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How to Become a Dental Hygienist

Published on: Mar 13, 2023

Dental Hygienist


Dental hygienists possess a great deal of knowledge about oral health and the issues that bring patients to the dentist’s office. Working under a dentist’s supervision, a dental hygienist examines patients to detect problems like gum disease. They also advise patients on various aspects of good oral hygiene. Dental hygienists perform routine cleanings during dental check-ups, removing tartar and plaque. They also take x-rays and educate patients about proper brushing and flossing. Dental hygienists can also evaluate patients’ oral health, document care and treatment plans, and report their findings to dentists.

How to Become a Dental Hygienist

Most dental hygienists hold associate degrees in dental hygiene, which take up to three years to complete. When enrolled in a community college or technical school, dental hygiene students receive classroom, clinical, and laboratory instruction. They typically study medical ethics, dental and oral anatomy, radiography, periodontics, and patient care. A few dental hygienists earn bachelor’s degrees. Potential students can find listings for more than 300 accredited dental hygiene programs on the American Dental Association’s (ADA) Commission on Dental Accreditation website. All dental hygienists must hold state-issued licenses, but the requirements vary by state. For example, individuals in some states must have an associate degree from an accredited dental hygiene program and pass a licensing exam. Licensed dental hygienists must also take continuing education courses to maintain licensure.

How Much Do Dental Hygienists Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for dental hygienists was almost $78,000 in 2021. The highest-paid professionals in this field can make over $100,000, and the median pay is higher than the average of all occupations. However, annual income varies by location, experience, education, and place of employment.

How to Find Employment as a Dental Hygienist

The BLS projects that dental hygienist jobs will grow 9% in the next decade. This rate represents 16,300 job openings each year. Many new positions will result from the need to replace workers who switch careers or retire. Also, the increase in older adults will mean a greater demand for professionals who provide essential preventive and restorative dental services. You can search the ADA CareerCenter for dental hygienist job openings. As an official job board of the ADA, CareerCenter is the top resource for various dental care providers seeking employment or recruiting qualified professionals.