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Dental Hygiene Schools and Education Programs in West Virginia

West Virginia’s 1,100-plus dental hygienists are projected to expand their ranks over the coming decade. With higher-than-average job growth and competitive salaries, the field of dental hygienists is increasingly attractive to both young professionals and those interested in a career u-turn. Dental hygienists are regulated by the state’s Board of Dentistry, and practicing in this field requires that you earn a license.

To become a dental hygienist in West Virginia you will need to complete the following steps:

Earn a Degree in Dental Hygiene
Consider the Optional Expanded Duties for Dental Hygienists
Pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE)
Pass an Approved Clinical Dental Hygienist Clinical Examination
Apply for Licensure as a Dental Hygienist with the West Virginia Board of Dentistry
Maintain Your West Virginia Dental Hygienist License

 


 

Step 1. Earn a Degree in Dental Hygiene

Your first step towards becoming a dental hygienist is to earn a degree in this field. When choosing a dental hygiene school in West Virginia you will need to make sure it is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), an agency affiliated with the American Dental Association (ADA).

There are four dental hygiene education programs in West Virginia that hold this accreditation, located in:

  • Montgomery
  • Morgantown
  • Mount Gay
  • West Liberty

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Among these accredited schools you will have the choice of the following programs, all of which fulfill the state requirements for licensure:

  • Associate’s of Science Degree in Dental Hygiene
  • Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Dental Hygiene
  • Master’s of Science Degree in Dental Hygiene

As you get started in your education you will need to take prerequisite courses such as:

  • English and communications
  • Basic psychology and sociology
  • Nutrition
  • Introductory biology and chemistry
  • Microbiology
  • Intermediate algebra
  • Anatomy and physiology

Once you begin taking courses in your dental hygiene major you should expect to study the following subjects:

  • Health care terminology
  • Oral and dental anatomy
  • Dental radiology
  • Techniques of dental hygiene
  • Anesthesia for dental hygienists
  • Dental hygiene public health and education
  • Expanded function courses for dental hygienists
  • Dental hygiene ethics and practice
  • Advanced dental hygiene methods
  • Pharmacology for dental hygienists
  • Dental hygiene clinical
  • Clinical evaluation

 


 

Step 2. Consider the Optional Expanded Duties for Dental Hygienists

When choosing your dental hygienist school in West Virginia you should keep in mind the optional expanded duties available to dental hygienists who have completed requisite courses. A dental hygienist education program may or may not include these as part of their curriculum.

Certificate to Administer Light-Activated Bleaching

You can be eligible for this certification once you complete a two-hour course of didactic instruction that includes a demonstration or video of bleaching techniques and isolation. The course must culminate with an examination on which you correctly answer at least 75 percent of the questions.

Certificate of Privileges to Administer Local Anesthesia

To be eligible for this expanded duty you must already be a licensed dental hygienist in West Virginia and complete the following:

  • Have a current CPR or BLS certification
  • Have taken an approved course in the administration of local anesthetic
  • Pass an approved regional or state-sponsored clinical examination dealing with the administration of local anesthesia

Certificate to Monitor the Administration of Nitrous Oxide

Being eligible for this certificate requires that you complete a two-hour course of didactic study in this subject area and compete a written exam with a score of at least 75 percent.

Option for General Supervision Permit

Having a General Supervision Permit means that under certain conditions you will be allowed to perform preventive dental hygiene services for up to three consecutive weeks or 15 consecutive business days. To be eligible for this you will need to take a three-hour course that pertains to the prevention and identification of medical emergencies.

In addition to this education, to practice on a General Supervision Permit you must fulfill the following:

  • Have at least two years and 3,000 hours of clinical dental hygienist experience
  • The patient being examined must have been previously examined by a dentist, and this must have been within the past year
  • You must adhere to any written protocols established by your supervising dentist
  • You must consult with your supervising dentist or a physician if your patient’s medical history has significantly changed

 


 

Step 3. Pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE)

Administered by the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations (JCNDE), the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE) is offered at two locations in West Virginia and additional locations in neighboring states:

  • Charleston
  • Morgantown

You can prepare for the NBDHE by reviewing its content outline. The test is made up of 350 multiple-choice questions that will evaluate your theoretical and practical knowledge on the subjects of:

  • Science and the practice of dental hygiene
  • Clinical dental hygiene practices
  • Periodontal procedures
  • Supportive services of dental hygienists
  • Preventative procedures and materials
  • Radiographs
  • Patient assessment
  • Professional responsibility, ethics, and community education

 


 

Step 4. Pass an Approved Clinical Dental Hygienist Clinical Examination

You will also need to pass a dental hygienist clinical exam that demonstrates you have attained the practical skills required to be an effective professional in your field. The West Virginia Board of Dentistry recognizes a number of different clinical exams offered by regional agencies and states. Some of the most common regional providers of clinical examinations are:

You will be expected to demonstrate the following on whichever clinical exam you choose:

  • Patient assessment
  • Teeth and gingival cleaning
  • Intra and extra-oral assessment
  • Periodontal probing
  • Removal of calculus, plaque, and stains

States and regional agencies, such as WREB and NERB, also offer recognized exams for candidates who are interested in obtaining a certification to administer local anesthesia.

 


 

Step 5. Apply for Licensure as a Dental Hygienist with the West Virginia Board
of Dentistry

A complete application for licensure as a dental hygienist with the West Virginia Board of Dentistry will include:

  • Completed Application
  • Attestation stating that you will read West Virginia’s dental laws and rules in preparation for a jurisprudence exam that will be provided after your application by the Board of Dentistry
  • Your official dental hygiene school transcript sent directly from your school to the Board
  • A list of any states where you are, or have previously been, licensed as a dental hygienist, if applicable
  • Attestation of good standing sent to the Board from each state where you have been a licensed dental hygienist, if applicable
  • Your NBDHE scores sent directly to the Board
  • Your state or regional clinical exam scores sent directly to the Board
  • Two personal references that may not be from family members or school instructors, preferably from dentists

Applications for Expanded Duties

If you have completed the required course work for any of the following expanded duties you will also be eligible to submit an application for the appropriate permission to be granted by the West Virginia Board of Dentistry:

 


 

Step 6. Maintain Your West Virginia Dental Hygienist License

Your dental hygienist license is valid for two years and must be renewed after this point. As part of the renewal requirements you will need to earn at least 20 hours of continuing education every two-year renewal cycle. At least two hours of continuing education should be related to any one or combination of the following:

  • Infection control
  • Occupational hazards
  • Oral effects of tobacco use
  • Oral effects of substance abuse

Because of the ability of dental hygienists to advance in their education from an Associate’s of Science Degree in Dental Hygiene, a strategic way of fulfilling the continuing education requirements can be to earn a higher-level degree in this field.

You must also have a current CPR/BLS certification at the time of each license renewal. You can include the time you spend obtaining this certification as part of your continuing education.

You can check with local organizations such as the West Virginia Dental Hygienists’ Association (WVDHA) for additional resources regarding continuing education and dental hygienist jobs in West Virginia.

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