Dental Hygienist

The actual jobs that a dental hygienist will carry out vary by the specific regulations determined by each individual state. However, there are some duties that are virtually universal.

• Collecting information regarding the patient’s medical history
• Examining the teeth and gums to identify any abnormalities or other potential health issues
• Removing build up from the surfaces of the teeth
• Applying sealants, fluorides, and other preventative materials to the teeth
• Producing dental x-rays
• Making molds of teeth for evaluation
• Teaching patients about the importance of good hygiene and nutrition

Depending on what state the dental hygienist works in and what level of education has been reached, he or she may have additional duties that are performed in the office. What work is performed also depends on what setting the dental hygienist is working in. Some examples include:

• Private dental practices
• Hospitals
• Public health clinics
• Education programs
• Campus clinics

Working as a dental hygienist can open up a world of opportunity. The schedules are flexible, the patients are unique each day, and security of the career is undeniable.


In order to become certified as a dental hygienist, either a 2 or a 4 year degree in dental hygiene is absolutely necessary.

An associate’s degree from a community or technical college takes two years, is the most common approach to becoming a dental hygienist, and sufficiently meets the requirements for certification and license.

A 4 year bachelor’s degree is ultimately a means to the same end, but comes with the added benefit of possible advancement, either in the dental field or beyond. The broader base in the humanities and other general education requirements by the university can be applied to the position of a dental hygienist but are not required to be certified. However, a bachelor’s degree can lead to careers in teaching and clinical practice, or health and research programs.

Dental Hygienist Training and Programs

In order for someone to enter into the dental hygiene program, they must have a high school diploma (or equivalent) and college entrance test scores. Some programs require that applicants have at least one year of secondary education completed, but that is less frequent. The most important thing to look into when deciding on a dental hygiene program is its accreditation. As of 2008, there were 301 programs that earned the seal of accreditation by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. Without attending one of these programs, potential employers will question the education.

Once in the dental hygiene program, the course load is relatively the same across the board. If a high school student knows that that a dental hygiene career is their path, they should take courses in biology, chemistry, and math while still in high school to aid them in the courses they will have to take as they progress in the program. The clinical, laboratory, and classroom subjects include:

• Anatomy
• Physiology
• Chemistry
• Microbiology
• Nutrition
• Pharmacology
• Histology
• Radiography
• Periodontology
• Pathology
• Clinical dental hygiene
• Dental materials
• Social and Behavioral sciences

After the student has taken these courses and finished either their bachelor’s or associate’s degree, they must be licensed by the state in which they are going to practice. This is another important reason why a non-accredited school is not an option; most states will not provide a license to someone who has graduated from a non-accredited school.

The American Dental Association Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations will administer the written portion of the exam while state or regional testing agencies will administer the clinical portion. After a student passes both of these obstacles, most states require that passing legal examination be the final step before receiving their license.

Dental hygienist Salary

How much a dental hygienist will earn varies based on many factors. The primary aspects that are considered when developing a salary are location, education, and experience. In an area where dental hygienists are high in demand, the pay will be greater. When a specific person has worked in the field before, potential employers are more willing to offer a higher salary.

For the first four years of work, dental hygienists can expect to make between $21,000 and $30,000. After they have gained more experience, the pay scale shifts to $24,000 and $37,000.

Dental hygienists also have a likely chance of receiving a great benefits package. As it may be assumed, nearly all dental hygienists receive full dental coverage. Those who work in private practice often enjoy paid vacations as well, but those who work outside of private practice are the best cared for. When a dental hygienist works for a government agency, public health organization, or school system, the health benefits extend far beyond dental.

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