How to Become a Restorative Dental Hygienist: Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a restorative dental hygienist. Research the education and career requirements, licensure information and experience required for starting a career as a restorative dental hygienist.

Should I Become a Restorative Dental Hygienist?

Restorative dentistry focuses on the application of cavity-liners, placement and removal of crowns, attachment of prosthetics and finishing of silicone restoration. Some states allow dental hygienists to perform these types of procedures after completing the proper education and training. Dental hygienists often spend many hours standing, and they wear protective gear while working on patients.

In addition to completing an accredited associate's degree program in dental hygiene and securing state licensure, prospective restorative dental hygienists may need to complete a restoration dentistry program and pass an exam. The table below includes the requirements to become a restorative dental hygienist.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Associate's degree
Degree Field Dental hygiene
Licensure State licensure can be earned by passing a practical and written exam
Key Skills Dexterity to perform dental procedures, communication skills, detail-oriented, must be able to operate dental and X-ray machinery, as well as pass the Western Regional Board Exam (WREB)
Salary $71,520 per year (Median salary from May, 2014 for all dental hygienists)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **American Dental Hygienists' Association.

Step 1: Graduate from a Dental Hygiene Degree Program

Dental hygiene training programs are available as certificate, associate's degree and bachelor's degree programs, though associate's programs are the most common. These programs are widely available at community colleges and vocational schools. Dental hygiene programs teach students several aspects of dental hygiene, including dental technology, the application of dental materials, oral health promotion, dental terminology and the incorporation of dental hygiene laws according to state law.

Success Tip:

  • Ensure the program is accredited. Any prospective program should be accredited by the American Dental Association Commission on Dental Accreditation. This assures the student has learned federal and state laws and can be eligible for licensure upon graduation, according to the BLS.

Step 2: Become Licensed

State license is required for all dental hygienists. Although state licensure processes vary, they typically require applicants to have completed an accredited program and include completing a written test as well as supervised practical hours. Earning licensure confers the Registered Dental Hygienist (RDH) designation.

Step 3: Obtain Employment

Dental hygienists who have earned licensure may apply for jobs through employers such as hospitals, community health centers or dentists' offices. Job duties of a dental hygienist include cleaning patients' teeth and educating them about dental health.

Step 4: Enroll in a Restorative Dentistry Program

Restorative dentistry programs are available for currently licensed dental hygienists who want to improve their knowledge and skills in the field. In addition to learning about restorative dental procedures, students in this program can learn about administering local anesthesia and nitrous oxide.

Success Tip:

  • Get Certified. Depending on the state, students who complete this program may be eligible to take the Western Regional Examining Board's examination for state certification in restorative dental practice. Some states may require dental hygienists to earn certification prior to handling any restorative dental duties. Earning a certification can provide more job opportunities and career advancement for restorative dental hygienists.

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