Hygiene Proud: How to correctly display dental hygiene credentials

Should there be a consensus on how we display our professional credentials?

There is no dental hygiene program that issues an “RDH degree.” Entry level dental hygiene educational institutions that are accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation grant associate in applied science (AAS) degrees in dental hygiene. Many programs also offer bachelor of science in dental hygiene (BSDH) degrees and the master of science degree in dental hygiene (MSDH). We can celebrate the fact that a doctorate degree in dental hygiene (DDH) is now offered. But hygienists earning any of these degrees do not come away with an “RDH degree.”

Where did the idea of placing the RDH credential after one’s name come from? Who started it? If someone can answer this, I would ask that he or she enlighten us all. It may be that we followed the example of registered nurses, or RNs. Even that is not a degree but the name of the profession. I understand the sense of pride and belonging when we display our credentials, but what is the protocol for the letters we add after our names? In other words, just what is the proper way to list our degrees, licenses, and credentials?

The fact that jurisdictional statutes require dental hygienists to maintain an active or registered status does not reflect our educational degree. If you practice dental hygiene, you’re required to keep the license active or registered in the state where you practice. What does licensure mean? It means that a licensing agency vouches for your education and competence, hence the DH (dental hygienist), RDH (registered dental hygienist), or LDH (licensed dental hygienist). These letters tell the profession that you have authority and certification to practice.