How to Become A Dental Hygienist in California-8 Best Steps

This article detailed the steps on how to become a dental hygienist in California. A dental hygienist or oral hygienist is a licensed dental professional, registered with a dental association or a regulatory body within the country where he practices. Before we talk about how to become a dental hygienist in California, let us look at who a dental hygienist is.

Dental hygienists are health professionals who have received special education and training in the prevention and treatment of many oral diseases.

It is no gainsaying that dental hygienists are among the top sought after health professionals in California, which explains why an average dental hygienist earns as high as $94,980.

It becomes more interesting to know that top dental hygienist earns as much as $109,970 ($52.87 per hour). Are you seeking to build a career in dental hygiene? If you are already a dental hygienist seeking to get information on how to acquire a dental hygiene license, then sit tight as we lead you through how to become a dental hygienist in California.

The Steps on How to Become A Dental Hygienist in California

  • Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in a Related Field
  • Complete the Requirement for State licensing 

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in a Related Field

In general, the first step on our list of steps on how to become a dental hygienist in California is obtaining a bachelor’s degree in dental health or a related field.

This must be done through an institution fully accredited by Commission on Dental Accreditation. A bachelor’s degree in dental health exposes you to research opportunities and clinical practices as opposed to obtaining an associate degree. 

Dental hygiene programs are often offered in community colleges, technical schools, and universities and they typically take 3 years to complete ranging from laboratory, clinical, and classroom instruction.

Areas of study include anatomy, medical ethics, and periodontics, which is the study of gum disease. Courses such as Nutrition, Psychology, Chemistry, Physiology, English, Anatomy, Biology, etc. are often required as prerequisites.

It is important you research the prerequisite courses required to obtain a degree in any field you want to build a career in. This will ensure you start taking classes in these courses that are needed. 

Step 2: Complete the Requirement for State licensing 

Becoming a dental hygienist does not just stop at Obtaining a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene. As much as this is a significant step, you will be required to obtain a state license before you are authorized to practice.

Further steps on how to complete the requirements for state licensing if you must practice as a dental hygienist are as follows:

  • Step 3: Must be a graduate of an approved and accredited Dental Hygiene program.

  • Step 4: Must successfully complete a dental hygiene clinical examination accepted by the state of California.

  • Step 5: Must Complete an approved course in the administration of local anaesthesia and nitrous oxide.

  • Step 6: Must pass the National written examination.

Step 7: complete an application through the Western Regional Examination Board (WREB). 

Upon successful completion of the WREB application, a letter will be sent to you with information regarding the written RDH law and ethics examination administered by the computer-based testing centre (PSI).

Obtaining licensure will demand that successful applicants pass the RDH law and ethics examination.

Once the whole requirements are met, you will be considered fully licensed and can add “RDH” to your name, signifying that you are a registered dental hygienist.

Step 8: Engage in Continuing Education

To remain relevant, as well as maintain your license, you will need to participate in continuing education sessions to stay up to date on the latest dental hygiene techniques and research.

Continuing education will keep you at the forefront of knowledge, exposing you to the latest best practices in your field, whether it relates to handling equipment or serving patients more effectively.

There are both local and international programs in dental hygiene you could lay your hands on, in addition to courses offered by the America Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA). Colgate’s Oral Health Network is an online option you can take advantage of to improve yourself.

What Do Dental Hygienists Do?

Dental hygienists assess patients for signs of oral diseases, such as cavities, gingivitis, and so on and provide preventive care, as well as oral hygiene.

They also teach patients good oral hygiene practices and examine the mouth for disease.

They may also provide nutritional counselling and instruct patients on how to take care of their teeth so that they can last a lifetime.

Dental hygienists also discuss with patients one-on-one to talk about good oral hygiene practices, the link between their diet and oral health and how their oral health will improve their overall wellbeing.

They may also suggest to them the type of toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss to use and describe correctly how to use these products. 

Dental Hygienists do not diagnose dental problems, but over time they have acquired more responsibility.

They also work directly with the dentist to convey information about patients and determine what instruction to give to them. They might also perform some tasks under the supervision of the dentist.

Why Become a Dental Hygienist?

Often, deciding on the right career path to settle for may look challenging. However, you want a career with a stable income flow. If You want a job that can provide you with a stable lifestyle, then dental hygienists are all you want.

Working as a dental hygienist lets you earn good pay with stable hours in a comfortable work environment.

Opportunities abound in this ever-growing field to help you land that dream job, as many practitioners in this field have opportunities of working part-time. 

Benefits of Being a Dental Hygienist 

There are several benefits to becoming a dental hygienist. Some of them may include a comfortable salary and sufficient job opportunities.

According to research carried out by the BLS, the job outlook for a dental hygienist is very bright.

Further advantages can include interacting with patients and the feeling of satisfaction derived from helping people.

Dental hygiene jobs can also offer diversity as you can work with numerous types of people each day, from children to adults to elderly patients. 

Do I Need to Be Certified to Be a Dental Hygienist?

Also on how to become a dental hygienist in California, obtaining a license is a vital step. Licensing is mandatory for all 50 states in the United States; however, the requirement varies across different states.

How much does dental hygiene school cost in California?

The cost of obtaining a dental hygienist education in California can vary greatly, considering the vast and overwhelming population of people in California.

Many unpopular colleges across California, offer education to an aspiring dental hygienist for a cost under $1600 per year. Colleges like Fresno City College and Cerritos College fall under this category.

Out of state students might expect a tuition fee as high as about $5,000. That said, if affordable dental school is what you are searching for, and you currently reside in California, you might consider picking among the above-mentioned institutions.

However, if you are a non-resident, searching for an affordable dental school, you may have a stroke of better luck in your resident state, instead of waiting till you are eligible for a California state resident.

What to Look for in a Dental Hygiene School

Looking out for programs in dental hygiene from properly accredited dental colleges or schools remains very important during your selection process for a dental hygiene college.

Most important is looking out for college with quality instructors, that offer a hands-on curriculum and informative classes. Another thing to consider includes, looking out for a school that fits perfectly with your budget.

Inquire about the tuition fees and other financial requirements for each program before finally settling on a school.

The most important thing one should always be on the lookout for is the program’s ability to properly prepare you for your licensing examination.

To be certified and licensed, passing the state licensing examination is a must, so this makes it critical that you receive the right knowledge you need. It does not equally stop at passing your exam, but you will need to continue learning to remain relevant in the field, as well as maintain your license.

Related Careers

There are several related jobs and career paths a dental hygienist can pursue. Some of these include:

  • Pediatric Dental Hygienist: This role involves you working with children and teaching them oral hygiene. Here you specialize in teaching children everything they need to know about maintaining good oral health.

  • Registered Dental Hygienist:  This is also referred to as RDH, a licensed dental hygienist. All dental hygienists in the US, California to be specific, require a license to work with patients, however, this requirement may vary with state.

  • Dental Assistants: These individuals equally perform some tasks of a dental hygienist; however, they are not trained professionally to do all work. They are into more administrative work than health work. Some of their jobs include scheduling appointments etc.  

Working Condition of a dental health Hygienist

Dental Hygienist practitioners work in pleasant, modern, well-lit, and most important, well-ventilated surroundings fully equipped with dental health apparatus.

Most often, Dental Hygienists work while sitting. Sitting in a position for a longer period may lead to neck and back pains. More so, repetitive movement of both hand and wrist doing work process may lead to Carpel Tunnel Syndrome.

Other health hazards often associated with dental hygiene include possible exposure to radiation, infectious disease, etc. However, risks can be reduced by adopting appropriate safety measures such as putting on safety glasses, special aprons, face masks, hand gloves etc.

It is also important to maintain a routine check-up and strict obedience to safety measures while handling work equipment.

 The work demand includes a very good eye vision and finger dexterity for close attention to details and handling of sharp instruments.

It is important to note that constant work with other team members in a confined space is a common practice.

Part-time work within the dental health profession is equally common, combined with another part-time schedule in another office.

Different schedules are available, which include, evening, part-time, full-time and of course weekend schedules. 

Joining the American Dental Hygienist Association and the California Dental Hygienist Association is eligible only for fully licenced dental Hygienists.

Qualities of a Dental Hygienist

Critical thinking. Dental hygienists must be able to assess and evaluate patients and develop oral hygiene care plans.

Communication skills. Dental hygienists must share information with dentists and patients about oral health status, oral hygiene care plans, and, if necessary, lifestyle counseling.

Detail-oriented. Dental hygienists must follow specific rules and protocols to help dentists diagnose and treat a patient. Depending on the state in which they work and/or the treatment provided, dental hygienists may work without the direct supervision of a dentist


Dexterity. Dental hygienists must be good at working with their hands. They generally work in tight spaces on a small part of the body, which requires fine motor skills using precise tools and instruments.

Interpersonal skills. Dental hygienists work closely with dentists. They also must be considerate in working with patients, especially those who are sensitive to pain or who have fears about undergoing dental treatment.

Problem-solving skills. Dental hygienists develop and implement oral hygiene care plans to maintain or improve patients’ oral health.

Do dental hygienists make good money in California?

An average Dental Hygienist’s salary in California as of 2020 was $109,970 ($52.87 per hour), but the salary range typically falls between $94,980 and $125,180. The lowest-paid salary is $65,440. There is a projected salary raise for practitioners in this field.

Can you become a dental hygienist without going to school?

Becoming a professional and fully licensed dental hygienist typically requires an associate degree in dental hygiene. High school students can prepare adequately for a career in this field by taking related subjects like by taking courses in biology, chemistry and mathematics.

Every state requires hygienists to be licensed, so passing written and practical licensing exams is not just essential, but mandatory.

Conclusion on how to become a dental hygienist in California

Taking the steps of how to become a dental hygienist in California can be rewarding. With numerous job opportunities available, it can also be a stable career with a comfortable salary.

Apart from the stable salary offers by this job, you can equally derive satisfaction, from getting to talk with patients, and helping them solve their individual dental health challenges.

If this is what you want, why not jump-start it? However keep it in mind that, to prepare yourself for a career in this field, you need an exceptional dental hygienist school that offers an excellent curriculum and fully prepares you most importantly to pass your licensure exam to become a registered dental hygienist. 

What are your thoughts about these steps on how to become a dental hygienist in California? Please share your thoughts below.

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