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How to Become a Dental Hygienist in New Mexico

Dental hygienists are needed to work with dentists, orthodontists and periodontists to treat patients. Depending on their degree, they may also be qualified to conduct research and perform clinical studies in teaching facilities. As educators, they can teach and train future dental hygienists as well as educate and offer advice to residents in healthcare facilities such as clinics, hospitals and nursing homes. They can also be involved in sales and marketing of dental products and services.

Dental Hygienist Salary in New Mexico
The salary of a dental hygienist depends on the area, population and competition in the field. The national average salary is $69,000 per year, and the average salary in New Mexico is $73,000 per year. Those in this field earn between $24 and $40 per hour. For example, salaries range from $51,000 in Sante Fe and $56,000 in Albuquerque and Rio Rancho to $66,000 in Farmington and $74,000 in Roswell.

The following are the duties performed by this certified professional:
Gather medical history
Take and develop x-rays
Use dental instruments and floss to clean teeth by removing stains, tarter and food debris
Polish teeth
Apply fluoride treatments and tooth sealants
Check for gum disease
Check for abnormalities or swelling of the lymph nodes under the chin
Take molds of teeth for braces, mouth guards and dentures
Size the brackets needed for braces and remove the brackets once braces are no longer needed
Offer recommendations for healthy cleaning habits and nutrition advice

Education Requirements
Those interested in this field are recommended to take chemistry, biology and math courses in high school. A high school diploma and at least a 3.0 grade average are needed to be accepted in a dental program licensed by CODA (Commission on Dental Accreditation, division of American Dental Association). Although completed college courses are not required, passing college entrance exams are needed to enter a licensed dental program. The most common is a two year program for an Associates degree. Those desiring to conduct research can earn a Bachelors degree after a four year program, and students striving to teach or get involved in public health or school positions can earn a Masters degree also after four years.

Graduates must also pass a clinical exam given by one of the four examination agencies:
CRDTS (Central Regional Dental Testing Service)
NERB (Northeast Regional Board of Dental Examiners)
SRTA (Southern Regional Testing Agency)
WREB (Western Regional Examining Board)

Licensing and Certification
After schooling and passing the clinical exam, a completed application to take the national exam must be sent to the National Board of Dental Hygienists. This application will include proof of schooling, recommendation letters and the appropriate fee. The graduate will be contacted when and where to take the national examination. A certificate will be issued to the graduate upon passing this exam.

Those who pass the national examination and receive their certificate can then apply for a state license. This requires completing the state application form and returning with the following:

Driver’s license, passport, or photo identification
Proof of schooling
Copy of certificate of passing National Board exam
Proof of completed CPR or Basic Life Support (BLS) class
Application fee
Jurisprudence exam must also be passed. This is an open-book test on the rules and regulations of dental hygiene in New Mexico
Background check through PBIS (Professional Background Information Services) – applicants are given time to pay the fee and request this service if it is not performed before the application is submitted.

The application, fee and documents are sent to the Licensing Committee of the New Mexico Board of Dental Health Care and the New Mexico Dental Hygienist Committee. All the information will be reviewed, and a dental hygienist license will be sent to approved applications. The newly registered dental hygienist can now use the initials RDH after their name.

Dental hygienists can also be certified to administer anesthesia by applying for Local Anesthesia under General Supervision certification from the state. A completed application and fee are required in addition to a completed course in local anesthesia, recommendation letter from a dentist in regards to the administration of anesthesia under his or her supervision and proof of CPR or BLS education.

Certification for Collaborative Practice of Dental Hygiene can be obtained from the state by hygienists desiring to offer services with no general supervision while working for a dentist. The completed application and fee must also include the following:

Current dental hygiene license in New Mexico
Fifteen hours of continuing education for the last year including infection control and medical emergencies
Proof of CPR or BLS training
Signed agreement for collaborative practice with a dentist

All licenses must be renewed every three years by the end of June. Failure to do so will cancel the license. Forty-five hours of continuing education are required during this three year period. Fifteen hours can be home study and online. Taking and passing the Jurisprudence test once a year earns three hours of continuing education credit. A renewal application, appropriate fees and proof of a completed infection control course are required for renewal.