Complete these steps to become a licensed dental hygienist in Texas:
The Texas State Board of Dental Examiners allows dental hygienists to perform duties that include the exposure of radiographs, and the application of pit and fissure sealants. Other typical services dental hygienists perform include:
- Smoothing of roughened root surfaces
- Polishing exposed teeth
- Topical application of drugs
- Removal of accumulated matter, deposits, stains, and accretions from natural and restored tooth surfaces
The Texas State Board of Dental Examiners is responsible for issuing dental hygienist licenses, as well as regulating the nearly 13,000 hygienists licensed in the state as of 2013.
Step 1. Graduate from an Approved Dental Hygiene School
All dental hygienists in Texas must graduate from a school that is approved by the American Dental Association’s (ADA) Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). These programs result in an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene, both of which satisfy the requirements for licensure in Texas.
Programs include a clinical training component as well as didactic coursework that includes:
- Pharmacology for the dental hygienist
- Oral pathology
- Contemporary dental hygiene
- Anatomy and physiology
- Preventative dental hygiene
- Dental radiology
- Dental nutrition
- Sociology, psychology, and communication
- Dental hygienist clinical experience
There are more than two dozen approved dental hygienist schools in Texas, as well as online schools offering distance learning options.
Step 2. Pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE)
The National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE) is sponsored by the ADA’s Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations (JCNDE) and offered at locations across Texas and in neighboring states.
You can register to take this exam once you complete or are near completion of an ADA-approved dental hygiene education program.
The NBDHE content is made up of 350 multiple-choice questions that focus on the theory of dental hygiene and hypothetical patient scenarios that may involve:
- Professional responsibility
- Obtaining and interpreting x-rays
- Supportive treatment
- Preventative agents
- Performance of periodontal procedures
- Patient assessment
- Supportive treatment services
- Community health
- Research principles
Step 3. Pass an Approved Regional or State Dental Hygiene Clinical Examination
You will also need to pass a dental hygienist clinical examination. The Texas State Board of Dental Examiners recognizes the following agencies as valid sponsors of clinical exams:
- Western Regional Examining Board
- Central Regional Dental Testing Service
- Commission on Dental Competency Assessments
- Southern Regional Testing Agency
- Council of Interstate Testing Agencies
A typical clinical exam will include segments that focus on:
- Intra- and extra-oral assessment
- Supra-gingival deposit removal
- Scaling and sub-gingival calculus removal
- Periodontal examination and probing
Step 4. Apply for a Dental Hygienist License with the Texas State Board of
Before you will be eligible to apply for licensure with the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners you must meet three additional requirements:
Anyone wishing to become a dental hygienist in Texas must complete a fingerprint criminal records check. This will confirm an absence of any serious state and national criminal violations.
Basic Life Support CPR Certification
You must also have a current Basic Life Support CPR certification from an agency that offers hands-on training. This training should also include a demonstration of skills on a manikin and a written assessment.
Texas State Board of Dental Examiners Jurisprudence Assessment
You can take the Jurisprudence Assessment online. This exam covers the rules and regulations that pertain to dental hygienists and the field of dentistry in Texas:
Submitting an Application
Once you have fulfilled these requirements you will be ready to apply for a dental hygienist license with the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners. Make sure to include the following with an Application for Licensure as a Dental Hygienist:
- Official score from the NBDHE
- Proof of passing a regional or state dental hygienist clinical examination
- Proof of passing the Jurisprudence Assessment
- Certified or notarized copy of your ADA-approved dental hygienist school diploma
The processing time for applications usually ranges between six to eight weeks. When the Board grants you a license you will be ready to start applying for dental hygienist jobs in Texas.
You may also wish to consider the following depending on your circumstances and goals:
Nitrous Oxide Monitoring Certification
In order to be eligible for a certificate to monitor patients who are inhaling nitrous oxide you will need to complete an approved course of instruction in this subject area and submit an Application for a Nitrous Oxide Monitoring Certificate to the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners. You must already be a licensed dental hygienist in Texas before you are eligible to apply for this certification. The Nitrous Oxide Monitoring Certificate does not need to be renewed.
If you are already an experienced dental hygienist from another state you have the option of applying for licensure in Texas based on your credentials. To be eligible for this you will need to forward the following information to Professional Background Information Service (PBIS). The Texas State Board of Dental Examiners contracts with this agency to verify that all information is accurate:
- Proof that you have passed the Jurisprudence Assessment
- Proof of completion of 12 hours of approved continuing education in the past year, according to Texas standards
- Proof that your out-of-state dental hygiene license with an official governmental body is in good standing
- Proof that you have worked as a dental hygienist for three of the past five years, or as a dental educator for the past five years; if you cannot meet this requirement you may apply for a temporary dental hygienist license
- Results of a background check
- Proof that you have graduated from an ADA-approved dental hygienist education program
- Proof of current Basic Life Support CPR certification
- Proof that you have passed the NBDHE
- Proof that you have passed a state or regional dental hygiene clinical examination
PBIS will collect and verify this information, then send you a verification letter confirming that your information is full and complete. Once you receive this letter you can submit it along with an Application for Licensure Based on Credential to the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners.
Temporary Dental Hygienist License for Out-of-State Candidates
If you are an out-of-state candidate you have the option of applying for a temporary dental hygienist license that will allow you to work while you complete any outstanding work experience requirements. Aside from this outstanding requirement you will need to meet all other eligibility requirements for a normal dental hygienist license based on credentials.
In addition to these requirements, for you to work with a temporary license your employer must accept Medicaid patients and be classified as a nonprofit corporation
To apply for the temporary license you will need to submit an Application for a Temporary License. The temporary license expires annually and may be renewed until all requirements for full licensure are met.
Step 5. Maintain Your Dental Hygienist License
Your initial dental hygienist license will be pro-rated and expire between 6 and 18 months after it is issued. After this initial period you will need to renew your license every year. To be eligible to do this you must earn at least 12 annual hours of continuing education.
Continuing education should be selected from an approved provider. There are at least 22 approved providers of continuing education, including:
- American Dental Association
- Academy of General Dentistry
- American Medical Association
- National Dental Association
- National Dental Hygienists’ Association
- American Academy of Dental Hygiene
- American Heart Association
- Dental Laboratory Association of Texas
If you earn more than 12 hours of continuing education you are allowed to carry this over to the next year. Coursework that is taken to fulfill the continuing education requirement should adhere to the following conditions:
- Eight hours must be technical or scientific and relate to clinical care
- Up to four hours may be in risk management courses
- Up to six hours may be self-study courses
- OSHA and CPR courses do not count towards fulfilling the continuing education requirement
You will also need to retake the Jurisprudence Assessment once every three years, and the time spent doing this does not count towards yearly continuing education.
You can find more information about continuing education, professional development, and career opportunities with agencies such as Texas Dental Hygienists’ Association (TDHA) and the approved providers of continuing education.
Dental hygienists work throughout Texas and are distributed as follows across the state:
- 4,210 in the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metropolitan area
- 2,910 in the Dallas-Plano-Irving metropolitan area
- 2,650 in the Houston metropolitan area
- 1,300 in the Fort Worth-Arlington metropolitan area
- 820 in the Austin metropolitan area
- 380 in El Paso
- 220 in the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission metropolitan area
- 180 in the Beaumont-Port Arthur metropolitan area
- 150 in Corpus Christi
- 140 in the Fort Hood metropolitan area
- 130 in Lubbock
- 120 in Longview