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How to Become a Dental Hygienist Without a Degree

A Guide to Pursuing a Career in Dental Hygiene Without a Formal Education

Dental hygienists play an essential role in oral health care, working closely with dentists to help patients maintain healthy teeth and gums. While many dental hygienists have a degree in dental hygiene, it is possible to pursue this career path without formal education. In this article, we’ll provide a guide to becoming a dental hygienist without a degree.

Step 1: Gain Experience in Dental Assisting

One way to enter the field of dental hygiene without a degree is by gaining experience as a dental assistant. Dental assistants work closely with dentists and hygienists, performing tasks such as preparing patients for treatment, taking X-rays, and cleaning instruments. By working as a dental assistant, you’ll gain valuable experience in dental procedures and terminology, as well as an understanding of how a dental office operates.

Step 2: Meet State Licensing Requirements

In order to work as a dental hygienist without a degree, you’ll need to meet the licensing requirements for your state. These requirements vary by state but typically involve completing a state-approved dental hygiene program, passing a written exam, and completing a clinical exam. Some states may also require a certain amount of experience in dental hygiene or dental assisting.

Step 3: Complete a Dental Hygiene Program

While it is possible to become a dental hygienist without a degree, completing a dental hygiene program can provide you with valuable knowledge and skills. These programs typically take two years to complete and include both classroom and clinical components. During the program, you’ll learn about dental anatomy and pathology, oral hygiene techniques, and dental radiography. You’ll also gain hands-on experience working with patients in a clinical setting.

Step 4: Obtain Certification

While certification is not always required to work as a dental hygienist, it can be a valuable credential to have. The American Dental Association offers the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, which is a comprehensive exam that assesses your knowledge and skills in dental hygiene. Additionally, some states require certification as part of their licensing requirements.


Becoming a dental hygienist without a degree is possible, but it requires dedication and hard work. By gaining experience in dental assisting, meeting state licensing requirements, completing a dental hygiene program, and obtaining certification, you can pursue a rewarding career in dental hygiene. Whether you choose to pursue a degree or take an alternative path, a career in dental hygiene can provide you with a fulfilling and meaningful career in healthcare.



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