What You Should Know About the Dental Hygienist Certification Exam

HealthcareJanuary 23, 2017

Once you’ve completed your dental hygiene educational program at an accredited ADA Commission on Dental Accreditation school, you’ve still got some studying and testing to undergo.

Now it’s time to take the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination and any clinical tests required by the state where you plan to practice. While technically there is no certification specific to the profession, candidates must be licensed in order to perform the duties of a dental hygienist.

The standard test that many states use to assess a graduate’s qualifications and skills is the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE), which is administered by the Joint  Commission on National Dental Examinations. Designed to determine basic dental care information and the ability to problem-solve dental hygiene situations that may arise, the NBDHE consists of 350 questions spread over two components.

National Board Dental Hygiene Examination Components

The first component covers basic dental hygiene science, various clinical practices and responsibilities, and community health and research applications. Component B tests 150 case-based items that refer to approximately a dozen patients, including geriatrics, pediatrics, special needs and adult periodontal cases, among others. A score of 75 or better is required to pass. Those who pass only receive notification that they have passed; failures receive a numerical score so they know how much improvement they must make.

The Commission on Dental Competency Assessments (CDCA) also administers a licensing exam – the ADEX Dental Hygiene Examination, which is recognized by 46 states. Should you be required to take that exam to practice, you should know it is given in two parts on two separate days. The Computer Simulated Clinical Exam is administered at a testing center and takes about two hours, while the Patient Treatment Clinical Exam takes about four hours and is held in a clinical examination site. Like the NBDHE, the passing grade for each section is 75.

Both exams must be successfully completed within a specific time period. Candidates must pass both sections of the ADEX Dental Hygiene Exam within 18 months or re-take the complete series. The NBDHE follows a five-year/five-attempts policy: candidates must pass within five years of their first attempt, or within five attempts – whichever occurs first.

Take the First Step to Becoming a Dental Hygienist

Ready for the challenge? Fortis offers Dental Hygiene programs at several of its College and Institute campuses across the country. Fortis programs prepare students to sit for a licensure exam after graduation so they can qualify to work as an entry-level hygienist – a career the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects to grow by 33% through 2022.  Visit our site to learn more about the rewarding career opportunities as a Dental Hygienist.

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