Dental Hygienist

Everyone knows that brushing their teeth matters, but no one knows it like a dental hygienist. They see, and clean, multiple sets of teeth everyday, and they do their best to encourage each patient to keep their pearly whites gleaming.

Fast Facts

Minimum Degree/Certification Requirement: Associate’s Degree, License

Vital Skills/Knowledge: Anatomy, Oral Health, Patient Interaction

Average Starting Salary: $45,000/year

Job Description

A dental hygienist is responsible for cleaning patient’s teeth, yes, but they are also a patient’s first source for oral hygiene advice. A dental hygienist can instruct a patient on the best diet, toothpaste, floss, and brushing regimen for optimal tooth and gum health. Dental hygienists take x-rays, apply sealants, and give fluoride treatments. They manage a patient’s basic dental health, without needing a laborious medical degree.

Many dental hygienists only work part-time during business hours, making it a very flexible career. Some practices even cater to a specific demographic, like children, allowing you to choose a work environment best suited to your skills.


Dental hygienists examine patients’ teeth and gums and record the presence of diseases or abnormalities.

Dental hygienists examine patients’ teeth and gums and record the presence of diseases or abnormalities.

An associate’s degree in dental hygiene is required to become a dental hygienist. This degree is available at many community and four-year colleges, as well as some universities. Common required courses include:

  • Periodontlogy
  • Radiography
  • Dental Materials and Tools
  • Clinical Dental Hygiene

Interested high school students will have an easier time with their college classes if they have a strong background in biology, anatomy, and communications.

Certification/ Licensing

All states require dental hygienists to be licensed, but the specific requirements may vary. To obtain a license, prospective hygienists must bass the National Board of Dental Hygiene Exam. The American Dental Association has many test-prep resources available for those students who want a little extra help before testing.

Job Outlook: Excellent

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 38% increase in dental hygienist positions between the years 2010 and 2020, which is well above the national average. Dental hygiene can be an economically sound job — the median salary in 2010 was over $68,250 per year.

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