Dental Care

Dental Hygienist Schooling and Certificates


What you need to know about dental hygienist schooling

Hopefully, you have already read the information in our previous article that discusses dental hygienist careers, salary expectations, aspects of career outlook, and additional benefits.

In this article we will provide information about degrees and certificates, including licensure examinations and requirements for teaching in this fascinating field.

It is important to undertake your education only in an accredited dental hygiene school or program. In fact, most state licensure boards will only award licensure to candidates from accredited programs. Graduates from non-accredited programs do not find good career options available to them.

The curriculum in an accredited dental hygiene program provides optimal education, including instruction based on the most up-to-date techniques and procedures.

The basic hygienist program will award you with an associate's degree or certificate upon program completion. You can then pursue national and then state or regional licensure examinations after this initial degree or certification in dental hygiene. This is the minimum educational requirement for those who wish to assist in a dental office.

Some university-based, accredited dental hygiene schools offer programs that culminate with a bachelor's or even a Master's degree. That is the training you will need if you wish to pursue a career in research, or if you want to teach. You also need that kind of educational background to work in a clinical public or school health program. This kind of training involves at least two additional years of study.

Each dental hygienist is licensed within her own state once she meets all the requirements to provide patient education and dental hygiene care. In order to achieve licensure, almost every state requires the candidate to be a graduate of an accredited school of dental hygiene. The examination comprises both written and clinical components.


The National Board Dental Hygiene Examination

The written portion of the examination, known as the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE), is administered by the American Dental Association's Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations. Your program director indicates when you are ready to take this examination; it will generally be during your final semester.

The examination after dental hygienist schooling is administered by the state and tests the candidate on both his knowledge of dental hygiene and related subjects and also his clinical dental hygiene skills. The test is administered in two parts, and all questions are multiple choice.

The first part, on Day One, randomizes questions from three areas -basic sciences, principles of dental health and research, and clinical dental hygiene practices.

Day Two presents questions based on case studies in which you are given information about a theoretical patient and must identify how to proceed. You can take a tutorial prior to the test.

Your scores will be reported to you, to the director of your training program, and to up to three licensure boards. If you want your results to go to additional boards, you must pay an added fee. Effective in 2010, results are only given as pass or fail. Raw scores are available only if you fail the examination. If you pass, your results will be accepted by every state as well as the District of Columbia.

You must then present yourself to your state licensure board for a clinical examination. The state will require that you have passed the NBDHE.


Additional dental hygienist schooling requirements

Additional requirements for dental hygienist schooling vary from state to state; most commonly, they include current CPR certification, letters of recommendation submitted by dentists who know you in the state where you wish to practice, and your transcripts from high school and college.

You will be tested on individual practice requirements as well as applicable legal or jurisprudence issues.

The State of Alabama will permit candidates to take its examination if they have been trained through a state-regulated, on-the-job program in a dentist's office.

As you embark on your training, you should check your state's application process to make certain you will be able to meet requirements. Some states will refuse licensure if you have a prior felony conviction. Licensure might be withheld in some states if you refuse to be inoculated against hepatitis B.

Some applications for dental hygienist schooling will ask questions such as whether you have ever received inpatient or outpatient mental health treatment, including substance abuse, but will allow you to submit a waiver accompanied with an explanation of circumstances.

Once you receive your license, the credential you will be entitled to use after your name is R.D.H.-which signifies that your state recognizes you as a Registered Dental Hygienist.


AADSAS and Dental Hygienist Schooling

You will find more than 270 ADA-accredited dental hygiene schools located in the United States. The American Association of Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS), which was established by the American Dental Education Association (ADEA), is a centralized application service for those who wish to apply to dental assistant school.

Submitting your application through AADSAS simplifies the process for individuals as well as schools because the candidate completes just one application no matter how many schools he wishes to apply to.

AADSAS then, in its role as an information clearinghouse, passes the application on in a standardized format to each school. It remains unbiased and does nothing to influence any school's decision or acceptance of applicants. The ADEA does not recommend applicants to dental assisting programs.

About dental hygienist schooling, we will provide additional insight in a separate article on applying for a dental hygienist program as well as scholarship programs.



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