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Become A Dental Hygienist

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Working As A Dental Hygienist

  • Assisting and Caring for Others
  • Getting Information
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
  • Deal with People

  • Unpleasant/Hazardous Environment

  • Mostly Sitting

  • Repetitive

  • $93,580

    Average Salary

What Does A Dental Hygienist Do

Dental hygienists clean teeth, examine patients for signs of oral diseases such as gingivitis, and provide other preventive dental care. They also educate patients on ways to improve and maintain good oral health.


Dental hygienists typically do the following:

  • Remove tartar, stains, and plaque from teeth
  • Apply sealants and fluorides to help protect teeth
  • Take and develop dental x rays
  • Assess patients’ oral health and report findings to dentists
  • Document patient care and treatment plans
  • Educate patients about oral hygiene techniques, such as how to brush and floss correctly

Dental hygienists use many types of tools to do their job. They clean and polish teeth with hand, power, and ultrasonic tools. In some cases, they use lasers. Hygienists remove stains with an air-polishing device, which sprays a combination of air, water, and baking soda. They polish teeth with a powered tool that works like an automatic toothbrush. Hygienists use x-ray machines to take pictures to check for tooth or jaw problems.

Dental hygienists help patients develop and maintain good oral health. For example, they may explain the relationship between diet and oral health. They also may give advice to patients on how to select toothbrushes and other oral-care devices.

The tasks hygienists may perform, and the extent that they must be supervised by a dentist, varies by state and by the setting in which the dental hygienist works. Some states allow hygienists to independently diagnosis health problems and provide some treatments, such as application of fluorides and sealants.

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How To Become A Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists need an associate’s degree in dental hygiene. Programs typically take 3 years to complete. All states require dental hygienists to be licensed; requirements vary by state.


Dental hygienists typically need an associate’s degree in dental hygiene. Bachelor’s degrees in dental hygiene are also available, but are less common. A bachelor’s or master’s degree usually is required for research, teaching, or clinical practice in public or school health programs.

Dental hygiene programs are commonly found in community colleges, technical schools, and universities. In 2015, the Commission on Dental Accreditation, part of the American Dental Association, accredited more than 300 dental hygiene programs.

Programs typically take 3 years to complete, and offer laboratory, clinical, and classroom instruction. Areas of study include anatomy, physiology, nutrition, radiography, pathology, medical ethics, head and neck anatomy, patient management, and periodontics, which is the study of gum disease.

High school students interested in becoming dental hygienists should take courses in biology, chemistry, and math. Most dental hygiene programs also require applicants to have completed at least 1 year of college. Specific entrance requirements vary by school.

Important Qualities

Critical thinking. Dental hygienists must use critical thinking skills in order to assess and evaluate patients.

Compassion. Some patients are in extreme pain or have fears about undergoing dental treatment, and the hygienist must be sensitive to their emotions.

Detail oriented. Dental hygienists must follow specific rules and protocols to help dentists diagnose and treat a patient. Depending on the state in which they work and/or the treatment provided, dental hygienists may work without the direct supervision of a dentist.

Dexterity. Dental hygienists must be good at working with their hands. They generally work in tight quarters on a small part of the body, requiring fine motor skills using very precise tools and instruments.

Interpersonal skills. Dental hygienists must work closely with dentists and patients.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Every state requires dental hygienists to be licensed; requirements vary by state. In most states, a degree from an accredited dental hygiene program and passing grades on written and clinical examinations is required for licensure. To maintain licensure, hygienists must complete continuing education requirements. For specific requirements, contact your state’s medical or health board.

Many jobs also require cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification.

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Dental Hygienist jobs

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Dental Hygienist Demographics


  • Female

  • Male

  • Unknown



  • White

  • Hispanic or Latino

  • Asian

  • Unknown

  • Black or African American

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Languages Spoken

  • Spanish

  • Polish

  • French

  • Vietnamese

  • Russian

  • Portuguese

  • Hindi

  • Italian

  • German

  • Arabic

  • Mandarin

  • Cantonese

  • Turkish

  • Albanian

  • Chinese

  • Ukrainian

  • Croatian

  • Korean

  • Bosnian

  • Armenian

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Real Dental Hygienist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Dental Hygienist Sunki Rhee, DDS, Inc. Buena Park, CA Apr 11, 2016 $92,248
Registered Dental Hygienist Ricardo Raschkovsky DDS Ms Inc. Whittier, CA Oct 01, 2010 $91,306
Dental Hygienist Scott Hiroto Kanai D.D.S., Inc. Los Angeles, CA Feb 03, 2015 $87,090
Dental Hygienist Ying Wu D.D.S., Inc. Downey, CA Jun 01, 2013 $83,480
Dental Hygienists Dharani Jasthi DMD PC DBA Todays Dental Associates Catonsville, MD Dec 01, 2014 $82,875
Dental Hygienist Ying Wu D.D.S., Inc. Downey, CA Jun 01, 2013 $80,871
Dental Hygienist One Dental Specialties Los Angeles, CA Jan 10, 2015 $75,421
Dental Hygienist Soma Dental, P.C. NY Dec 29, 2015 $72,405
Registered Dental Hygienist Se Young Kim Gardena, CA Jan 06, 2016 $69,950
Dental Hygienists Bae's Dental Pa Carrollton, TX Mar 26, 2014 $68,453
Dental Hygienist Bae's Dental Pa Carrollton, TX Jan 14, 2016 $67,974
Dental Hygienists Dental Arts Associates Somerville, MA Jun 24, 2010 $66,000
Dental Hygienist Tomoda Dental Group Gardena, CA Jul 24, 2008 $64,355
Dental Hygienist The Dental Health Professionals at Viera, Pa Rockledge, FL Sep 21, 2012 $62,610
Dental Hygienists Navajo Health Foundation/Sage Memorial Hospital Ganado, AZ Oct 29, 2012 $62,000
Dental Hygienists Dharani Jasthi DMD PC Catonsville, MD Jul 01, 2011 $61,567
Dental Hygienists Dharani Jasthi DMD PC Catonsville, MD Jul 01, 2011 $61,360
Dental Hygienists Dharani Jasthi DMD PC Catonsville, MD Jul 01, 2014 $60,000 -
Dental Hygienists Willows Dental Associates, LLC Westport, CT Apr 09, 2010 $58,490
Licensed Dental Hygienist DRS Wiggins & Rhodes, Ltd. Portsmouth, VA Jun 02, 2010 $58,436
Dental Hygienist Nassau Dental PC Hempstead, NY Sep 24, 2014 $58,039
Dental Hygienist Nassau Dental PC Hempstead, NY Sep 26, 2014 $58,039

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Top Skills for A Dental Hygienist


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Top Dental Hygienist Skills

  1. Oral Hygiene Instruction
  2. Periodontal Disease
  3. Proper Oral Hygiene
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Updated patient s records, discussed treatment options, provided oral hygiene instructions, exposed radiographs.
  • Utilized dental education to help Dr Davis co-diagnose periodontal disease.
  • Educated patients about proper oral hygiene and prevention of dental diseases.
  • Exposed digital radiographs and entered patient data into electronic charts Skills Used Computer, Customer Service, listening, comforting
  • Provide and apply cavity prevention agents such as fluoride and pit & fissure sealants.

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