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What is a Registered Dental Hygienist?

A registered dental hygienist is an educated primary healthcare professional whose work focuses on the oral health of an individual or community.

What is a Registered Dental Hygienist?

Dental hygienists provide client-centred services to prevent and treat oral disease and promote wellness.

Registered dental hygienists in Alberta have met the educational and additional requirements of registration established by College of Registered Dental Hygienists of Alberta under the authority of the Health Professions Act (HPA) and the Dental Hygienists Profession Regulation. 

Health Professions Act

Dental Hygienists Profession Regulation

See below for dental hygiene education options, practice opportunities, and employment opportunities.

Protected Titles

Under the HPA, only registrants on ACDH's general register and courtesy register are issued a practice permit and thus allowed to use following titles, abbreviations, and initials:

  • dental hygienist
  • registered dental hygienist
  • D.H. or DH
  • R.D.H. or RDH


Dental hygiene education in Alberta is offered through the Dental Hygiene Program at the School of Dentistry in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at University of Alberta (U of A). This program is the approved program for registration and serves as the benchmark program for study for all persons applying for registration in Alberta, as it teaches to the full scope of dental hygiene practice in Alberta. All dental hygiene education programs outside of Alberta must meet a requirement for substantive equivalency for new registrations.

Since 2020, all graduates from the U of A Dental Hygiene Program convocated with a Bachelor of Science Degree with a Dental Hygiene Specialization (BScDH).

U of A Dental Hygiene Program

Registered dental hygienists may improve their career opportunities by applying to be on specific advanced practice rosters after successfully completing specific Council-approved courses. These rosters indicate that the registered dental hygienist has the advanced education and competencies to:

  • Prescribe the medications used in dental hygiene practice;
  • Administer local anesthetic by injection;
  • Prescribe and administer nitrous oxide/oxygen for conscious sedation;
  • Perform restorative procedures; and/or
  • Perform certain orthodontic procedures.

Administrative and teaching positions in Alberta generally require completion of graduate education at a Masters or PhD level.

Out-of-Province Education

All Canadian regulatory authorities advise prospective students to choose an accredited dental hygiene program. The Commission on Dental Accreditation of Canada (CDAC) is the body responsible for accrediting dental, dental specialty, dental residency, dental hygiene, and dental assisting education programs across Canada.

CDAC Program Accreditation Search

You should be aware that not all programs offer an education that is substantially equivalent to the U of A Dental Hygiene Program. If you wish to practice dental hygiene in Alberta and are considering dental hygiene education outside of Alberta, be sure to investigate the course thoroughly prior to making your choice to ensure that it is substantially equivalent to the U of A Dental Hygiene Program.

National Examination

All registrants must successfully complete the Canadian National Dental Hygiene Certification Examination (NDHCE) as a condition for registration. The NDHCE is administered by the Federation of Dental Hygiene Regulators of Canada. The FDHRC website posts the aggregate examination results from various programs. You may wish to consider these exam success percentages for any programs you are considering. 


Practice opportunities for registered dental hygienists continue to emerge. Legislative changes and health care reform initiatives that facilitate the public's access to dental hygiene services continue to affect the registered dental hygienists' work environment.

Practice environments include, but are not limited to:

  • clinical practice in dentist or dental hygienist owned clinics
  • institutions, such as correctional facilities
  • public health and community health
  • homecare and other outreach programs
  • primary health care centres
  • hospital facilities
  • educational institutions such as universities and community colleges
  • military
  • research
  • allied industries, such as insurance and dental product supply and sales
  • consulting firms
  • health promotion and professional presenters
  • regulatory bodies and professional associations
  • government (e.g., policy planning)
  • forensic laboratories

The Alberta Government Learning Information Services (ALIS) website provides basic profile information about occupations in Alberta, including the dental hygienist profession. 

ALIS DH Occupation Profile

The Canadian Dental Hygienists Association also provides dental hygiene career information on their website. Every two years they also conduct and publish a Job Market and Employment Survey. 

CDHA DH Job Market Survey

The ACDH does not control employment opportunities. Opportunities and wages may vary within a province, from province to province, and from year to year and with the local and global economic environment. The Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) and the Agreement on Internal Trade affect employment opportunities in Canada and Alberta by promoting labour mobility across Canada. The ACDH participates through regulatory cooperation within Canada. Registered dental hygienists from other provinces, while still required to apply for registration in Alberta, can do so without undergoing significant additional training, examination or assessment. 

Canadian Free Trade Agreement

Agreement on Internal Trade