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Dental Hygiene Schools and Education Programs in Rhode Island

The Rhode Island Board of Examiners in Dentistry licenses all dental hygienists in Rhode Island. You will need to meet the following conditions in order to be eligible for dental hygienist licensure in Rhode Island:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Be of good moral character
  • Accomplish one of the following:
    • Graduate from a Board-approved dental hygienist education program and complete Board-required dental hygienist testing
    • Hold a dental hygienist license issued by another state that required the passage of an examination for licensure

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Follow these steps to become a licensed dental hygienist through the Rhode Island Board of Examiners in Dentistry:

Attend a Dental Hygienist Program
Pass the National and Regional Dental Hygienist Examinations
Submit an Application to the Rhode Island Board of Examiners in Dentistry
Satisfy Ongoing Dental Hygienist License Maintenance Requirements

 


 

Step 1. Attend a Dental Hygienist Program

Dental hygienist schools must be approved by the Rhode Island Board of Examiners in Dentistry in order for a graduating hygienist to be eligible for licensure. To be approved, the dental hygiene education program must be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). There is one such program in Lincoln, and several additional programs in surrounding states offering the requisite associate’s degree in dental hygiene.

You can expect to take courses such as these when completing an Associate of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene degree program:

  • Survey of biomedical chemistry
  • Oral communication
  • Intro to microbiology
  • Human anatomy and physiology
  • Dental health careers
  • Dental and oral anatomy
  • Oral histology and embryology
  • Oral radiography
  • Periodontics
  • Dental hygiene
  • Community dental health
  • Pathology
  • Materials and tools for dental hygienists
  • Clinical dental hygiene

These programs are designed to develop the competencies necessary to perform all dental hygiene functions legally permitted in Rhode Island.

According to the Rules and Regulations Pertaining to Dental Hygienists, dentists are permitted to delegate procedures they deem advisable. The dentist bears the responsibility for supervising these duties and their outcomes, including:

  • The removal of calculus, stains, and accretions from the sub-gingival and supra-gingival tooth surfaces by root planting and scaling
  • Any duties performed by a dental assistant or certified dental assistant, including:
    • Reversible intra-oral procedures
    • Pit and fissure sealants
    • Fluoride applications

As a dental hygienist in Rhode Island, you are not permitted to perform any of the following duties:

  • Surgical procedures on hard or soft tissues
  • Diagnosis and treatment planning
  • Prescription of medications
  • Taking of impressions or models for dentures, or permanent crowns, bridges, posts, cores, inlays, or onlays
  • Final cementation of permanent crowns or bridges
  • Removal or placement of bonded orthodontic attachments
  • Placement of sutures
  • Direct pulp capping procedures

 


 

Step 2. Pass the National and Regional Dental Hygienist Examinations

Before being issued a license to become a dental hygienist in Rhode Island, you will first need to pass two exams:

You also have the option of passing an alternative examination that is administered by the following agencies and accepted in place of the NBDHE and NERB exams:

If qualifying through one of these alternative exams, you will also need to pass the North East Regional Board of Dental Examiners’ (NERB) Computer Simulated Clinical Examination (CSCE). This is a computer-based exam that takes approximately two hours to complete.

If you hold a dental hygienist license issued by another state that required the passage of a clinical board exam, you may already be eligible for a Rhode Island dental hygienist license.

NBDHE Exam

The National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE) is sponsored by the American Dental Association’s Joint Commission on National Dental Examination (JCNDE). Students in a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA)-approved program are eligible to take this exam when the director or director-designee has certified that the student is prepared. There are two components to the exam:

Component A – 200 items addressing discipline:

  • Scientific basis for dental hygiene practice
  • Community research and health principles
  • Provision of clinical dental hygiene services

Component B – 150 items addressing cases:

  • Professional responsibility
  • Assessment of patient characteristics
  • Supportive treatment service
  • Interpreting and obtaining radiographs
  • Use of preventive agents
  • Managing and planning dental hygiene care
  • Performance of periodontal procedures

You can apply online to take the NBDHE, which is offered at Pearson VUE testing centers in Warwick and at locations in neighboring states.

North East Regional Board of Dental Examiners (NERB) Examination in Dental Hygiene

NERB’s Examination in Dental Hygiene is comprised of two parts:

  • Computer Simulated Clinical Examination (CSCE)

    • Two hours in length
    • Offered at Prometric testing centers, including at one location in Cumberland and one location in Warwick
    • Four hours in length
    • Taken at a clinical exam site
  • Patient Treatment Clinical Examination (PTCE)

Option for Additional Permits

As a dental hygienist in Rhode Island, you also have the option of obtaining two additional permits:

  • Local Anesthesia Permit
  • Nitrous Oxide Permit

Local Anesthesia Permit – To obtain this permit, you will need to accomplish the following:

  • Complete a course in local anesthesia that is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) and is comprised of at least 20 didactic hours and 12 clinical hours covering the subjects of:

    • Neurophysiology of pain and pain control
    • Pharmacology of local anesthetic solutions and drug interactions
    • Local and systemic complications
    • Dental and medical emergency management
    • Dental and medical history assessment
    • Assembly and handling of a syringe
    • Injection techniques
  • Pass a local anesthesia exam administered by the North East Regional Board of Dental Examiners (NERB)

Nitrous Oxide PermitEarning this permit will entail the following:

  • Completion of a nitrous oxide course that is accredited by CODA and includes at least four didactic and four clinical hours on the subjects of:

    • Nitrous oxide techniques
    • Selection of pain control modalities
    • Nitrous oxide analgesia medical emergency techniques
    • Pharmacology of nitrous oxide
  • Passage of a nitrous oxide exam that is administered by NERB

 


 

Step 3. Submit an Application to the Rhode Island Board of Examiners in Dentistry

Once you have met the prerequisites for a dental hygienist license you will be ready to fill out an Application for Licensure. A complete application should include the following materials and be sent to the Rhode Island Board of Examiners in Dentistry in Providence:

  • $65 application fee
  • Photograph
  • Birth certificate

You will also need to arrange for the appropriate agencies to send the following materials directly to the Rhode Island Board of Examiners in Dentistry:

  • License verification from other states, if applicable
  • Official transcripts from a dental hygienist academic program
  • National Board exam results
  • Regional or State Board exam results
  • Proof of current Basic Cardiac Life Support certification

Optional Additional Permit Applications

You can apply for both a Local Anesthesia Permit and a Nitrous Oxide Permit on the same application form used for general dental hygienist licensure. This will require the inclusion of the following additional items:

  • $70 for a Local Anesthesia Permit
  • $70 for a Nitrous Oxide Permit
  • Proof of passage of a NERB exam in the appropriate subject, sent directly by the NERB to the Rhode Island Board of Examiners in Dentistry
  • Official transcripts of the relevant nitrous oxide or local anesthesia courses, to be sent directly to the Board

 


 

Step 4. Satisfy Ongoing Dental Hygienist License Maintenance Requirements

In order to maintain your license and permits as a dental hygienist in Rhode Island, you will need to complete at least 20 hours of continuing education by May 1st of even-numbered years.

This education must be relevant to the practice of dental hygiene and align with the criteria established by the Rhode Island Dental Hygienists’ Association (RIDHA) for continuing education, including one hour per year regarding Blood Borne Pathogens as required by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration).

To maintain a dental hygienist license, you must also keep your Basic Cardiac Life Support certification current.

Every two years, Rhode Island’s approximately 1,050 dental hygienists complete these maintenance requirements. Over the next decade dental hygienist jobs in Rhode Island are projected to grow at a faster-than-average rate. Currently Rhode Island has one of the highest concentrations of dental hygienists in the country.

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