Dental hygienists specialize in cleaning and maintaining the health of patient’s teeth. They also examine patients for signs of gum disease and other tooth related health issues, treating existing conditions as well as taking preventive measures in order to maintain oral health. Educating patients about proper dental hygiene techniques is also one of their job duties. They work almost exclusively in dentists offices, with more than 50% working part-time hours. Most dental hygienists complete an Associates degree in dental hygiene and are licensed by the state in which they are working.
National Average Dental Hygienist Salary
Hourly Wage Annual Wage
Upper: $46.82 $97,390
Median: $34.38 $71,520
Lower: $23.65 $49,190
States With Highest Salary
State Avg. Hourly Wage Avg. Annual Wage
- District of Columbia $45.95 $95,570
- California $45.37 $94,370
- Washington $43.93 $91,370
- Nevada $42.94 $89,320
- Arizona $39.45 $82,050
*All statistical data is from the U.S. Department of Labor and is updated quarterly
Dental hygienist have many job responsibilities all of which revolve around maintaining the oral health of patients. Most commonly they can be found cleaning teeth and examining patients for signs gingivitis and other gum diseases.
A patient visiting the dentist for a regular checkup will likely have his or her teeth cleaned by a dental hygienist. A cleaning involves checking for plaque, gum disease, cavities and other oral problems. All problems are reported to the dentist. Patients are also taught how to properly brush and floss their teeth in order to maintain good oral health.
Dental hygienists work closely with patients in order to not only educate but develop a personalized oral hygiene regiment. in addition to teaching proper technique, they may assist the patient in selecting the right kind of toothbrush as well as recommending dietary changes that can improve oral health.
Some of their general responsibilities include:
- Cleaning plaque and other deposits from patient’s teeth
- Educating patients on various dental problems such as tooth decay, gingivitis and gum disease
- Encouraging patients to practice healthy habits such as brushing three times a day and flossing
- Making a note of a patient’s dental problems in his or her record
- Taking x-rays of patient’s teeth
- Educating patients on how to properly brush and floss
Individuals in this profession may work for someone who practices general dentistry or dentists who specialize in areas such as pediatric and cosmetic dentistry, as well as orthodontists. Most dentist offices keep regular office hours with a few exceptions for patients with emergencies.
Dental hygienist use a variety of instruments and tools in the course of their work. Some of the more common tools include dental mirrors, scalars, and suction devices. Dental mirrors are used to see the teeth in the back of a patient’s mouth or the underside of a tooth. A scaler is used to scrape tartar from a patient’s teeth and a dental explorer is a hooked instrument that helps in a thorough examination of every tooth. Suction devices are employed to remove water that’s used in the cleaning process.
The programs of study in most dental hygienist schools emphasize the importance of wearing safety gear to protect both patient and staff. Consequently, people in this profession wear safety glasses, scrubs, rubber gloves and surgical masks when working with patients.
How To Become A Dental Hygienist:
Dental Hygienist Schools:
To work in this field it is necessary to complete a dental hygienist program from an accredited school. Most students earn an Associates degree upon graduating, though a small percentage will go on to attain Bachelors or Masters degrees.
Dental hygienists must also be licensed by the state in which they will be working. good educational program will prepare individuals to pass any required tests. All states require licensing but the specific licensing requirements for this occupation vary from state to state.
A person in dental hygiene school takes courses on oral anatomy, histology (tissue structure), periodontology, radiography and general dental practices. All of these course topics contribute to the store of knowledge a student will need to succeed in this career.
Students are also trained how to use the tools and equipment needed to carry out procedures. In addition, they are also taught how to employ proper measures to reduce any risk of bio contamination for both the hygienist and the patient.
Dental Hygienist Certification and Licensing:
Students studying in dental hygienist schools are required to take both written and practical exams in order to earn their license. It’s wise for an individual to find out about the specific licensing regulations for his or her state. Contacting the state health or medical board is a good place to start.
Who Should become a Dental Hygienist?
Someone who pays attention to detail would likely find success in this occupation. These professionals examine the minute parts of a patient’s teeth in search of any problems that need to be addressed. A person must be precise about the work of examining and cleaning every patient’s teeth.
Understanding is a personal quality that is an asset to someone in this profession. There are many people who are nervous about visiting a dentist’s office. A professional who is both competent and understanding has the ability to calm a patient’s fears about the process. Also, this person must be enthusiastic about teaching others the importance of maintaining good oral health.
How Much Does A Dental Hygienist Make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual dental hygienist salary is $71,970. Salaries can range from $49,190 for the bottom 10% to $97,390 for those in the 90th percentile. The state with the highest average salary is The District of Columbia with an annual mean salary of $95,570.
Factors That Can Influence Salary:
There are various factors that can increase this yearly salary. For instance, someone in this profession who takes additional courses on the latest technology and equipment will likely merit a higher than average salary. Also, someone with several years of experience will likely earn a higher salary than someone just out of training.
A professional in this occupation who wants to earn a higher than average salary may want to pursue work as a supervisor in a dentist’s office. The added responsibility would likely result in increased salary. Also, choosing to work in busy dentist’s office that’s located in a highly populated area would be a wise move for someone in search of a salary boost.
A person in this profession starts out by earning an associate’s degree. Someone who wants to move up in this occupation can become an advanced dental hygiene practitioner. This position requires a master’s degree in dental hygiene. In addition to a hygienist’s responsibilities, this professional also performs various dental procedures and may write some prescriptions. There is also the career goal of becoming a qualified dentist.
Individuals may use their skills and experience to instruct students in dental schools. They may also take a job instructing elementary and middle school students on the importance of caring for their teeth. Some in this field may choose to write articles for various journals that focus on the field of dentistry.
The job growth for dental hygienist is expected to be around 19% from 2014-2024. The average growth for all other occupations during this time is expected to be around 7%. This means that job growth in this field is expected to be more than 2 times the average for all other careers. This represents a great opportunity for anybody interested in starting a career as a dental hygienist.
Rapid expansion in this field will lead to an increase in demand for qualified licensed individuals. When any sector expands at such a fast rate is usually difficult to fill positions. This results in employers competing for skilled workers usually by offering higher salaries and other benefits.
Dental Hygienist Schools
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- Dental Assisting - Associate's