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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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$ 50,000 - $ 103,000
$ 76,000
14,580+
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)
A Day In the Life
Image
Antonia Lemons, dental hygienist ambassador, Midtown Dental Center
A Day In the Life

Antonia 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.

Job 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.

Dental Hygienist License and Certificate Requirements

You may need a state license before you can begin working as a Dental Hygienist in your state, but most states have different requirements, license fees, and application forms. The good news - we make it super easy for you to find what you need to get your Dental Hygienist License. Enter your zip code to get started.

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

Coordinates
Lewis and Clark Community College logo

Dental Hygiene, A.A.S.

Lewis and Clark Community College
Godfrey (326.6 Miles)
Des Moines Area Community College logo

Dental Hygiene, A.A.S

Des Moines Area Community College
Ankey (338.2 Miles)
Amarillo College logo

Dental Hygiene, A.A.S.

Amarillo College
Amarillo (366.5 Miles)
Texas State Technical College logo

Dental Hygiene, A.A.S.

Texas State Technical College
Waco (384.8 Miles)
Kirkwood Community College logo

Dental Hygiene, A.A.S

Kirkwood Community College
Cedar Rapids (397.5 Miles)
Eastern Iowa Community College District logo

Community Dental Health Coordinator Certiifcate

Eastern Iowa Community College District
Davenport (411.2 Miles)
Eastern Iowa Community College District logo

Dental Hygiene, A.A.S

Eastern Iowa Community College District
Davenport (411.2 Miles)
Lone Star College System logo

Dental Hygiene, A.A.S.

Lone Star College System
The Woodlands (477.1 Miles)
Northwest-Shoals Community College logo

Dental Hygiene, A.A.S.

Northwest-Shoals Community College
Muscle Shoals (477.8 Miles)
Austin Community College District logo

Dental Hygiene, A.A.S.

Austin Community College District
Austin (481.5 Miles)
Pueblo Community College logo

Dental Hygiene, A.A.S.

Pueblo Community College
Pueblo (494.5 Miles)
Community College of Denver logo

Dental Hygiene, A.A.S.

Community College of Denver
Denver (535.0 Miles)

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