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How to Become a Dental Hygienist:
Take These 4 Steps

1. Understand the role of a dental hygienist

Dental hygienists are licensed professionals who help patients maintain good oral health. They work under the supervision of a dentist to provide preventive care, non-surgical periodontal treatments, and teach patients how to practice good oral hygiene. Dental hygienist duties include:

  • Perform preventative and non-surgical periodontal therapy treatments
  • Perform screening procedures, such as X-rays and periodontal assessments
  • Apply fluoride and sealants
  • Provide oral health instructions to patients
  • Document findings and procedural notes
  • Other delegated duties outlined by the regulatory body in the state in which they are licensed

Dental hygienists are different from dental assistants. The role of a dental assistant varies from state to state, but mainly focuses on supporting the dentist during procedures. Many skills do transfer from dental assisting to dental hygiene.

Dental hygienist duties also differ from dentists. For example, dental hygienists may describe issues with a patient’s teeth or gums but cannot provide a diagnosis of the condition. Instead, dental hygienists report their findings to the dentist, who provides patients with a diagnosis and treatment options.

2. Get educated

A common question is can you become a dental hygienist without a degree?

No! To become a dental hygienist, you need to have a college degree.

The minimum level of education required to become a dental hygienist is an associate degree from a school accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation.1

However, many dental hygienists choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene because it may increase earning potential and career advancement.

Dental hygiene degree programs prepare students by offering both classroom and clinical education. With this, students are able to work directly with patients while being supervised by licensed faculty members.

Dental Equipment in Dental Hygiene Bachelor's Degree School
Length36 months
Credits120
FormatOn-campus
ClassesView the curriculum

3. Pass your board exams and get licensed

Dental hygienists must be licensed in order to practice.

To become certified as a Licensed Dental Hygienist (LDH), you must first earn a degree from a CODA-accredited program1 and pass all licensure exams required by the state in which you are seeking licensure.

In Minnesota, the Board of Dentistry requires the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, an accepted regional (hands-on) examination, and the Minnesota Jurisprudence Examination.

4. Find your first dental hygienist job

Once you have earned your degree and become a licensed dental hygienist, it’s time to find your first job!

The employment outlook for dental hygienists is bright, with employment expected to grow 11 percent from 2020 to 2030, so there are many opportunities to have a career helping people achieve good oral care.*

Learn more about our dental hygiene bachelor's degree program, available at our Minneapolis campus

CTA Bg

1. The Associate of Applied Science in Dental Assisting and the Diploma in Dental Assisting programs are accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. The Commission is a specialized accrediting body recognized by the United States Department of Education. The Commission on Dental Accreditation can be contacted at (312) 440-4653 or at 211 East Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611-2678.  The Commission's web address is: http://www.ada.org/en/coda. Consequently, graduates are eligible to take the examinations leading to certified dental assistant (CDA®) certification through the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).


* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2020. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.

Classes Start October 3rd

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