Dental Hygiene Schools and Education Programs in South Dakota

State law requires all dental hygienists to be licensed by the South Dakota State Board of Dentistry. To become eligible for dental assistant licensure in South Dakota you will need to complete these steps:

Graduate from an Approved Dental Hygienist School
Pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE)
Pass an Approved Regional Clinical Exam
Consider Obtaining Additional Dental Hygienist Qualifications
Apply for a Dental Hygienist License from the South Dakota Board of Dentistry
Maintain Your Dental Hygienist License



Step 1. Graduate from an Approved Dental Hygienist School

The South Dakota State Board of Dentistry will only grant a dental hygienist license to new candidates who have graduated from an approved associate’s degree program. Dental hygienist schools in South Dakota that have been approved by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) are the only programs recognized by the South Dakota Board of Dentistry.

There is one such dental hygiene school located in Vermillion, with additional CODA-approved programs located in neighboring states.


As you prepare to undertake an approved course of study in dental hygiene, you can expect to take courses that include:

  • Medical and dental emergencies
  • Dental embryology
  • Clinical skill development
  • Principles of radiography
  • Histology and oral pathology
  • Pharmacology
  • Nitrous oxide sedation
  • Dental materials
  • Oral local anesthetic
  • Nutrition
  • Periodontics
  • Ethics and jurisprudence
  • Dental health and community education
  • Dental hygienist practicum



Step 2. Pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE)

Candidates who are enrolled in, or graduate from, a CODA-accredited dental hygiene education program are eligible to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE), which is administered in cooperation with the American Dental Association through the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations (JCNDE).

You can register for the NBDHE online, which is offered at a testing center in Sioux Falls as well as at locations in neighboring states. The exam is comprised of approximately 350 items that cover the theory and clinical practice relating to the following subjects:

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



Step 3. Pass an Approved Regional Clinical Exam

To become a dental hygienist in South Dakota, you will also need to pass a regional test that is offered through either of the following agencies:

Central Regional Dental Testing Service (CRDTS)

Once you have graduated from a CODA-approved dental hygiene program you will be eligible to apply online to take the CRDTS Dental Hygiene Exam. This will score you on your performance regarding clinical patient treatment, and includes the following subsections:

  • Intra/extra oral assessment – 16 percent
  • Supra-gingival deposit removal – 12 percent
  • Sub-gingival/scaling calculus removal – 60 percent
  • Periodontal probing – 12 percent

Western Regional Examining Board (WREB)

The WREB Dental Hygiene Exam is available to students who are currently enrolled or recent graduates of a CODA-approved dental hygienist program. You can apply online to take the exam, which is administered on a computer and simulates a clinical experience. For this exam you will be assigned a random hypothetical patient case and answer questions on the following subjects based on your patient’s particular circumstances:

  • Intra/extra oral assessment – 10 percent
  • Periodontal assessment – 25 percent
  • Outcome assessment and planning/evaluation – 35 percent
  • Risk and general health assessment – 20 percent
  • Periodontal disease classification – 10 percent



Step 4. Consider Obtaining Additional Dental Hygienist Qualifications

State law allows for the dental hygienist job description in South Dakota to be expanded in three optional areas once you can meet certain requirements:

  • Administration of nitrous oxide
  • Administration of local anesthesia
  • Monitoring of patients under deep-to-moderate sedation or general anesthesia

To become eligible for these expanded duties you must complete a course in each subject area that is approved by the South Dakota Board of Dentistry. You may also be eligible to perform these services if you have been approved to do so by a dental board in a different state. When applying for permission to perform these duties you must also provide proof that you have a current CPR certification.



Step 5. Apply for a Dental Hygienist License from the South Dakota Board
of Dentistry

Once you complete the following two requirements you will be ready to apply for a dental hygienist license with the South Dakota Board of Dentistry:

CPR Certification

All dental hygienists must obtain CPR certification – submitting proof of such with an application for licensure – from one of the following agencies:

South Dakota Jurisprudence Exam

You can download the South Dakota Jurisprudence Exam, which you must complete and submit with your application. The exam is an open-book test based on the laws and statutes pertaining to dental practitioners.

Upon completing the requirements up to this point you will be ready to submit an application for licensure to the South Dakota Board of Dentistry. If you are already a licensed dental hygienist in a different state, you will need to submit a different application. You can also submit applications for permission to perform optional expanded duties:

You will also need to make sure that the appropriate agencies send proof of your exam scores, out-of-state licensure, and academic history to the South Dakota Board of Dentistry in order to submit a complete application.

Once you have received your license you will be ready to start applying for dental hygienist jobs in South Dakota. There are approximately 490 dental assistants working at locations throughout the state, concentrated in various areas as follows:

  • 200 in Sioux Falls
  • 150 in the eastern South Dakota non-metropolitan area
  • 110 in the Sioux City greater metropolitan area
  • 40 in the western South Dakota non-metropolitan area



Step 6. Maintain Your Dental Hygienist License

Your dental hygienist license must be renewed annually by July 1st. You must also obtain a prescribed amount of continuing education based on a five-year cycle. Within this time frame dental hygienists need to earn at least 75 hours of continuing education that includes at least five hours that are related to radiology.

There are different categories of continuing education, some of which have a maximum limit of hours that may be considered in each five-year cycle:

  • University-based continuing education – no limit
  • Home study – up to 30 hours per cycle
  • CPR – up to 15 hours per cycle
  • Practice management – up to 10 hours per cycle
  • Nutrition – up to 15 hours per cycle
  • Clinical – no limit
  • Radiography – must have at least five hours
  • State, regional, or national meetings/conventions – up to 25 hours per cycle
  • Clinical volunteer service – up to 30 hours per cycle for service with approved organizations
  • Class instruction – up 36 hours per cycle

Dental hygienists must also maintain a current CPR certification through the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association.

For additional information about continuing education events, employment opportunities, and professional development you can check with organizations such as the South Dakota Dental Hygienists’ Association (SDDHA).

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