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Top 11 Dental Hygienist Certifications

Photo of Brenna Goyette
Brenna Goyette
Certified Professional Resume Writer, Career Expert

Updated 16 min read

Certifications are important for dental hygienists in the job market because they demonstrate a level of expertise and mastery in the field. Certified dental hygienists have completed additional education and training that sets them apart from non-certified professionals, which makes them attractive candidates to potential employers. Certifications also provide a means of validating qualifications and ensure that practitioners are up-to-date on the latest advancements in the field. In addition, certifications can open up more career opportunities by allowing dental hygienists to specialize in certain areas such as pediatrics, geriatrics or oral surgery.

The purpose of this article is to review the top certifications for Dental Hygienists and explain how they can help to further a dental hygienist's career.

What are Dental Hygienist Certifications?

Dental hygienist certification is a form of recognition for dental hygienists who have achieved professional excellence in their field. It is typically offered by the American Dental Hygienists Association (ADHA). To become certified, a dental hygienist must pass an exam that covers areas such as clinical dental hygiene, preventive dentistry, and patient education.

Having a certification can help enhance a dental hygienist's career prospects and increase their earning potential. Employers often prefer to hire certified professionals as they are seen as more experienced and knowledgeable in their field. Being certified also gives dental hygienists the opportunity to be involved in more advanced research and practice areas. With the certification, they can be eligible for promotion or higher-level positions within the organization. Additionally, it allows them to be better prepared for any changes in regulations or new technologies that may arise. Finally, having this certification also demonstrates a commitment to continuing education and staying up-to-date with changes in the industry.

Pro Tip: Make sure to research the requirements for dental hygienist certification in your state before you start any coursework. Different states have different standards and you want to make sure that you meet all of the requirements for licensure in your area.

Related: What does a Dental Hygienist do?

Top 11 Dental Hygienist Certifications

Here’s our list of the best certifications available to Dental Hygienists today.

1. Certified Dental Hygienist (CDH)

A Certified Dental Hygienist (CDH) is a health care professional who specializes in preventive oral health care. They are responsible for cleaning teeth, examining patients for signs of oral diseases such as gingivitis and cavities, taking and developing x-rays, and educating patients on proper oral hygiene techniques.

It typically takes a minimum of two years to become a Certified Dental Hygienist. To become certified, individuals must complete an accredited dental hygiene program at an institution recognized by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Upon completion of the program, they must pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE) and any regional or state clinical examinations that may be required.

The cost of becoming a Certified Dental Hygienist will vary depending on the individual's educational institution and state requirements. Tuition costs for dental hygiene programs can range from $2,000 to $20,000 per year depending on the school. Additionally, there are fees associated with taking the NBDHE exam which can range from $200-$400.

Overall, becoming a Certified Dental Hygienist requires dedication and commitment to completing an accredited program and passing exams; however, it is worth it in order to provide quality preventive care to patients.

2. Registered Dental Hygienist (RDH)

A Registered Dental Hygienist (RDH) is a licensed dental professional who specializes in preventive oral health care. They provide services such as teeth cleaning, scaling, polishing, and fluoride treatments to help prevent cavities and gum disease. RDHs also educate patients on proper oral hygiene techniques and nutrition for optimal oral health.

To become an RDH, individuals must complete an accredited dental hygiene program which typically takes two to three years of full-time study. Upon completion of the program, students must pass both a written and clinical exam administered by their state board of dentistry to obtain licensure as a Registered Dental Hygienist.

The cost of becoming an RDH varies depending on the school attended and the type of program chosen. Generally speaking, tuition costs range from $10,000 - $20,000 per year for a two-year associate’s degree or three-year bachelor’s degree program. Other costs associated with obtaining an RDH license include examination fees and any additional coursework required by the state board of dentistry.

3. Certified Dental Assistant (CDA)

Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) is a credential that recognizes the professional qualifications of dental assistants who have met the standards established by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). A CDA is a dental assistant who has completed an accredited dental assisting program, passed the DANB’s Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination, and maintained their certification through continuing education.

It typically takes approximately one year to complete an accredited dental assistant program, which can be done through a community college or vocational school. After completing the educational requirements, candidates must pass the CDA exam administered by DANB. The exam consists of three components: General Chairside Assisting (GC), Radiation Health and Safety (RHS), and Infection Control (ICE).

The cost for taking the CDA exam varies depending on which components are taken. The GC component costs $250, RHS costs $125, and ICE costs $125. Additionally, there is a $50 non-refundable application fee for each component. Candidates must also pay an annual maintenance fee of $40 to maintain their certification status.

4. Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA)

A Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA) is a professional designation that recognizes the specialized knowledge and skills of an orthodontic assistant. The COA credential is awarded by the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) after successful completion of a comprehensive exam.

The exam consists of both written and practical components, covering topics such as anatomy, physiology, patient care, instrumentation, record keeping, and legal issues. The written portion of the exam consists of multiple-choice questions, while the practical component requires applicants to demonstrate their ability to perform clinical procedures in a simulated environment.

It typically takes six months to one year to prepare for the COA exam. Candidates must complete at least two years of full-time work experience as an orthodontic assistant before they can sit for the exam. During this time, candidates should take continuing education courses to stay up-to-date on best practices in orthodontics.

The cost of taking the COA exam varies depending on whether or not you are a member of AAO. For non-members, it costs $450; for members it costs $350.

5. Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)

Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) is an advanced, evidence-based clinical course that teaches healthcare professionals the knowledge and skills needed to evaluate and manage cardiac arrest, acute arrhythmias, stroke, and other cardiovascular emergencies. The ACLS course is designed to help healthcare providers recognize life-threatening situations and provide immediate care.

The ACLS course typically takes two days to complete. It includes lectures, video presentations, hands-on practice of skills with a manikin or simulator, and a written exam. During the course, participants learn how to recognize signs of cardiac arrest and stroke; assess airway patency; initiate basic life support; administer medications; interpret electrocardiograms (ECGs); use a defibrillator; perform endotracheal intubation; and manage post-resuscitation care.

To get ACLS certification, individuals must take an approved ACLS provider course. These courses are offered by many organizations including the American Heart Association (AHA), American Red Cross (ARC), National Safety Council (NSC), Emergency Care & Safety Institute (ECSI), and American Safety & Health Institute (ASHI).

The cost of an ACLS provider course varies depending on the organization offering it. Generally speaking, courses range from $150 - $300 for the two day program.

6. Basic Life Support (BLS)

Basic Life Support (BLS) is a set of emergency medical procedures that are used to provide immediate care for someone who has suffered a cardiac arrest or other life-threatening medical emergency. It includes chest compressions, rescue breaths, and the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED). BLS is typically provided by healthcare providers such as doctors, nurses, and paramedics.

BLS certification usually takes about 4-6 hours to complete. The course consists of lectures, hands-on practice sessions, and a written exam. The cost of BLS certification varies depending on the provider and location but can range from $50-$150.

In order to get BLS certified, you must attend a training class taught by an approved instructor. You must also pass the written exam at the end of the class in order to receive your certification card.

7. Infection Control Certification (ICC)

Infection Control Certification (ICC) is a professional certification program that verifies an individual’s knowledge and skills in infection prevention and control. It is intended to help healthcare professionals demonstrate their commitment to providing safe care for patients by recognizing their expertise in this area.

The ICC certification process consists of a written exam, which takes approximately three hours to complete. The exam covers topics such as medical asepsis, disinfection and sterilization, epidemiology and biostatistics, environmental hygiene, and infection control policies and procedures.

To qualify for the ICC certification exam, applicants must have either a bachelor’s degree or higher in nursing or allied health field or at least two years of experience in infection prevention and control. Applicants must also have completed an approved course on infection control within the last five years.

The cost of the ICC certification exam varies depending on the country where you are taking it. In the United States, it typically costs around $350 USD.

8. Radiography Certification (Radiology)

Radiography Certification (Radiology) is a certification program that is designed to provide radiographers with the knowledge and skills they need to perform their job duties safely and effectively. Radiographers are responsible for taking x-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, and other imaging tests. The certification program includes courses in anatomy and physiology, radiation safety, imaging techniques, patient care, and radiation protection.

The length of time it takes to get certified depends on the type of certification you choose. Most programs require at least two years of study before taking the exam. Some states may also require additional training or experience before allowing you to take the exam.

In order to get certified, you must first complete an accredited radiography program at a college or university. After completing the program, you will need to pass a written exam administered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Once you have passed this exam, you will be eligible for certification.

The cost of getting certified varies depending on your state’s requirements and the type of certification you choose. Generally speaking, it can cost anywhere from $500-$2,000 for all fees associated with getting certified as a radiographer.

9. Laser Safety Certificate

A Laser Safety Certificate is a document that certifies an individual has completed a course in laser safety. It is issued by the Laser Institute of America (LIA) and is required for anyone who works with or around lasers. The certificate serves as proof of knowledge and understanding of laser safety regulations, principles, and practices.

The LIA offers several courses to help prepare individuals for their Laser Safety Certificate, including online courses, classroom courses, and on-site training. Depending on the type of course taken, it can take anywhere from a few hours to several days to complete the coursework and receive the certificate.

In order to obtain a Laser Safety Certificate, an individual must successfully complete all requirements of the chosen course and pass any associated exams with a score of 80% or higher. Upon successful completion of the course requirements, the student will be awarded their Laser Safety Certificate from LIA.

The cost for obtaining a Laser Safety Certificate varies depending on which type of course is taken. Online courses typically range from $200-$300 USD while classroom or on-site courses may cost more depending on location and other factors.

10. Nitrous Oxide Sedation Certification

Nitrous Oxide Sedation Certification is a certification that allows dentists to administer nitrous oxide to their patients. Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, is a mild sedative used to reduce anxiety and pain during dental procedures. It works by reducing the patient's awareness of pain and providing a sense of relaxation.

To get certified in nitrous oxide sedation, dentists must complete an accredited course and pass an exam. The course typically takes 8-10 hours to complete and covers topics such as the pharmacology of nitrous oxide, patient monitoring, safety protocols, and legal considerations for administering the drug. After completing the course, dentists must pass an exam administered by their state board of dentistry or another approved body.

The cost of getting certified in nitrous oxide sedation varies depending on the provider and program chosen. Generally speaking, courses can range from $500-$1000 with additional fees for exams and materials.

Once certified, dentists may use nitrous oxide in their practice to provide safe and effective sedation for their patients.

11. Local Anesthesia Certification

Local Anesthesia Certification is a certification that allows healthcare professionals to administer local anesthesia for medical procedures. This certification is typically obtained by nurses, dentists, and other medical professionals who need to be able to safely and effectively administer local anesthetics.

The process of obtaining Local Anesthesia Certification can vary depending on the individual's state of residence, but generally involves taking an approved course in local anesthesia administration and passing a written exam. The courses are typically offered through accredited institutions such as community colleges or universities. The length of the course will depend on the institution offering it, but most courses take between three and six months to complete.

Once the course has been successfully completed, individuals must pass a written exam in order to receive their certification. Depending on the institution offering the course, this exam may be administered online or in person at a testing center. After passing the exam, individuals will receive their certificate of completion from the institution they took the course from.

The cost of obtaining Local Anesthesia Certification varies depending on which institution offers it and what type of certification is being sought after. Generally speaking, most courses range from $200-$400 USD for tuition fees alone; however, additional costs may include textbooks and/or study materials as well as any fees associated with taking the written exam.

Do You Really Need a Dental Hygienist Certificate?

When considering whether or not you need a dental hygienist certificate, it is important to consider the advantages and disadvantages of having one. While having a dental hygienist certificate gives you an edge in the job market, there are also some drawbacks to consider.

One advantage of having a dental hygienist certificate is that it allows you to practice as a professional in the field. Having this certificate shows potential employers that you have met the necessary educational requirements for the position and are knowledgeable about the latest techniques and standards in dental hygiene. It also gives you access to more jobs and higher salaries than those without a certificate.

However, there are some downsides to obtaining a dental hygienist certificate. It can be expensive and time-consuming to complete the required coursework, exams, and clinical experience needed for certification. Additionally, depending on where you live, there may be restrictions on what kinds of procedures you can perform with your certification. For example, some states require additional training or certifications before allowing certain procedures such as root canals or extractions.

Ultimately, whether or not you should obtain a dental hygienist certification depends on your individual circumstances and career goals. If your goal is to become an independent practitioner in the field of dentistry then obtaining a certificate might be beneficial for you. However, if your primary goal is simply to work as an assistant under a dentist then it might not be necessary for you to obtain certification at all.

Related: Dental Hygienist Resume Examples

FAQs About Dental Hygienist Certifications

1. How do I become a certified dental hygienist?

To become a certified dental hygienist, you must complete an accredited dental hygiene program and pass a national board exam administered by the American Dental Association's Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).

2. What do I need to maintain my certification?

In order to maintain your certification, you must complete continuing education requirements every two years as determined by CODA. You may also be required to retake the national board exam in order to renew your license.

3. Are there any additional certifications that I can pursue?

Yes, there are additional certifications available through CODA such as local anesthesia certification and advanced restorative functions certification. These certifications require additional coursework or testing.

4. How much does it cost to obtain a dental hygienist certification?

The cost of obtaining a dental hygienist certification varies depending on the type of certification and how many exams are required for completion. Generally, it will cost between $200–$500 for the application fee and $100–$300 per exam taken.

5. What is the difference between a state license and a national certification?

A state license is issued by your state’s licensing board and allows you to practice as a dental hygienist within that state’s jurisdiction. A national certification is issued by CODA and is recognized throughout the United States, allowing you to practice anywhere in the country with one license.

Editorial staff

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Brenna Goyette

Expert Verified

Brenna is a certified professional resume writer, career expert, and the content manager of the ResumeCat team. She has a background in corporate recruiting and human resources and has been writing resumes for over 10 years. Brenna has experience in recruiting for tech, finance, and marketing roles and has a passion for helping people find their dream jobs. She creates expert resources to help job seekers write the best resumes and cover letters, land the job, and succeed in the workplace.

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