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how to become a dental hygienist

Get an Undergraduate Degree

Dental hygienists usually hold an associates degree, such as an Associate for Applied Science in Dental Hygiene. Two-year degree programs are available at community colleges, vocational institutes, or dental schools. Students are prepared through careers through both classroom and clinical instruction.

Get Licensed

Dental hygienists must be licensed in all U.S. states. Eligibility requirements vary, but nearly all states call for applicants to hold postsecondary credentials from accredited dental hygiene programs. Other requirements can include CPR certification, school transcripts, and/or letters of recommendation. Qualified candidates sit for the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, a written exam administered by the American Dental Association, and then complete a regional or state clinical board examination.

Consider an Advanced Degree

While associate’s degrees are enough for most dental hygienist positions, some hygienists earn higher degrees as a way to advance their careers. Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in dental hygiene may qualify hygienists for careers beyond the dental office, such as in teaching and research. Additionally, advanced degrees may be necessary for some positions in public health or school clinics.