How to Become a Dental Hygienist

September 23, 2021

How to Become a Dental Hygienist
How to Become a Dental Hygienist

Becoming a dental hygienist is a lucrative career option. You’ll have the potential to earn an annual salary of $77,090 per year or $37.06 per hour, as reported by statistics compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Estimates also indicate that the job prospects from 2019 to 2029 are likely to rise by at least 6%. If this is something you would like to do, know that the minimum qualification for getting a position in the field is an associate’s degree. Read ahead for information about how to acquire the necessary accreditation and the platforms where you can find employment.

Step 1 - Programs for the Associate’s Degree

You can earn an associate’s degree to work as a dental hygienist at a community or technical college. To get into the program, you’ll need a GPA of 2.5 or higher in subjects like Chemistry, Sociology, Biology, and Anatomy. The course typically takes 2 years to complete and includes topics outlined by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). You’ll provide clinical services under supervision in the first year and get at least 8 to 12 hours of hands-on practice each week. This duration will likely increase to 12 to 16 hours in the second year.

Step 2 - Exams and Tests for a Dental Hygienist

Once you complete this training, you’ll sit for the written National Board Dental Hygiene Examination and Hesi A2 exam. Expect to answer a total of 350 multiple-choice questions in two sections such as discipline-based and case-based. You’ll score on a scale of 49 to 99 with a minimum passing score of 75. You’ll also pass the state clinical-based exam that evaluates your knowledge of anesthesia, basic dental hygiene procedures, and restorative techniques. Additionally, you’ll take the drug and law exam that covers the state rules and regulations.


If you need assistance with preparing for the test, you can use online apps that have mock questions that give you an overview of what to expect. You can practice taking the test on the go since the apps are compatible with your mobile phone and tablet. Once you pass these exams, you’ll sit for the state or regional clinical licensure exam for getting licensed to practice as a registered dental hygienist or RDH. Keep in mind that you must renew your license every one to three years. To do that, you’ll pay the mandatory fee and demonstrate that you’ve completed the necessary continuing education hours as outlined by your state rules.

Step 3 - Looking for Positions

Having acquired your accreditation, you’re now ready to look for positions. Several platforms like the American Dental Association (ADA), Higher Hire, Monster, and Indeed assist you with finding work opportunities according to the job title, location, and company or dentist you’ll work with. The job description of a dental hygienist typically includes cleaning teeth using tools like scrapers and polishers and applying preventive solutions like sealants and fluoride. You’ll take X-rays of the patients’ dental structure and record your findings along with the patient’s dental history.


Dental hygienists also assist the dentist during oral care procedures by administering anesthesia and removing sutures. Since their job involves working with an established dental professional such as Donald Shingler, you can contact clinics in your area and inquire if they have job openings you can fill.


Although an associate’s degree can get you gainful employment, you should work on advancing your skills and qualifications by signing up for a Bachelor’s Degree course and, subsequently, the Master’s Degree. Since you already have your license and hands-on experience, you can complete the courses in shorter time frames.


Become a dental hygienist, and you can earn a good salary with the prospect of advancing your skills and building a lucrative career.


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