Dental Hygiene

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Earnings Potential

Median hourly earnings of dental hygienists were $28.05 in May 2004. The middle 50 percent earned between $22.72 and $33.82 an hour. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $18.05, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $40.70 an hour.

Facts at a glance

  • Most dental hygiene programs grant an associate degree; others offer a certificate, a bachelor’s degree, or a master’s degree.
  • Dental hygienists rank among the fastest growing occupations.
  • Job prospects are expected to remain excellent.
  • More than half work part time, and flexible scheduling is a distinctive feature of this job.

Summary of what this career entails

A dental hygienist usually works in a dentist office and together they help prevent and solve problems with patients. More specifically the dental hygienist removes deposits from teeth, teach good hygiene to their patients, advise an individual on how to clean his or her teeth, get a patients information for the dentist, and help patients prevent potential dental problems. They examine teeth and gums and look for problems like diseases or abnormalities. 

Examples and or details of work

A dental hygienist job is important, particularly for patients that have to look good for public appearances, high school reunions or for people not as inclined to take care of his/her teeth as others (preventing dental problems is the main function of dental hygienist). It’s also a good thing if the hygienist is people friendly, because while they don’t have the job of a dentist, they still need to be able to have the patient be able to be comfortable in his or her hands. More importantly the patient needs to believe in the hygienist, to some extent even more than the dentist. The reason is a dentist will have a lot less work to do if the hygienist has a little Bill Parcells in him and is able to motivate the patient into taking care of his/her teeth. Working with people is more important to the job of a hygienist than the technical aspects like taking x-rays.

Degrees that lead to this career

To work in the dental hygiene field, an individual must be licensed by the state in which they are practicing. To get said license, the individual must graduate from an accredited dental hygiene school, afterwards they must pass a written and clinical examination. The American Dental Association’s Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations gives the written tests, which is acceptable for all states. The clinical test is a regional test given by the state. There are several schools that offer programs in dental hygiene.    

Specific Career openings in this field

Career openings in the dental hygienist field include dental hygienist, professor, sales, healthcare management, healthcare educator, consultant and administrator.

American Dental Association.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition, Dental Hygienists, on the Internet at