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Working as a Dental Hygienist

While they may leave patients in pain sometimes, the job of a dental hygienist is very important to the health of everyone. They contribute to checking for signs of oral diseases and provide preventative care.

Typically, a dental hygientist will work in a dentist office. While they usually only work part time, they do tend to make an average of $76,220. Plus they only need an associate's degree. So if you don't mind looking at teeth, becoming a dental hygientist isn't a bad gig.

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.

Duties

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.

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.

Education

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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Average Salary$61,910
Job Growth Rate11%

Dental Hygienist Jobs

Dental Hygienist Resumes

Designing and figuring out what to include on your resume can be tough, not to mention time-consuming. That's why we put together a guide that is designed to help you craft the perfect resume for becoming a Dental Hygienist. If you're needing extra inspiration, take a look through our selection of templates that are specific to your job.

Learn How To Write a Dental Hygienist Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless Dental Hygienist resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

View Detailed Information

Dental Hygienist Career Paths

Top Careers Before Dental Hygienist

Top Careers After Dental Hygienist

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Average Salary for a Dental Hygienist

Dental Hygienists in America make an average salary of $61,910 per year or $30 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $86,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $44,000 per year.
Average Salary
$61,910

Best Paying Cities

Average Salary
Salary Range51k - 67k$59k$59,190
Salary Range47k - 72k$58k$58,341
Salary Range44k - 75k$58k$58,036
Salary Range47k - 67k$56k$56,336
Salary Range42k - 70k$55k$54,995
Salary Range45k - 65k$55k$54,611
$35k
$75k

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyCompanyStart DateSalary
Dental Hygienist 3 Days Per Week
Dental Hygienist 3 Days Per Week
Private Practice
Private Practice
10/30/2020
10/30/2020
$104,35010/30/2020
$104,350
Dental Hygienist
Dental Hygienist
The Ohio State University
The Ohio State University
10/30/2020
10/30/2020
$55,20110/30/2020
$55,201
Dental Hygienist
Dental Hygienist
Essential Personnel, Inc.
Essential Personnel, Inc.
10/29/2020
10/29/2020
$62,61010/29/2020
$62,610
Dental Hygienist
Dental Hygienist
Indian Health Service
Indian Health Service
10/27/2020
10/27/2020
$66,09610/27/2020
$66,096
Dental Hygienists, Penn Dental Family Practice
Dental Hygienists, Penn Dental Family Practice
University of Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania
10/26/2020
10/26/2020
$58,12310/26/2020
$58,123
See More Recent Salaries

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Dental Hygienist Demographics

Gender

female

87.7%

male

9.0%

unknown

3.4%

Ethnicity

White

62.4%

Hispanic or Latino

14.8%

Black or African American

11.3%

Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

52.8%

Polish

10.7%

Portuguese

4.6%
See More Demographics

Dental Hygienist Education

Degrees

Associate

63.9%

Bachelors

26.8%

Certificate

3.6%

Top Colleges for Dental Hygienists

1. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor, MI

Tuition and fees
$15,262
Enrollment
30,079

2. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, NC

Tuition and fees
$8,987
Enrollment
18,946

3. University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA

Tuition and fees
$56,225
Enrollment
19,548

4. University of Maryland - College Park

College Park, MD

Tuition and fees
$10,595
Enrollment
30,184

5. Boston University

Boston, MA

Tuition and fees
$53,948
Enrollment
17,238

6. SUNY Farmingdale

Farmingdale, NY

Tuition and fees
$8,306
Enrollment
9,394

7. New York University

New York, NY

Tuition and fees
$51,828
Enrollment
26,339

8. University of Washington

Seattle, WA

Tuition and fees
$11,207
Enrollment
30,905

9. University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

Minneapolis, MN

Tuition and fees
$14,760
Enrollment
31,451

10. SUNY at Buffalo

Buffalo, NY

Tuition and fees
$10,099
Enrollment
21,404
See More Education Info

Entry Level Jobs For Becoming A Dental Hygienist

Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Top Skills For a Dental Hygienist

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 17.3% of dental hygienists listed dental procedures on their resume, but soft skills such as dexterity and speaking skills are important as well.

Best States For a Dental Hygienist

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a dental hygienist. The best states for people in this position are Rhode Island, Alaska, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Dental hygienists make the most in Rhode Island with an average salary of $59,138. Whereas in Alaska and Massachusetts, they would average $59,007 and $58,270, respectively. While dental hygienists would only make an average of $58,138 in Connecticut, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. New Hampshire

Total Dental Hygienist Jobs:
14
Highest 10% Earn:
$92,000
Location Quotient:
1.18
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Pennsylvania

Total Dental Hygienist Jobs:
73
Highest 10% Earn:
$90,000
Location Quotient:
0.86
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Wisconsin

Total Dental Hygienist Jobs:
107
Highest 10% Earn:
$85,000
Location Quotient:
2.92
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
View Full List

Dental Hygienist Resumes

Designing and figuring out what to include on your resume can be tough, not to mention time-consuming. That's why we put together a guide that is designed to help you craft the perfect resume for becoming a dental hygienist. If you're needing extra inspiration, take a look through our selection of templates that are specific to your job.

At Zippia, we went through countless dental hygienist resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

Learn How To Write a Dental Hygienist Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless dental hygienist resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

View Detailed Information

How Do Dental Hygienist Rate Their Jobs?

Zippia Official Logo

3.0

Registered Dental HygienistJune 2019

3.0

Zippia Official LogoRegistered Dental HygienistJune 2019

What do you like the most about working as Dental Hygienist?

I love being able to help people get back on track with their health. I love to be a part of the process that stops and maintains oral disease. Show More

What do you NOT like?

It is taxing on your body, especially your neck and back. Show More

Zippia Official Logo

5.0

?May 2019

5.0

Zippia Official Logo?May 2019

What do you like the most about working as Dental Hygienist?

I love working in Healthcare/Dental and having patients turn into relationships and friendship while doing my job to help them with dental care and hygiene. I liked working in a big office as well. Show More

What do you NOT like?

I have been a Hygienist for 15 years and I am burnt out of the position. I still love dentistry and being part of a team. Show More

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Top Dental Hygienist Employers

1. Aspen Dental Management
4.3
Avg. Salary: 
$40,537
Dental Hygienists Hired: 
207+
2. DRS Paving
4.7
Avg. Salary: 
$47,181
Dental Hygienists Hired: 
133+
3. Heartland Dental
4.0
Avg. Salary: 
$49,386
Dental Hygienists Hired: 
101+
4. American Dental Group
4.2
Avg. Salary: 
$47,221
Dental Hygienists Hired: 
97+
5. Coast Dental
4.1
Avg. Salary: 
$51,937
Dental Hygienists Hired: 
82+
6. Bright Now! Dental
3.8
Avg. Salary: 
$45,391
Dental Hygienists Hired: 
70+

Dental Hygienist Videos

Recently Added Dental Hygienist Jobs