited program in order to be eligible for a dental hygienist license.
License Requirement 2: Dental Hygienist Licensure Exams
The dental hygienist licensure process requires applicants to pass two licensing exams. The first is the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, administered by the American Dental Association’s Join Commission on National Dental Examinations. This test is a written exam that will test your knowledge on all aspects of the dental hygiene career.
Your education program may offer practice courses and exams designed to prepare you for this test. There are also online practice exams available from the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA).
In addition to the national exam, you will most likely have to complete a state or region-specific clinical examination. This test is different depending on which state you plan to earn your license in. Make sure you research your state’s requirements to ensure you are fully prepared to pass any type of examination. Links to dental hygienist licensing requirements and applications for each state are available below.
Ask your school officials for more information on your state’s dental hygienist licensure requirements.
Becoming a Licensed Dental Hygienist
In most cases you will be ready to earn your dental hygienist license after completing the education and examination process. Usually your state will run a background check to make sure you have not committed any acts that would prevent you from practicing as a dental hygienist.
However, your state’s licensing board may require other documents such as:
- Proof of CPR certification
- Transcripts from high schools and any postsecondary schools attended
- Letters of recommendation from the state’s dental board or practicing dentists in that state
- Proof of passing a jurisprudence exam for the state in question, reviewing applicable laws and regulations
Some states actually require you to have on-the-job training before becoming eligible to earn a dental hygienist license. In some cases this may require several weeks of practice, or even several years. If needed, you can consult your education program for help in finding an internship or entry-level position. Many dental hygienists earn their degree and complete their training hours simultaneously.
Most states require dental hygienists to renew their licenses every two to three years. Pursuing continuing education is the main requirement for renewing a dental hygienist license, as the field and its associated technologies are constantly changing.
Information on state requirements for license renewal is available in PDF format courtesy of the ADHA.
Dental Hygienist License Info by State
Click your state below to see dental hygienist licensure requirements or application info for that state, from the state’s dental board.
Additional information on state licensing requirements can be found at the American Association of Dental Boards.