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.
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.
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.