Beginning a Dental Hygiene Career in Montana

Dental hygienists are trained and licensed specialists who offer essential cleaning and oral health services to patients. Not to be confused with dentists, who require more education, diagnose oral maladies and provide major dental repairs such as fillings, dental hygienists focus mainly on oral cleaning and health. Before a patient is examined by a dentist, a hygienist often performs the initial cleaning and preliminary oral exam. Services that a dental hygienist may provide include tooth polishing, x-ray development and patient education about oral health.

For dental assistant schools in Montana, see this page.

Steps to Becoming a Dental Hygienist

To practice legally as a dental hygienist in this state, one must apply for a Montana dental hygienist license. First, applicants must complete an associate’s degree or higher in the field of dental hygiene. After that, applicants must pass the Dental Hygiene National Board exam, a regional clinical exam and a Montana Jurisprudence exam. Specific requirements for licensing are listed on the Montana Board of Dentistry webpage.

Where to Study Dental Hygiene

In Montana, there is only one dental hygiene school accredited by CODA. Many Montana residents opt to take dental hygiene programs in Colorado or other states.

  • Great Falls College, Montana State University (MSU). This community college branch of the MSU system offers a dental hygiene Associate Degree in Applied Science. While in school, students train at an on-site dental clinic, gaining practical experience while treating real patients. Additionally, Great Falls College MSU administers the Western Regional Exam Board (WREB) clinical exam, a requirement for Montana dental hygienist licensure.

Montana Licensure for Dental Hygienists

Aside from the above requirements, dental hygienist licensing in Montana also requires current CPR, Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) or Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) certification. The license application fee is $100, accompanied by an $85 fee for the Montana Jurisprudence exam. After a dental hygienist receives their license, they must complete 36 hours of continuing education every three years in order to renew their credentials.

Salary and Employment Rates

In 2017, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a mean income of $35.03 per hour or $72,850 annually for dental hygienists in Montana. These income statistics are on track with the national reported median income of $35.61 per hour or $74,070 per year. Furthermore, the BLS predicts that by 2026, employment rates for dental hygienists in Montana will rise by 15.5 percent.

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Where to Work as a Dental Hygienist

While the demand for dental hygienists is growing across the state, the highest rates of employment for dental hygienists were reported in Billings, MT, and the West Montana nonmetropolitan area in 2017. Billings and the East Montana nonmetropolitan area paid the highest salaries to dental hygienists, as both provided mean incomes of at least $37 per hour. Related careers that are popular in Montana include nursing and dental assisting, both of which are also expected to grow in coming years.

Because most states require completion of the same CODA-accredited training and many also require similar competence exams, the Montana dental hygienist license can be transferred to another state if you decide to move.

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