how do you become a dental hygienist

How to Become a Dental Hygienist in Connecticut

Did you know that oral health can have a major impact on a person’s overall health? Good dental hygiene not only stops bad breath and cavities, but also significantly reduces the risk of diseases like endocarditis, stroke, and heart disease. This makes dental hygienists a pivotal member of a patient’s healthcare team. These professionals provide routine preventive care, screen for dental diseases, and educate patients on oral health.

Dental hygienists must be highly skilled, adept, and knowledgeable to carry out their jobs. Thus, they must complete several years of training before earning licensure. If you are interested in becoming a dental hygienist, know that you will need to meet certain requirements. You must:

  • Earn a dental hygiene degree from an accredited college or university.
  • Complete the national board examination for dental hygienists.
  • Fulfill experiential requirements and complete any clinical assessments.

The requirements to become a dental hygienist vary by state. In this guide, we’ll discuss the general requirements for hygienists nationwide, as well as how to become a dental hygienist in Connecticut.

Common Steps to Become a Dental Hygienist

As noted above, different states have different requirements for healthcare professionals, and dental hygienists are no exception. In general, however, there are commonalities for anyone launching a dental hygiene career. Here are the key steps you will need to take to become a dental hygienist today.

1. Complete an accredited dental hygiene degree program.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the standard degree requirement for dental hygienists is an associate degree in Dental Hygiene. Some aspiring hygienists may go on to pursue a bachelor’s degree, but an associate degree is what enables a professional to apply for their license to practice.

Advanced degrees at the bachelor’s or master’s level are more often pursued for advanced research, teaching, or clinical practice in school and agency settings.

When seeking an associate degree in Dental Hygiene, it is recommended that you apply to an accredited program. The Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), which is part of the American Dental Association, accredits more than 300 dental hygiene programs, including the one at Goodwin University. This level of accreditation means that a program has achieved or exceeded the basic expectations and requirements set forth by this board, and offers a top-quality education to aspiring hygienists.

A dental hygiene associate degree usually takes about three years to complete, though fulfilling your science prerequisites may help speed up the time to completion. The degree program itself consists of a combination of classroom, laboratory, and clinical instruction. You can expect to study periodontology, pain management, pharmacology, head and neck anatomy, as well as the principles of dental hygiene.

2. Complete the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE).

In every state across the U.S., it is required for dental hygienists to be licensed. Licensure is granted at the state level. However, one step in the evaluation process is for candidates to successfully complete the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE). This examination helps dental boards evaluate each candidate’s qualifications for licensure, assessing their knowledge of biomedical sciences, dental hygiene services, and community health principles. The exam also evaluates problem-solving skills.

The NBDHE is a written examination that is offered at Pearson Vue Test Centers throughout the U.S. It is available year-round. It fulfills, at least partially, each jurisdiction’s written exam requirement.

In order to take the NBDHE, you must have graduated from a CODA-accredited dental hygiene program or equivalent. With your exam application, you’ll be required to submit a copy of your final transcript with the conferred degree, serving as proof of graduation. Some dental hygiene students may apply for the exam prior to graduation, if recommended by their program director.

3. Complete the state-required clinical examinations for licensure.

The NBDHE examination is just one step towards licensure. As noted above, it is intended to fulfill or partially fulfill the written component for licensure in all states. However, many states will also require further examinations to assess each candidate’s skillset.

It is important to contact your state regarding their specific licensure requirements. Typically, you will find that there is a clinical examination involved. A clinical examination is designed to assess your practical skills in the field, including your level of dexterity and technical expertise through various simulated or patient-based exercises.

In order to prepare for a clinical examination, it is recommended that you participate in practical experiences during your dental program. For example, at Goodwin University, dental hygiene students are able to practice on real patients in our state-of-the-art dental clinic (under the supervision of licensed faculty and dentists). This allows them to apply their knowledge to practice, and develop competencies like:

  • Critical thinking
  • Dexterity
  • Technique and precision
  • Problem-solving
  • Detail orientation
  • Communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills

The clinical examination will also evaluate your functional abilities as a prospective hygienist. Learn about the functional abilities you must master here.

How to Become a Dental Hygienist in Connecticut

Like many states, Connecticut encourages the above steps for aspiring dental hygienists. However, there are specific education and examination requirements set forth by the state.

Below are the dental hygienist eligibility requirements outlined on the official Connecticut website:

  1. Graduate from a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) accredited dental hygiene program and submit the official transcripts verifying the degree award.
  2. Successfully complete the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, and submit an official report of your scores to the state.
  3. Successfully complete one of the following clinical performance examinations:
  4. Submit an online application for your dental hygiene license, with a fee of $150.

Of course, license requirements are always subject to change. If you are unsure of the process in your area, do not hesitate to contact your state’s department of public health. You may also contact your dental hygienist school and they can provide you information about the current requirements.

Become a Dental Hygienist through Goodwin University

Goodwin University is a recognized dental hygiene school in Connecticut, helping aspiring professionals into careers they love through career-focused curriculum and exciting clinical experiences.

At Goodwin, you can become a dental hygienist in just 24 months full-time. Our flexible program allows you to develop your course schedule during days and evenings, at a pace that works for you.

Ready to launch your dental hygiene career? Request more information on our program here!