Dental hygienists


Having a great smile takes work-and dental hygienists work to improve and maintain the dental health of their patients. They work for and alongside dentists, but do not require as much education and practice as dentistry does. Dental hygienists are an important part of lifelong dental care, and a career with an expected increase in job opportunities.

Duties as a dental hygienist may include:

  • Educating patients on how they can practice good dental hygiene between visits to the dentist
  • Using dental tools to improve the health and appearance of a patient's teeth
  • Examine and take x-rays of teeth to evaluate their health and to reveal problems requiring care
  • Interacting with patients, keeping track of the care they are receiving and what they will need over time

Because dental hygienists must have a license from the state in order to work, the specific duties can vary state to state.


To become a dental hygienist, you need a degree and a license. It is possible to get an education in the practice of dental hygiene with an associate's or bachelor's degree, and schools may offer different educational options and requirements.

In order to work in their field, dental hygienists must be legally licensed. The requirements that a person must meet to earn a license are not always the same, depending on the state he or she lives in, so anyone considering this career should make sure to find out the specific requirements for their state.

Finally-get licensed! This is not optional, but if you have followed the process you will be fine. Earning a license requires the previous accomplishments of getting a degree and experience, and passing the exam. Depending on the state, the architect may be required to complete future education and training during his or her career. Now that you have all the essentials, you're ready to work as a licensed architect.

Important Qualities

Understanding.Many people feel anxious on a trip to the dentist, and an important part of dental work is about reassuring and interacting with patients.

Detail oriented. This profession works in a small and delicate space! Dental hygienists need to closely observe details about a patient's mouth and teeth in order to clean and care for them.

Dexterity. This job requires the precise and effective use of dental tools to care for a patient's teeth, so hygienists need to be able to use their hands well for these tasks.

Physical stamina. Dental hygienists do not sit behind a desk all day-they are up close and personal with their patients. This can require leaning over them for long periods of time, which can be taxing.

Job Outlook

Opportunities for dental hygienists should grow over the next several years, and at a quicker pace than the average rate of growth for careers in general. Dental care is an important aspect of health care, and as the older generations age, they will increasingly need it to maintain their dental function and health. Additionally, as more government-led health insurance options are made available, more people will be able to afford dental care and will seek out dentists and dental hygienists.

  Occupation Description Entry-Level Education 2012 Median Pay
Dental assistants Dental assistants

Dental assistants have many tasks, ranging from providing patient care and taking x rays to recordkeeping and scheduling appointments. Their duties vary by state and by the dentists’ offices where they work.'

Postsecondary non-degree award $34,500
Medical assistants Medical assistants

Medical assistants complete administrative and clinical tasks in the offices of physicians, podiatrists, chiropractors, and other health practitioners. Their duties vary with the location, specialty, and size of the practice.'

Postsecondary non-degree award $29,370
Occupational therapy assistants and aides Occupational therapy assistants and aides

Occupational therapy assistants and aides help patients develop, recover, and improve the skills needed for daily living and working. Occupational therapy assistants are directly involved in providing therapy to patients, while occupational therapy aides typically perform support activities. Both assistants and aides work under the direction of occupational therapists.'

Associate's degree $48,940
Physical therapist assistants and aides Physical therapist assistants and aides

Physical therapist assistants (sometimes called PTAs) and physical therapist aides work under the direction and supervision of physical therapists. They help patients who are recovering from injuries and illnesses regain movement and manage pain.'

Associate's degree $39,430
Physician assistants Physician assistants Physician assistants, also known as PAs, practice medicine on a team under the supervision of physicians and surgeons. They are formally educated to examine patients, diagnose injuries and illnesses, and provide treatment.' Master's degree $90,930
Radiation therapists Radiation therapists

Radiation therapists treat cancer and other diseases in patients by administering radiation treatments.'

Associate's degree $77,560
Registered nurses Registered nurses

Registered nurses (RNs) provide and coordinate patient care, educate patients and the public about various health conditions, and provide advice and emotional support to patients and their family members.'

Associate's degree $65,470

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