Dental Hygiene Schools and Education Programs in South Carolina

The South Carolina Board of Dentistry, an agency that operates under the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation; is responsible for issuing licenses to dental hygienists in the state.

Candidates must meet several requirements to be eligible for dental hygienist licensure in South Carolina:

Graduate from an Approved Dental Hygienist School
Pass the Required Written Examinations
Pass a Clinical Exam
Consider Optional Dental Hygienist Certifications
Apply for a Dental Hygienist License with the South Carolina Board of Dentistry
Meet the Renewal Requirements for a Dental Hygienist License in South Carolina

There are approximately 2,340 dental hygienists working throughout South Carolina. State law strictly defines the role of dental hygienists in terms of what these professionals can and cannot do in the state.

Dental hygienists are permitted to do the following under the general supervision of a dentist:

  • Perform preventative dental services that are not within the scope of a dentist
  • Apply topical fluoride, sealants, and oral prophylaxis
  • Provide oral hygiene instruction and counseling
  • Perform oral screenings
  • Provide dietary and nutrition counseling without prior authorization

Dental hygienists may not:

  • Perform dental exams, diagnoses, or conduct treatment planning
  • Perform surgical procedures or cut hard or soft tissues
  • Perform prosthetic, restorative, or orthodontic procedures
  • Make corrections of malformed teeth
  • Make impressions or jaw relation records



Step 1. Graduate from an Approved Dental Hygienist School

To be eligible for a dental hygienist license from the South Carolina Board of Dentistry, you must graduate from a dental hygiene school that is accredited by the American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).

There are six such dental hygiene education programs in South Carolina, located in:

  • Charleston
  • Columbia
  • Florence
  • Greenville
  • Myrtle Beach
  • Rock Hill

As part of the education program, aspiring dental hygienists will study subjects including:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Chemistry: general, organic, and biological
  • Principles of dental hygiene
  • Tooth morphology
  • Head and neck anatomy
  • Dental and medical emergencies
  • Dental radiology
  • Dental pharmacology
  • Oral pathology
  • Dental health and nutrition
  • Public health dentistry
  • Clinical dental hygiene

The base requirement for licensure is an associate’s degree in dental hygiene, though bachelor’s programs are also available.



Step 2. Pass the Required Written Examinations

National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE)

You can apply online to take the NBDHE, which is administered by the ADA-affiliated Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations (JCNDE). Students are eligible for this exam once the director of their CODA-approved dental hygienist academic program has certified their preparedness.

There are approximately 350 questions on the NBDHE, divided into two main categories:

Discipline of Dental Hygiene:

  • Scientific basis for dental hygiene practice
    • Anatomic sciences
    • Physiology
    • Microbiology and immunology
  • Community research and health principles
    • Community program participation
    • Understanding statistical concepts and applying research results
    • Disease prevention and health promotion
  • Provision of clinical dental hygiene services
    • Interpreting and obtaining radiographs
    • Managing and planning dental hygiene care
    • Assessment of patient characteristics

Case-Based Theoretical Scenarios of Dental Hygiene:

  • 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

The NBDHE can be taken at three Pearson VUE testing centers in South Carolina, located in the cities of:

  • Columbia
  • North Charleston
  • Greenville

South Carolina online Jurisprudence Examination

The Jurisprudence Exam is an online, open-book test that may be taken at any time, and as many times as is necessary to pass. The Jurisprudence Exam covers the statutes and regulations of the South Carolina Board of Dentistry.

After submitting an initial application for licensure, prospective dental hygienists will be emailed instructions on how to take this exam.



Step 3. Pass a Clinical Exam

The Board of Dentistry accepts two different clinical exams to fulfill this requirement:

Southern Regional Testing Agency’s (SRTA) Dental Hygiene Licensure Examination

This Dental Hygiene Licensure Examination evaluates a prospective dental hygienist’s clinical judgment and performance. You can apply online for this examination, which consists of five clinical elements:

  • Presentation of a selection of teeth that meets required criteria
  • Presentation of radiographs that are of adequate quality
  • Detection of all types of dental calculus plus recognition of when a surface is free of calculus
  • Completion of a partial oral prophylaxis while preserving the health of surrounding tissue
  • Completion of a partial periodontal assessment through the measurement of periodontal pocket depths

American Dental Hygiene Licensing Examination (ADHLEX)

The South Carolina Board of Dentistry recognizes this examination as it is offered through two agencies:

The basic components of this exam include the following:

  • Extra and intra-oral evaluation
  • Periodontal probing
  • Supragingival deposit removal
  • Subgingival and scaling calculus removal



Step 4. Consider Optional Dental Hygienist Certifications

As a dental hygienist, you also have the option to obtain two additional certifications:

Nitrous Oxide Monitoring Certification

This certification is available for dental hygienists who can meet the following requirements:

  • Hold a current CPR certification
  • Complete an approved course in nitrous oxide monitoring or hold a similar certification from a different state
  • Pass the South Carolina State Board Nitrous Oxide Monitoring Examination

Administer Local Infiltration Anesthesia Certification

This certification is available for dental hygienists who can meet these requirements:

  • Hold a current CPR certification
  • Pass an approved course in local infiltration anesthesia or already hold a similar certification issued by another state
  • Pass the Infiltration Anesthesia Certification Examination, offered four times per year

This certification must be renewed every two years.



Step 5. Apply for a Dental Hygienist License with the South Carolina Board
of Dentistry

Once you have fulfilled the education and exam requirements you will be prepared to submit an Application for a License to Practice Dental Hygiene. The following materials must be submitted along with a completed application to the South Carolina Board of Dentistry in Columbia:

  • $150 application fee
  • Official academic transcripts from the candidate’s dental hygienist program
  • Verification of Licensure form, if a candidate is licensed in a different state
  • National Board Dental Hygiene Examination score report, mailed directly by the JCNDE
  • Exam results from the clinical test, if the candidate is not already a licensed dental hygienist in a different state
  • Personal history responses regarding prior unethical or criminal behavior
  • Three letters of recommendation from licensed dentists
  • Proof of current CPR certification and recent education regarding infection control

It can take between three and six weeks for an application to be approved. Upon receiving a license you will be able to apply for dental hygienist jobs in South Carolina.

Eligible dental hygienists can also submit the following applications to the state’s Board of Dentistry:



Step 6. Meet the Renewal Requirements for a Dental Hygienist License in
South Carolina

Dental hygienists must complete at least 14 hours of continuing education during each two-year period of license validity. This should be in areas that relate to the dental hygienist job description, such as:

  • Medical and scientific subjects
  • Technical and clinical subjects
  • CPR, nutrition, and diet
  • Dental radiology
  • Infection control and risk management

Board-approved providers of continuing education include:

  • Academy of General Dentistry
  • American Dental Association
  • American Dental Hygienists’ Association
  • National Association of Dental Laboratories
  • American Dental Assistants’ Association

Dental hygienists must also renew their CPR certification once every three years.

Candidates who have met these qualifications will be eligible to complete a Renewal Application, that includes the option to renew an Anesthesia Certificate.

For more information about this professional field, prospective dental hygienists can check with organizations such as the South Carolina Dental Hygiene Association.

Back to Top