Dental Hygiene Exam Description

Dental Hygiene Patient-Based General Information

The dental hygiene licensure examination administered by the Southern Regional Testing Agency, Inc., (SRTA), evaluates clinical performance skills. The examination provides reliable clinical skills assessment for use by state boards in making licensing decisions. The examination in dental hygiene consists of:

  • Presenting an eligible patient and a case selection that meets all required criteria
  • Presenting radiographs that are of diagnostic quality
  • Detecting all types of dental calculus and recognizing when a surface is free of calculus
  • Completing a partial oral prophylaxis while preserving the integrity of surrounding tissue
  • Completing a partial periodontal assessment by recording of periodontal pocket depths

A passing grade is 75 or above. Failure will require re-examination.

The SRTA exam has been developed, administered, and reviewed in accordance with guidelines from the American Dental Association, the American Association of Dental Boards, the American Psychological Association, the American Educational Research Association, and the National Council on Measurement in Education. In addition, the examination undergoes annual psychometric review and input from independent firm, Alpine Testing Solutions. Concerns of students/candidates are addressed through input from former candidates and dental hygiene program faculty. Input from practicing dental hygienists is collected every five years through a nationwide Task Analysis Survey, which guides all decisions regarding content. The most recent Task Analysis Survey was conducted in 2011.Clinical skills examinations administered by SRTA are conducted anonymously. All examination materials are identified by the candidate’s SRTA number (assigned prior to the examination). The candidate’s name or school information does not appear on any material. The examiners at all sites are experienced practitioners with diverse backgrounds. The examiners are calibrated and standardized prior to each examination and are evaluated to assure grading to established criteria.

All questions concerning examination procedures, content, applications, and examination dates should be sent to the SRTA corporate office. Email questions regarding the dental hygiene examination to [email protected] or to [email protected] for general questions. Always include contact information.

Once an application has been processed for a particular site, all questions for both pre-examination and post-examination can only be initiated by the candidate. Due to confidentiality, the SRTA staff will not discuss candidate concerns or questions with a candidate’s spouse, parent, faculty, family member, or friend.


The candidate must provide his/her own patient and is responsible for the patient’s arrival and return. SRTA does not provide patients used in examinations. Candidates must advise patients of the time required to participate in this examination. Patients should expect to be at the testing site for a minimum of four hours. Case selection is a scored part of the examination and should be completed independently. Opinions of professionals who are not calibrated to SRTA standards cannot be relied upon to ensure that all criteria are met. Candidates unable to secure a patient will not be eligible for a refund or credit toward a future examination attempt. Appeals based on issues such as patients handling the paperwork or inability to secure a patient will not be considered.

Patient eligibility:

  • Must be at least 18 years old
  • Cannot be a dentist, dental hygienist, or a dental or dental hygiene student
  • Patients with a latex allergy will not be allowed to participate unless the testing site is latex free. Consult the examination site letter or call the testing site directly to find out if the site is latex free.
  • May not have received any injectable bisphosphonate therapy
  • Cannot be a woman in either the first or the third trimester of pregnancy
  • Oral herpetic lesions: Patients who present with an oral herpetic lesion will be evaluated by a SRTA dentist serving as the Clinic Floor Manager. This dentist does not serve as an examiner but is the liaison between the candidates and the examiners. That dentist will determine if the patient can be safely treated or if the patient will be dismissed as ineligible.

Each patient to be treated must sign a Patient Disclaimer, Consent, and Release Form.

Both the candidate and patient must complete a Post-Operative Care Agreement and an Incident Disclaimer form before any clinical procedure may commence. Two copies of the Post-Operative Care Agreement, one copy of the Incident Disclaimer, and one copy of the Patient Disclaimer, Consent, and Release forms are submitted during registration. The patient must also receive a copy of these forms.


The instruments required for the examiner to evaluate case presentation, calculus detection, and calculus removal skills are:

  1. UNC probe (with markings of 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 of any brand.) SRTA prefers probes that have colored markings such as yellow/black, yellow/bare metal, yellow/white plastic, or any other combination of colored markings. This improves accuracy of measurements by both the candidates and examiners. The probe may be single ended or double ended. However, if providing a double ended probe, the unused end must be covered using autoclave tape. Candidates may use the brand or manufacturer of their choice.
  2. ODU or EXD 11/12 explorer of any brand for calculus detection and final evaluation of calculus removal. No other type of explorer will be accepted for examiner’s use.
  3. A reflective front surface mouth mirror. May be one or two sided.
  4. All other instruments are the choice of the candidate.
  5. Syringes & supplies for anesthetic administration, if needed. These will also be the choice of the candidate. The school may or may not supply anesthetic cartridges for candidates. Please contact the exam site or refer to the exam site letter for supplies provided.
  6. Candidates must provide or have access to a blood pressure measuring device.

Candidate Qualifications

Final acceptance of candidates for the examination is contingent upon their being hygienists who are graduates of an American or Canadian dental hygiene program accredited by the American Dental Association Commission on Dental Accreditation or who will graduate from such an institution within twelve months of successful completion of the examination.

Application Process

The online application was developed for the candidate’s convenience. To apply online, go to, and click the “Apply Online” link to connect to a secure website that requires the candidate’s contact and school information. Gathering all required items prior to starting the online application will save significant time. Applicants will need:

  • A recent digital headshot of close proximity to the candidate is required for the online application. Candidates should be clearly distinguishable, as the photo will be printed on the candidate admission card. Photos must be in one of the following formats: JPG, GIF, or PNG.
  • A digital copy of current and valid CPR certification is required. Valid certification is defined as a “hands-on” training program that provides an assessment of cognitive skills and skills acquired via classroom training. A minimum of Basic CPR skills is required. Classes provided solely by Internet instruction are not acceptable.
  • A copy of the candidate’s diploma from a CODA-accredited dental hygiene program must be provided in order for the profile to be valid. This document can be uploaded into the profile, faxed, or emailed to the SRTA office. Candidates who have not formally graduated from their dental hygiene program are required to secure certification from their Dean or Program Director stating:
    • The candidate is eligible and in the last semester of the graduation requirements.
    • The candidate will complete the graduation requirements within twelve months of the examination date.
    • The candidate has successfully completed local anesthesia requirements, (only if the candidate plans to personally administer local anesthesia). This should include whether the candidate has been trained in infiltration techniques only or in both block and infiltration.

SRTA accepts VISA and MasterCard only. No international credit/debit cards will be accepted. Debit cards may be used if allowable by the issuing bank and if they bear the VISA or MasterCard logo. The total payment will include the site-specific facility as well as the examination fee. All payments are drawn immediately and must be paid in full. Failure to pay the application fee and facility fee at the time of application will forfeit the applicant’s ability to sit for the examination. The Veterans Administration has approved the cost of the SRTA Dental Hygiene Examination for reimbursement. Contact the regional Veterans Affairs/Veterans Education Office to obtain the proper forms.

After the candidate has completed the application profile, the following steps will occur:

  • The application profile is complete and accepted by “verification.” SRTA personnel will verify the profile only after all required profile information has been entered, uploaded, and received. Profiles without a photo or without CPR cards will not be validated. Please allow between 3 – 5 days for verification. Only after a candidate’s profile has been verified can he/she apply for an examination. With the exception of password changes, all profile changes will automatically mark the candidate temporarily invalid and must be verified again.
  • Application for the examination: Once all profile information has been uploaded, candidates may apply for examinations. Simply click on the “Apply” tab at the top of the screen to begin the application process. Detailed instructions will be presented based on the available examinations.
  • Candidates must visit the “Documents” portion of the secure site to download and complete all required documents. Instructions for each document are on the website. Some documents must be completed and returned to the SRTA office to the examination.

Examination Results

Candidates will receive notification via email when their scores are available for viewing online.  Results are usually available online within three business days after the examination.  Log into the SRTA website using the password and username created during the online registration process.  Candidates who are unsuccessful can view the details of their evaluation online.  Details are not available for those who pass the examination.

Please do not call the SRTA office for test scores or information concerning when scores will be released.

Due to our confidentiality policy, SRTA staff and examiners will not discuss candidate concerns and questions with a candidate’s spouse, parent, friend, faculty member, or family member.  SRTA is not responsible for items lost or delayed by the United States Postal Service.

The board of dentistry where a candidate wishes to practice will determine whether SRTA scores are accepted for licensure.  SRTA supplies the examination results to its participating state boards but does not analyze or interpret the records and makes no recommendations on how the state uses the scores.

The SRTA office automatically sends the examination record of each candidate to the secretaries of the state boards of dentistry of Arkansas, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.  Each current graduate’s university also receives his/her examination record.

Some state boards of dentistry may require a notarized copy of the final report, which SRTA will provide for a nominal fee.  Please contact the SRTA office to request this additional service.

Candidates should contact the individual state board of dentistry where they wish to obtain a license to verify acceptance of SRTA scores and to learn of other state-specific requirements.

Candidates are required to provide proof of graduation within 90 days after their graduation date. Alternatively, the dental hygiene school’s dean/program director may submit a list of students who graduated within that time-frame.  For candidates who have not formally graduated, graduation requirements must be completed within 12 months of their first examination date.  SRTA will notify each of the individual state boards that scores are invalid if the required diploma or letter from the dean/program director is not received.  The individual state boards of dentistry determine the acceptance of nullified/invalid results.  SRTA’s corporate documents mandate that we cannot grant extensions to these graduation requirements.