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How to Become a Dental Hygienist Online

Dec 04, 2019

Dental hygienists must earn a college degree and obtain a state license. Learn more about how you can become a dental hygienist, including which steps of the process you can complete in an online format.

Essential Information About Dental Hygienists

Dental hygienists perform a range of dental care services, including removing plaque and tartar from teeth, applying teeth protection products, such as sealants and fluorides, taking x-rays, creating treatment plans, and educating patients about oral care techniques. To become a dental hygienist, you must earn a college degree, which can be done partly online, and obtain a state license. In the chart below, you can find the required skill set that dental hygienists need for success as well as job growth and median salary information for the profession.

Required Skills Critical-thinking, dexterity, interpersonal, and communication skills
Job Growth (2018-2028)* 11%
Median Salary (2018)* $74,820

Source *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Steps to Becoming a Dental Hygienist Online

The basic educational requirement for dental hygienists is an associate's degree, which can be earned through a hybrid course format. Dental hygienists must also meet the requirements for obtaining a state license, including taking specific exams, which is a step that cannot be done online.

Step 1: Earn an Associate's Degree in Dental Hygiene

First, it's important to note that while there are some online associate's degree programs in dental hygiene, these programs are rare. In these types of programs, you are able to take your general education coursework online but need to complete your dental hygiene coursework on campus. Along with general education coursework in history, human anatomy, and psychology, you also take courses in dental topics, such as periodontics, dental tissue, radiology, and dental materials. When choosing a program, you will want to make sure that it is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), as licensure usually requires graduation from an accredited program.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Dental Hygiene Through a Degree Completion Program (Optional)

Next, you could opt to also earn an online bachelor's degree in dental hygiene through a degree completion program. The reason you would want to pursue a bachelor's degree is that it can open up different dental hygiene career opportunities in research, teaching, and management. These types of online bachelor's degree completion programs are specifically for dental hygienists who already have a CODA-accredited associate's degree. Unlike associate's degree programs, these degree completion programs are fully online and include coursework in administrative leadership and research methods.

While there are regular bachelor's degree programs in dental hygiene available as well, these programs are not typically administered in an online format. So, if you want to earn an online bachelor's degree in dental hygiene, you must first earn your associate's degree and then earn your bachelor's through an online degree completion program.

Step 3: Obtain a State License

Although every state has its own requirements for licensure, the most common requirements are graduating from an accredited dental hygiene program, passing the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, and passing a state clinical board examination. While it is not possible to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination online, you can take practice tests in an online format that will help you understand the scope of the exam and the types of questions you will be asked. State clinical board examinations are not able to be taken online, either.

Step 4: Complete Continuing Education

You must also complete continuing education requirements in order to maintain your dental hygiene license. Many institutions and colleges offer continuing education courses that can help fulfill your renewal requirements. The American Dental Hygienists' Association (ADHA) even offers online courses that can be completed at your own pace.

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