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Dental Hygienist Continuing Education: Meeting Your Goals For Next Year

Oct 31, 2016

Author: Sharon Boyd, RDH, BS

We owe it to our patients to ensure that our dental hygienist continuing education units (CEUs) are updated annually. But, do you find yourself getting bored with the same lectures year after year?

Here are a few tips to spice up your routine, enjoy classes and elevate your career.

Review the Requirements for Your State

As you renew your license each year, each state has specific dental hygienist CE requirements that must be met. For instance, in Texas, dental hygienists are required to have 12 hours of training, eight of which must be technical or scientific, and only up to six hours may be achieved via self-study. So, it is important that you make sure you allow yourself plenty of time to attend live courses to account for the appropriate number of CEU hours. (The American Dental Hygienist's Association has a list on its website of Dental Hygienist's Associations by State, together with a link to these where you can find out more about the CE requirements for that State).

Decide What Areas to Focus On

Have you taken courses during the previous year or so on specific aspects of dental hygiene? Are there areas that interest you more than others? Perhaps there are aspects of newer technology that interest you. Your dental hygienist CE goals should help you to stay abreast of advancements in oral care, and your knowledge could benefit your career and your practice as a whole.

If you're having a difficult time thinking of a topic, ask yourself this: "What if a patient has an obscure question about periodontitis? Would I be able to confidently answer it?" If the answer is no, consider searching for classes that go in-depth into information on periodontitis. If you're able to address every question sent your way, your employer will be impressed with your expertise.

Set Goals for Certifications

As health care providers, dental hygienists should always be striving to perfect their patient care techniques. One of the ways to help achieve this is by becoming certified in specific types of treatment techniques as they become available in your area. Examples include laser certification, nitrous oxide monitoring/administration, or local anesthesia delivery (which some states still do not offer). Even if the certification does not fit into the requirements for dental hygienist CE in your State, it may play a vital role in the future of your career and your value as an employee.

Find Convenient Courses

A good percentage of professionals seek to complete their dental hygienist CE credits at annual dental conferences held across the country. Plan ahead when it comes to registering, so you're not paying any late fees. Consider mixing things up a bit to make the process as fun as possible, such as traveling out of town (or state) and booking a hotel with a few dental hygienist friends.

For home-based learning options, you may want to consider live CE webinars that you can interact with to earn valuable CEUs. Or, archived CE webinars can also be pulled up later on for self-study. There are over 200 hours of free CE credits on the Colgate Oral Health Network alone. In addition to webinars you have an option of many CE articles if you prefer to learn this way. You can register for free. Once a member you will receive email notices about upcoming CE offerings as well as a monthly member only newsletter. If you can't afford to take the time off for a conference or travel out of town, live webinars make it easy to get real-time CE credits, all in the comfort of your own home.

Still Not Sure What to Study?

If you're at a loss as to what CE course to take next, also consider setting up an alert on your phone or email for dental hygiene sites like RDH Magazine, Dimensions of Dental Hygiene and Dentistry IQ to bring you the latest news and headlines in the industry. As you see topics you don't know much about or spark your interest, jot them down to reference later when you're selecting CE courses. One consideration with these options is that unlike the Colgate Oral Health Network, which is free, these sites typically charge for CE.

Dental hygienists will always have plenty to learn throughout their careers. Plan ahead to make sure your CE credits work for you to better your skills and post-graduation knowledge.


  • Decide which aspects of dental hygiene interest you and would elevate your career.
  • Consider taking free live webinars or traveling to a new conference location to keep things fresh and interesting.
  • Stay updated about the industry, so you're aware of topics that you might want to study in the future.

Why It's Important

It's easy for dental hygienists to fall into a slump where they dread logging the required CEUs each year. Plan ahead and be wise about the courses you study to make the process more effective, enjoyable and beneficial to your career.

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