How to become a Dental Hygienist

This article provides in-depth information into What is a Dental Hygienist? What Dental Hygienists do? Degrees for Business Analysts, Steps to become Business Analyst and much more.

What does a dental hygenist do?

A dental hygenist is an individual who is responsible for maintaining the oral health and cleanliness of potential and regular clients. They are under the employ of accredited dentists and are inherently responsible for providing preventive oral care along with a regular routine checkup of various diseases like gingivitis and so on so forth. A dental hygenist usually conducts a preliminary exam before the dentist starts the actual procedure. This procedure would entail routine procedures like cleaning and removing plaque and stains from the patient’s teeth, they would also apply sealants and fluorides to guarantee tooth protection.

They are also responsible for certain pre-surgery procedures like taking and developing X-rays and administering local anaesthesia for a pending surgical procedure. the majority of dental hygienists work in private or public practices, amongst dentists,orthodontists or even dental assistants. Their main purpose is to provide assistance to a dentist or a senior orthodontist and improve efficiency. Dental hygienists and dental assistants are similar but are not one and the same, as they differ in terms of education requirements, salary and even duties and responsibilities. A dental assistant usually escorts patients to their appointments and schedule any future appointments.

Their duties involve preparing rooms for surgery, sterilizing any tools and machines that may be potentially used in the process. Dental hygienists must also use several tools as part of their job. This includes hand, power, and ultrasonic tools for cleaning and polishing teeth, and x-ray machines for taking patient x-rays to check for issues with teeth and jaws. They may also use lasers. 

Steps to become a dental hygienist 

Finish high school

Order to become a dental hygienist a high school diploma or a GED is a necessary prerequisite,the US Bureau of labour statistics states that it would be beneficial for high school students to major in subjects like math, chemistry, physics and biology as it would help prepare them for the pursual of a post-secondary degree. 

Complete a dental hygienist programme

The commission of dental accreditation has approved multiple dental programs state-wide. Most aspiring dental hygienists must have completed an associates degree in a certified dental program in order to be able to pursue any further education in the form of a bachelors or masters degree. Dental hygiene programs offer valuable and extensive experience in the classroom, laboratory and clinical backgrounds. They provide real-life experiences for potential dental hygienists to solve and practice upon. 

Get an undergraduate degree

Most dental hygienists hold an associates degree in order to pursue a bachelors or masters degree. Most students hold an associates degree of applied science in dental hygiene. They should ideally further pursue accreditation in the form of bachelors or masters degree in order to obtain clinical and laboratory instruction and extensive knowledge. 

Obtain licensure

All states require dental hygienists to be licensed and accredited in order to practice legally under a superior and senior orthodontist or dentist. The commission of dental accreditation offers two written examinations in almost every state with the exception of Alabama in order for potential candidates to obtain licensure. Each state has a specialized dental examination that they are required to pass in order to be legally licensed(with the exception of Alabama). Some states require individuals to take a test regarding the legal aspect of practising dental hygiene.

Qualified candidates sit for the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, a written exam administered by the American Dental Association, and then complete a regional or state clinical board examination.

Consider an advanced degree

While an associates degree is sufficient most dental hygienists tend to pursue bachelors or even masters degrees in order to further advance their careers and secure higher paying jobs with more benefits as they now possess more qualifications. Bachelor's and master's degrees in dental hygiene may qualify hygienists for careers beyond the dental office, such as in teaching and research. Additionally, advanced degrees may be necessary for some positions in public health or school clinics.

Gain employment

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that job openings for dental hygienists were expected to grow much faster than the average through 2028, which is well above that of the average career. The majority of dental hygienists work in dental offices; however, some also work in employment services, offices of physicians and outpatient care services. Professionals working in in-home health care services gained the highest annual mean salary of $89,790.

You can start working towards a career as a dental hygienist in high school by focusing on courses in science and math, which will help you complete the necessary associate's degree. 

By finding gainful employment you are presented with the unique opportunity to hone your skills using real patients and learn extensively outside a classroom environment.


According to the US Bureau of labour statistics, dental hygienists across the country earn an average annual wage of $74,680.  An individual’s salary is dependent on a number of factors including the exact position, your level of education, amount of experience, and the setting in which you work. Entry-level amateur hygienists in dental offices may earn less, while those in research, teaching, or corporate positions will likely earn more. In 2017, the top 10% of dental hygienists enjoyed salaries of over $100,000 a year.

Professionals working in in-home health care services gained the highest annual mean salary of $89,790.Along with a competitive salary dental hygienists also receive certain benefits including flexible schedules and health benefits.

Job growth

According to the US Bureau of labour statistics, the demand for dental hygienists is predicted to rise and increase by 20% through 2026. After completion of a dental hygiene program, dental hygienists can choose to pursue additional training in such areas as education, business administration, marketing, and public health. Gaining this additional knowledge can help you find more specialized, high-level roles while increasing your earning potential.

School and university programs

Dental hygienists receive their education through academic programs at community colleges, technical colleges, dental schools or universities. The majority of community college programs take at least two years to complete, with graduates receiving associate degrees. Receipt of this degree allows a hygienist to take licensure examinations (national and state or regional), become licensed and to work in a dental office. Given below are accredited and prestigious colleges and universities that are most suitable for individuals who are interested in pursuing a career in dental hygiene:

University of Louisville

New york university 

University of Iowa the university of Tennessee 

University of Wyoming

Howard university

Southwestern college 

Types of degrees

The minimum level of education required to pursue any kind of degree relating to the pursual of a career in dental hygiene is a high school diploma or a GED. After earning a high school diploma or GED one can pursue an associates degree, bachelors degree or even a masters degree. These degrees can be earned at community colleges or even or technical schools that would usually take a cumulative period of 4 years to complete fully.

Associates degree:

An associates degree provides aspiring individuals with the education necessary to obtain a legal license for lawful employment under a senior orthodontist or dentist in private or public practise .As a part of the associate’s degree program an individual must complete supervised clinical experience over the course of your program. In your first year, as you begin providing clinical services, you should acquire between 8 and 12 hours of hands-on practice per week. This should increase to between 12 and 16 hours of dental hygiene practice in your second year.

Bachelor's degree:

An interest in a bachelor's degree is not as common as an interest in an associate's degree. Candidates interested in pursuing a bachelor's degree wish to participate in specialized care, like practising or developing programs within public health or school settings. You’ll take classroom courses in dental hygiene and participate in supervised clinical practice, as well as receive an education in liberal arts. Bachelor’s degrees typically take 4 years to complete, though you can earn one in less time by entering with an associate’s in dental hygiene. Known as degree-completion programs, these are designed for students who already have their dental hygiene license 

Masters degree:

A masters degree is usually pursued by dental hygienists who wish to teach , conduct research or work at an administrative level or specialize in management. These degrees could lead to higher-level roles like oral disease prevention specialists, community program directors, or leaders of dental health and education programs. Master’s degrees in dental hygiene typically take 1–2 years and require the completion of a capstone project.

Concentrations to consider

Dental hygiene educator:

Dental hygienists that are skilled in both oral health and preventive oral hygiene, as well as periodontal treatment, may choose to be employed in vocational schools, community colleges or even other dental schools in order teach other aspiring candidates. A dental hygiene educator is responsible for teaching other individuals both the basics of periodontal treatment and oral healthcare. their median salary is $49,391.

Pediatric dental hygienist:

Dental hygienists that are primarily focussed on the care and preventive oral treatment of children and toddlers are known as pediatric dental hygienists. They are also responsible for conducting specialized classes related to the development of the baby and permanent teeth, how to educate children in good oral health, and other topics affecting pediatric dentistry.

Periodontal dental hygienist:

Periodontal dental hygienists are primarily responsible and skilled at oral cancer screenings, tongue hygiene, denture care nutrition and other related elements. These professionals can be found in both private dentists’ offices and public health agencies.

Preparing yourself for a career as a dental hygienist

Vocational school:

The average cumulative period for the completion of a dental program is 2-4 years, but there exist certain trade and vocational schools that allow students to enter the working world within a minimum of 17 months in order to receive out of the classroom and laboratory experience and instruction.

Dental school:

Dental school usually consists of certain programmes that would aid aspiring students to obtain a legal license in order to enter the working world and get employed lawfully. The dental school offers a variety of degrees ranging from an associates degree to a masters degree which would all aid a student in their own ways. 

Community college:

Dental programme graduates are often offered by education in protective oral health, periodontal care and aftercare and so on so forth. These community colleges provide comprehensive and extensive learning and instruction on par with the real world.

Stand out skills

Oral Communication

In order to effectively treat patients, an individual needs to talk to them. they need to take patient histories, talk to patients about their oral care routines, and explain what you’re doing during treatments. If you’re not a strong communicator, or if you’re not confident in your communication skills, you could struggle with these tasks.

Attention to detail

Being detail-oriented is another important trait for dental hygienists. To complete treatments, you’ll need to carefully pay attention to what you’re doing. You’ll need to be able to focus on small details of patients’ teeth or gums.

Missing small details can mean patients don’t get the right treatments. Or, you could even harm patients. If you’re not particularly detail-oriented, dental hygiene may not be for you.


Every patient is different. You’ll encounter unique challenges with each patient, and you’ll need to be a good problem solver to handle these challenges.

Conducting initial assessments

One of the hard skills you’ll need as a dental hygienist is completing initial dental assessments. You’ll examine patients’ mouths first, and then the dentist will provide the necessary treatments.

Manual dexterity 

In order to be a competent and successful dental hygienist, one must have manual dexterity in order to easily and skillfully wield all tools necessary for the orthodontic profession.