Dental Hygienist License And Certification

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A license is a document issued by the government allowing someone to provide a service to its citizens. This is important since the government mandates certain regulations for medical professionals to uphold so that there is no compromise in the quality of healthcare. It is extremely important for medical professionals to get a license and renew it every few years to continue practicing. They also need different kinds of certifications for different skills for the same reasons. Let’s see how to earn and maintain a licensure and certifications as a dental hygienist.

How To Get The Licensure

To get the license, you first need to complete your education and get a degree in dental hygiene. This degree may be an associate’s degree or even a graduate degree. Depending on this, it might take anywhere from 2 years to 6 years.

After completing your education, you are eligible to sit for the licensure exam – provided the program (dental hygiene) was accredited by the ADHA or ADA. There are currently 300+ associate’s level programs and only about 21 master’s level programs accredited by the organization.

Some states require you to have a license specific to their region. Thus, they sometimes require you to have practiced for about 2 years under someone’s supervision.

The test consists of a written test and a practical test. You are supposed to pass both of them according to CDCA standards. If you fail these exams, you must practice 20 hours (written subject) and 40 hours (clinical subject) for every subject failed and ten you are eligible to give the exam again after 90 days. However, after 3 failed attempts, you need to wait a year after attempting again.

If you do pass the tests, then congratulations you are now a dental hygienist. However, remember that some states require you to have a state specific license. Also, remember that you are supposed to renew the license every few years to keep practicing.

Renewing the license

After every two years, the license needs to be renewed to ensure that you can practice freely in that state. The exact laws vary according to state. However, the general rule is that you are supposed to complete your Continuing Education during this 2-year period. This includes 25 units of training whereas an RDHAP must need to do at least 35 units of training. This also includes 2-hour course in infection control and 2-hour course in Dental Practice Act. First timers need not complete these units for renewal. Disabled people are exempted from this rule too.

If a license remains expired for over 5 years, then it gets canceled. If it gets canceled, then there is no process of renewal. You are supposed to apply as a first-time applicant and repeat the process all over again.

If a person wants, they can deactivate their license. However, they are supposed to pay the renewal fee every 2 years. Failure to do so will result in expiration of the license. But inactive license members do not need to undergo the continuing education during renewal. To activate their licenses once more, one must simply undergo the CE and pay the renewal fee.


There aren’t many certifications offered as a dental hygienist. But there are a few specializations like pedodontics, periodontics and many others. You can also choose to be a dental hygienist anesthetist. Some institutions require you to have a certificate in CPR to practice as an RDH.

This should have helped you understand the legal aspects of getting licensed or certified as dental hygienist. Hopefully, after reading this you will not have any legal problems in the future. Find out more about the education requirements of a dental hygienist today!