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How to Become a Registered Dental Hygienist and More

Dental hygienists are licensed oral healthcare professionals whose job centers on preventing and treating oral diseases.

What are the Tasks Associated with the Job?

The tasks vary a little from state to state as each one has its own regulations. Duties are likely to include:

  • Counseling patients on how good nutrition relates to good oral healthcare
  • Educating patients on proper oral hygiene techniques to maintain health gums and teeth
  • Performing oral healthcare assessments including dental charting and oral cancer screenings
  • Exposing and processing dental x-rays
  • Applying cavity-preventives such as sealants
  • Removing plaque and tartar from above and below the gumline by using dental instruments

Where do Dental Hygienists Work?

They work part of full-time in a variety of settings such as public health clinics, private dental offices, correctional institutions, nursing homes, schools, managed care organizations, and a corporate environment.

Becoming Registered

All states and the District of Columbia require licensure or registration. Requirements vary, but in general they consist of graduating from an accredited dental hygiene program and passing the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination.

The National Board Dental Hygiene Examination

This multiple-choice exam contains 350 questions, and has two components. The first one has three content areas: Scientific Basis for Dental Hygiene Practice, Provision of Clinical Dental Hygiene Services, and Community Health and Research Principles. The second component consists of twelve to fifteen case studies and test takers must answer the questions in this section based on the conditions mentioned in the case studies.

Practice Questions

On the exam, you’ll find questions such as:

  • What fibrous ligament connects the alveolar process to the ligament?
  • Hypersensitivity of a root lessens as the tooth forms?
  • Fluoride is typically introduced in all of the following ways except?
  • What nerve supports the intrinsic muscles of the tongue?
  • Radiographic intensifying screens are used for?
  • A flat stone may be used to sharpen a curette by hand. The face of the curette should be at what angle of the stone?
  • Gingivitis is controlled when?
  • A dental carie is another name for?
  • Which of the following is a main reason for a root canal?
  • After an outbreak of herpetic gingivostomatitis, the herpes simplex virus may remain dormant in which of the following?
  • Vital whitening is performed on?
  • When a periapical abscess forms, it indicates?
  • A pedicle graft uses a flap of tissue from which part of the mouth?
  • A veneer will correct all of the following except?
  • Where does the bone for a bone augmentation typically come from in an implantation procedure?
  • The mandibular molars have a more occlusal lingual height of contour than their maxillary counterparts? How are they similar?
  • A patient who has congestive heart failure will likely require what type of seating position?
  • The most common site for a mucocele is the?
  • Which of the following microorganism is most commonly associated with the etiology of juvenile periodontists?


Most states require dental hygienists to participate in related continuing education in order to keep their license current. Usually, this occurs every two years, though some states have a one to two-year cycle.


Once dental hygienists have met all of their state’s licensing requirements, they can use the RDH (Registered Dental Hygienist) designation after their name. In Indiana, the LDH (Licensed Dental Hygienist) is used in place of RDH.

Job Outlook and Salary 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics believes there will be a 33 percent job growth until 2022. The annual mean salary of dental hygienists in 2014 was $71,970.

Most dental hygienists enter the field with an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Dental Hygiene which only takes two-years to complete. If you have any questions about becoming a registered dental hygienist, please contact us.