The National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE) is offered under the auspices of the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations, an independent agency of the American Dental Association. The NBDHE assists state boards in evaluating qualifications of dental hygienists for licensure. NBDHE certification is accepted in all states as fulfilling all or part of the written examination requirements for licensure. 

Q: How many questions are there in the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE)?

There are 350 multiple-choice examination questions in total; these can be divided into 2 groups;

  • 200 questions in Session One (Scientific Basis for Dental Hygiene Practice, Provision of Clinical Dental Hygiene Services and Community Health/Research Principles).
  • 150 questions in Session Two (12 to 15 dental hygiene patient cases).
  • Each session is further divided into two sessions. For simplicity, at StudentRDH, we call them Session 1-1, Session 1-2, Session 2-1, Session 2-2.

Q: What types of questions will I see in the NBDHE?

There are three main types of questions in the exam. Each question has 3-5 possible choices, among which only one is considered correct or the best.

Below are the types of questions you will find:

  • Completion - Q: Cluster of sebaceous glands observed on the buccal mucosa is,

A. Linea alba
B. Lipoma
C. Fordyce granule
D. Mucocele

  • Question - Q: Which type of hypersensitivity has the MOST delayed response?

A. Type I
B. Type II
C. Type III
D. Type IV

  • Negative - Q: The following conditions are contraindicated for the use of nitrous oxide, EXCEPT one. Which one is the EXCEPTION?

A. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
B. Asthma
C. Cystic fibrosis
D. Pregnancy

Answers: 1) C; 2) D; 3) B; 4) A

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Q: What is a testlet?

A Testlet consists of a case study or problem with a set of associated test items. The testlets are used for items related to the Community Health/Research Principles section. Here is an example of a testlet:

Community Profile: The primary employers in this county have been coal mining companies. The unemployment rate in the county has increased by 32 percent since the closing of the coal mine companies.
The median age of the population is forty-six. In the county, there are five general dentists, three dental hygienists, and one public health-centered dental clinic. The clinic employs a full-time dentist and a dental hygienist. The public health clinic sees low-income children and senior citizens on a sliding fee schedule. The community does not have water fluoridation because of multiple water sources. The state funds a 0.2%-sodium fluoride rinse program in grades K-5. The state mandates that a dentist or a dental hygienist perform deft/dmft/DMFT and GI indices on all students in grades 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, and 10. On a yearly basis, all pathology is brought to the patient’s attention and referred to a dental professional.

1. Which population group is dentally underserved in this community?

  1. Adult age.
  2. Geriatric age.
  3. Early childhood age.
  4. Elementary age.

2. Which next step should the dental hygienist take in program planning after selecting the target population?

  1. Appraise the program.
  2. Define goals for the program.
  3. Compile data on the target group population.
  4. Develop educational components.
  5. Identify manpower resources in the community.

3. Each of the following is perceived as a barrier to dental care for this community EXCEPT one. Which one is the EXCEPTION?

  1. Geographic isolation.
  2. Lack of water fluoridation.
  3. Maldistribution of providers.
  4. Lack of affordable services.
  5. Loss of income and insurance.

4. How often should the fluoride rinse for grades K-5 be performed?

  1. Daily.
  2. Weekly.
  3. Monthly.
  4. Three times a week.
  5. Based on the caries of the child.

Answers: 1) A; 2) C; 3) B; 4) B

Q: What is a case study?

  • A case study is composed of four elements: radiographs, photographs, chart, and patient history. The test-taker collects information from all those different components to solve a set of questions.
  • Session two of the NBDHE (National Dental Hygiene Board Examination) consists of 12-15 cases studies.
  • Each case can on average, have 8-12 questions.

Q: What is the passing grade?

  • The status of “pass” is granted if you achieve a standard score of 75 or higher.
  • A candidate’s total score is calculated by the total number of correct answers selected by the candidate, which is adjusted for any minor differences in difficulty across NBDHE forms (i.e., scaled).

Did you know that StudentRDH Dental Hygiene Board Review has FULL case studies?

Find them under the NBDHE® Mock exam when you sign up

Q: What is the schedule on the day of the exam?

  • The exam day will be scheduled as follows:
    • Optional tutorial - 15 minutes
    • Session one (Discipline-based items, 200 items) - 3.5 hours
    • NOTE: There is an optional 15 mins break between the first 100 questions and the next 100 questions
    • Optional schedule break - 30 minutes
    • Session two (Patient case items, 150 items) - 4 hours
    • NOTE: There is an optional 15 mins break between the first 75 questions and the next 75 questions.
    • Optional post-examination - 15 minutes
    • Total time - 9 hours
  • If you take a break at any other time, it will be considered an “unscheduled” break.

Q: How can I cancel or reschedule the exam?

  • You may cancel or reschedule electronically at 24 hours prior to the scheduled testing date.
  • The rescheduling fee is $25. Reschedule an appointment by contacting Person Vue at 888.456.2830 or at

Q: What do I need to prepare the day of the exam?

  • Two (2) original and current (not expired) forms of identification (ID).
    • The primary ID must be a government-issued ID bearing your photo and signature (e.g., passport, driver’s license, etc.).
    • The secondary ID must bear your signature (e.g., debit card, library card, credit card, etc.).
    • Both forms of ID must be current (not expired).
    • The name on your IDs must exactly match the name provided on the application.
  • Any personal belongings brought to the test center must be stored in the designated locker.
  • Cellular phones are not allowed anywhere in the test center and may not be used during an unscheduled break.
  • Download and print the checklist available here: NBDHE_Checklist_StudentRDH_Dowlonad.pdf

Q: How do I make notes?

  • You will be provided with two note boards and markers to be used during the examination.
  • Scratch paper, pencils, or markers not furnished by the testing center are not permitted.

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Q: When are the results reported?

  • National Board Examination results are made available approximately three to four weeks after the examination. Results can be viewed online by logging in to the My Account Summary page.
  • StudentRDH past users report that they received the results about 2 weeks after the examination.

Q: Will I receive a score or is it pass/fail result?

  • The results for the NBDHE will be reported as pass only for candidates who pass the test.
  • Candidates who fail the examination will receive numerical scores for each of the major disciplines covered on the test.


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If I fail the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE), can I get an audit?

  • You can request an audit if you fail your exams. You have to request it within 30 days of the reporting of the official report results.
  • The audit will re-check the accuracy of the exam.
  • You may request the audit via mail but there is a fee.

Q: Can I retake the exam?

  • Candidates must wait for a minimum of 90 days between test attempts. Under the JCNDE’s Five Years/Five Attempts Eligibility Rule, candidates must pass the examination within a) five years of their first attempt or b) five examination attempts, whichever comes first. Subsequent to the fifth year or fifth attempt, candidates may test once every 12 months after their most recent examination attempt.

Brittany Glauz from Southwestern College, CA

Passed the National Boards with StudentRDH

"I went to a 3 days seminar and I didn't feel that I was as well prepared as I could have been"

StudentRDH’s advice

Get super comfortable reading from your computer. 

If you get used to studying and taking tests on paper, you are at a higher risk of failure.

Here is the science: Social media has trained us to read fast on the computer. If you did NOT retrain yourself to read carefully on the computer, all your hard work in dental hygiene school would go down the drain.

The only way to overcome this challenge is by using a dental hygiene boards prep tool that is built into the computer, just like StudentRDH.

Try a FULL mock exam.

It would be wishful to run a 5K, then think you will finish the full marathon within a decent time.

Lots of boards review offer half, or small mock exams. Those are great to test the question types. But they don't give you a realistic idea of the exam. The NBDHE is a 9-hr exam. Endurance and time-management are essential. 

At StudentRDH, we have the FULL experience, so you can test yourself before the exam and boost your confidence. If you don't have StudentRDH, it's ok! Try to gather 350 questions, divided them into two parts. Then get a timer and try to go through the "real" experience.

Visualize your SUCCESS.  

You have to feel it in your heart and bones that you will achieve success. The NDBHE is like a marathon - part knowledge, part physical, and part mental.

You will feel discouraged while studying because there is a lot to do. You will feel like you may fail the exam. Know that the fear is only human, your body is programmed to help you avoid danger. But the NBDHE is right at your front door. So instead of running away from it, tackle it. And do it with confidence. Visualize a few things:

  •  What are you wearing the day of the exam? 
  • What will you do once you finish the boards because you know you passed? 
  • How will you feel each day you study?
  • Can you visualize a mountain, and everyday you are climbing higher and higher?
  • If you feel frustrated, can you go back to your success story>

Failing the exam is costly. It is financially and emotionally draining. Find a way to get prepared as much as possible. We would like to emphasize the need for a STEP by STEP dental hygiene boards prep that gives you everything you need.

Book + Videos + Study guides + Quizzes + Mock exams

It is extremely important that you prepare yourself for the computer exam. Students who have only used books are likely to panic when seeing the computer exam for the first time in their lives. 

The format was not what they expected, and frustration pushed them to fail. 

Prevent this by using a dental hygiene boards prep that is built on the computer, such as StudentRDH. 

Don’t make mistakes others have made. Be a #SUCCESS.

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