Dental Hygienist Job Description

Dental Hygienist cleaning teeth.  Hygienist's help maintain oral health by cleaning teeth and assisting the dentist with a variety of procedures.

Dental Hygienist cleaning teeth.  Hygienist's help maintain oral health by cleaning teeth and assisting the dentist with a variety of procedures.

Dental Hygienist Job Description: Dental hygienists remove soft and hard deposits from teeth, teach patients how to practice good oral hygiene, and provide other preventive dental care. Hygienists examine patients’ teeth and gums, recording the presence of diseases or abnormalities. They remove calculus, stains, and plaque from teeth; perform root planing as a periodontal therapy; take and develop dental x rays; and apply cavity-preventive agents such as fluorides and pit and fissure sealants.

In some States, hygienists administer anesthetics; place and carve filling materials, temporary fillings, and periodontal dressings; remove sutures; and smooth and polish metal restorations. Although hygienists may not diagnose diseases, they can prepare clinical and laboratory diagnostic tests for the dentist to interpret. Hygienists sometimes work chair side with the dentist during treatment.

Part of the Dental hygienists job description is to also help patients develop and maintain good oral health. For example, they may explain the relationship between diet and oral health or inform patients how to select toothbrushes and show them how to brush and floss their teeth.

Dental hygienists use hand and rotary instruments and ultrasonics tools to clean and polish teeth, x-ray machines to take dental pictures, syringes with needles to administer local anesthetics, and models of teeth to explain oral hygiene.

Alternate Titles:  Registered Dental Hygienist (RDH), Pediatric Dental Hygienist,

Working Environment

Dental hygienists stand on their feet for prolonged periods of time. They work in climate controlled buildings and spend the work day indoors. They may work long hours including Saturdays.

Education and Training

Dental hygienists typically need an associate’s degree in dental hygiene. All states require dental hygienists to be licensed; requirements vary by state.

Formal training ranges from a two year vocational or associates degree program to a Master’s degree. The average hygienist will usually take about one year of classes in topics such as anatomy and physiology as well as biology prior to enrolling in a two year program.

For those working in a dental office this is usually all the education needed. Hygienist's desiring to participate in research or to teach will require at least a Bachelor’s degree and most likely will be Master's prepared candidates.

Licensing and Credentialing

In all 50 states and the U.S. Territories Dental Hygienists are regulated. The usual method to be a credentialed and licensed hygienist is:

Possess the amount of training and/or a degree from an accredited school of Dental Hygiene.

Pass a national exam administered by the American Dental Association’s Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations

Apply for licensure in the state you wish to practice in.




Significant Points

Dental Hygienists must be licensed, requiring 2 to 4 years of undergraduate education and the passing of required national exams.

Employment is expected to increase faster than average as a result of increasing demand for dental services and an increasing number of dentists depending on hygienists.

The Dental Hygienist job description is flexible and is often dependent on the dentist supervising the hygienist.

Advancement - chances for promotion

The majority of Dental Hygienist's are engaged in working for dentists who usually employ only one or two hygienists. Unless they work for a major corporation or form a group practice promotions and advancement will be limited. Increases in salary will come from raising their fees and/or passing on rising costs to the consumer. For those who are employed advancement will vary depending on the size of the organization.

Resources for Dental Hygienist Job Description

Dental Hygienist Job Description Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition.

American Dental Hygienist Association 444 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 3400 Chicago, IL 60611 Telephone (312) 440-8913



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