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How to Become a Dental Hygienist in New York

Dental hygienists spend their days restoring smiles. Quite an inviting job description, isn’t it! Interview any dental hygienist, and you’ll hear how much they enjoy their work. In the ever-expanding dental profession, hygienists have a unique and rewarding role. This article will detail the steps involved to achieve this.


Let’s pinpoint the qualities of a successful dental hygienist:


  • an aptitude for science
  • good hand-eye coordination
  • manual dexterity
  • excellent interpersonal skills
  • dedication to serving others


Here are some of the rewarding responsibilities of a dental hygienist:


  • Updating health histories
  • Charting
  • Taking and developing x-rays
  • Prophylaxis – cleaning teeth and gums
  • Oral cancer screening
  • Applying fluorides and dental sealants
  • Patient education on nutrition and home oral care
  • Equipment maintenance
  • Keeping a working inventory of dental supplies

As a dental hygienist, you can choose to work in a school, private dental office, hospital clinic, military installation, or pharmaceutical company. You can pursue a career with a health maintenance organization, insurance company, government agency, or dental supply company. A career focus is available to you with pediatric, geriatric, and special needs patients.


To work as a registered dental hygienist in New York, you will need to obtain an Associate in Applied Science in Dental Hygiene (AAS) degree. The coursework is typically completed in two years. A bachelor’s or master’s degree is needed to obtain an upper-level position in education, research, or public health.


There are 10 accredited dental hygienist schools in New York State. Being accredited means a school has met the highest of standards for providing a quality education. Graduation from an accredited school is a requirement for licensure. Following is a list of schools:

Briarcliffe College – Patchogue
Broome Community College – Binghamton
CUNY Hostos Community College – Bronx
Erie Community College – Williamsville
Farmingdale State College – Farmingdale
Hudson Valley Community College – Troy
Monroe Community College – Rochester
New York City College of Technology – Brooklyn
New York University College of Dentistry – New York
Orange County Community College – Middletown
SUNY at Canton School of Sciences, Health and Professional Studies – Rome


Admission requirements vary according to school. Following is a general list:


  • High School or GED Transcript
  • Prerequisite courses in Biology, Anatomy and Physiology, Chemistry, and Physics, with a Minimum Cumulative GPA of 2.5
  • ACCUPLACER, ACT, or SAT Test Results
  • Documentation of Dental Practice Observation
  • Immunization Record – Proof of immunization against measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR)
  • Criminal Background Check and Drug Screening


Tuition varies by school. Average annual tuition is $4,500 in-state and $8,600 out-of-state.


The New York State dental hygienist program curriculum consists of classroom and clinical instruction. Course titles and descriptions vary among schools, but the overall education is the same. Here’s a sample listing of the exciting courses you’ll take:



  • oral anatomy and physiology
  • dental radiology
  • pharmacology
  • dental materials
  • pain management
  • treating the anxious patient
  • dental nutrition
  • preventive oral health
  • medical emergencies
  • legal and ethical issues in health care

Clinical Rotation

This thrilling aspect of your education involves hands-on treatment of patients in an on-campus clinic or off-campus dental facility. You have the opportunity to treat a variety of dental health conditions while refining your skills. Practical application of classroom instruction is the final component that prepares you for employment.


To become licensed in New York, you’ll need to complete an accredited dental hygienist program that includes specific training in infectious disease. You’ll also need to pass the National Board exam and North East Regional Board of Dental Examiners (NERB) exam. Once you meet these requirements, you have earned the title of Registered Dental Hygienist (RDH).


It order to remain licensed in New York, dental hygienists need to complete 24 contact hours during each 3-year registration period.


New York State law determines what aspects of care a dental hygienist can perform. Under general supervision, or with the prior authorization of a dentist, you can:


  • Take and develop x-rays
  • Perform prophylaxis
  • Administer topical anesthesia
  • Apply fluoride and pit/fissure sealants
  • Perform root planing

With a supervising dentist present, you can:


  • Administer nitrous oxide and local anesthesia
  • Make study cast impressions
  • Place and remove periodontal dressings
  • Remove sutures

State law does not allow dental hygienists to:


  • Provide diagnosis, assessment, and treatment planning
  • Perform soft tissue curettage
  • Place sutures


Salary varies according to practice type, location, job responsibilities, and market competition. Dental hygienists in New York earn an average annual salary of $63,000. This is 17% higher than other hygienist positions nationwide.


The future for dental hygienists is very promising, with employment expected to increase by 38% between now and 2020. This rate of growth is faster than the average for all other occupations. Flexibility is a prime advantage of this career, with part-time, full-time, weekend, and evening positions available.


As a registered dental hygienist, you’ll enjoy a rewarding career, with job flexibility, security, and advancement potential. Picture yourself in your lab coat with your gleaming “R.D.H.” pin. Imagine restoring smiles and seeing your patients confident, happy, and grateful for your care. Begin your path to becoming a successful dental hygienist.