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What Does a Dental Hygienist Do?

Good dental health is a team effort. Dental hygienists provide preventative oral care under a dentist's supervision. They clean patients' teeth, take X-rays and examine patients' mouths for signs of gingivitis and other diseases. Hygienists also teach patients how to maintain good oral health, including proper brushing and flossing.

State rules dictate what services they are legally allowed to perform. About half of all dental hygienists work part-time.

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A dental hygienist cleans a patient’s teeth
Good oral health has been linked to better overall health, and a dental hygienist can explain why. (Credit: Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock)
Duties + Responsibilities
  • Take dental X-rays
  • Clean patients’ teeth by removing stains, calculus and plaque (the hard and soft deposits) from all surfaces of the teeth
  • Apply protective substances to the teeth such as sealants and fluorides
  • Teach patients good oral hygiene strategies
  • Conduct oral cancer screenings
  • Counsel patients about good nutrition and its impact on oral health
  • Make impressions of patients' teeth
  • Set up appointments for the patient
  • Document patient treatment plan
Education + Training

An associate degree is required to become a dental hygienist. It typically takes three years to complete the training, which is available at community colleges, trade schools and universities. Some students get a bachelor’s degree. Programs include classroom, lab and clinical time. 

A license from the state dental board is required, and specific requirements may vary by state. The American Dental Association website features a directory of state dental boards.

You May Be a Good Fit for This Position If You
  • Have good communication skills
  • Have a calm and reassuring manner
  • Are detailed-oriented
  • Have good dexterity
  • Have strong problem-solving skills

Dental Hygienist training in your area


Dental Hygiene, A.A.S.

Del Mar College
Corpus Christi (0.0 Miles)

Dental Hygienist Associate Degree

Madison Area Technical College
Madison (0.0 Miles)

Dental Hygiene State Approved Certificate

Moreno Valley College
Moreno Valley (0.0 Miles)

Dental Hygiene, A.A.S.

Sinclair Community College
Dayton (0.0 Miles)

Dental Hygiene, A.A.S.

Allegany College of Maryland
Cumberland (0.0 Miles)

Dental Hygiene, A.A.S.

Delta College
University Center (0.0 Miles)

Dental Hygiene, A.A.S

Iowa Western Community College
Council Bluffs (0.0 Miles)

Dental Hygiene, A.A.S.

El Centro College
Dallas (0.0 Miles)
Palm Beach State College

Dental Hygiene, A.S.

Palm Beach State College
Lake Worth (0.0 Miles)

Dental Hygiene, A.S.

Bristol Community College
Fall River (0.0 Miles)
Central Community College logo

Dental Hygiene, A.A.S.

Central Community College
Grand Island (0.0 Miles)

Dental Hygene, A.S.

College of Southern Nevada
Las Vegas (0.0 Miles)
Meet Ambassador Antonia Lemons
Antonia Lemons, dental hygienist ambassador, Midtown Dental Center
Meet Ambassador Antonia Lemons

Antonio Lemons really enjoys seeing people smile — especially when her work as a dental hygienist helps make that smile sparkle.

The job is so much more than that, of course, and that’s what she likes about it.

“It’s important to make the patient feel safe, comfortable and glad they came to the office,” says Antonia. She’s got more to say about certain misconceptions and why this is such a great job.

Find Dental Hygienist Jobs in Your Area


Dental Hygienist

Department of Defense
Corpus Christi ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 4 months 4 weeks ago

Territory Manager of Hygiene Support

Aspen Dental
Oklahoma City ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 4 months 4 weeks ago

Registered Dental Hygienist - Part Time

Western Dental
Oakland ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 5 months 1 week ago

Licensed Dental Hygienist (11839-200)

American Dental Partners, Inc.
Golden Valley ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 6 months 1 week ago

Dental Hygienist (per diem) (7am start time required)

Massachusetts General Hospital
Boston ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 year 3 months ago

Dental Hygienist

Smile Brands
Oakland ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 4 months 1 week ago

Hygienist - RDH

Aspen Dental
Racine ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 3 months 4 weeks ago

Hygienist Dental Assistant

Aspen Dental
Clovis ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 3 months 2 weeks ago