Dental Hygiene Career Information

The following information is from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Dental Hygienists. Please visit the website for a more comprehensive breakdown of the data.



Dental hygienists examine and clean patients’ teeth. They look for signs of oral disease, provide preventative care, and educate patients about oral health. The following is a general list of duties that dental hygienists can expect to encounter on the job.

Job Duties

  • Remove tartar, stains, and plaque from teeth
  • Apply sealants and fluorides to help protect teeth
  • Take and develop dental x-rays
  • Assess patients’ oral health and report findings to dentists
  • Document patient care and treatment plans
  • Educate patients about oral hygiene techniques including how to brush and floss correctly


National Average Annual Pay (2019): $77,230

Top 5 States

1. Alaska


2. California


3. Washington


4. New Jersey


5. Oregon


Bottom 5 States

50. Alabama


49. Mississippi


48. West Virginia


47. Kentucky


46. South Carolina



The requirements to gain admission into a Dental Hygiene program vary both by state and school. There generally are a few course requirements that are needed before entering a program. Some students will have already completed a baccalaureate degree and likely will have completed the pre-requisite courses. Many dental hygiene programs are offered at community colleges and you will be able to take the pre-requisite courses there.

All states require dental hygienists to be licensed.

Some states may have additional requirements to become a licensed dental hygienist such as:

  • CPR Certification
  • Administration of Anesthesia Requirement
  • 1. Enter a Dental Hygiene Program

    Dental hygienists usually need an associate’s degree in dental hygiene. A program typically takes 2-3 years to complete.

  • 2. Complete the Written Examination Requirement

    Upon completion of the dental hygiene program, you will be eligible to take the National Board Dental Examination (NBDE) or the National Board of Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE).

  • 3. Complete the Clinical Examination Requirement

  • 4. Obtain Dental Hygienist Licensure


Communication Skills

Dental hygienists must share information with dentists and patients about oral health status and oral hygiene care plans.


Dental hygienists must be good at working with their hands. This requires fine motor skills using precise tools and instruments.

Critical Thinking

Dental hygienists must be able to assess and evaluate patients and to develop oral hygiene care plans.

Interpersonal Skills

Dental hygienists work closely with dentists. They also must be considerate in working with patients, especially with those who are sensitive to pain or who have fears about undergoing dental treatment.

Problem-Solving Skills

Dental hygienists develop and implement oral hygiene care plans to maintain or improve patients’ oral health.

Detail Oriented

Dental hygienists must follow specific rules and protocols to help dentists diagnose and treat a patient. Dental hygienists may work without the direct supervision of a dentist depending on state laws.

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