Dental hygienists work with patients under the supervision of a dentist. They take X-rays, test teeth for cavities, and clean and polish patients' teeth. Dental hygienists also advise patients on how to maintain good oral health. Some states allow hygienists to place and carve fillings and periodontal dressings. General job responsibilities of dental hygienists include:
- Removing plaque, tartar, and stains from teeth
- Taking and developing X-rays of patients' teeth
- Applying fluorides and sealants to patients' teeth
- Teaching patients how to brush and floss and maintain good oral hygiene
Increased public awareness of the connection between general health and good oral health is creating a demand for more preventive dental care services. The BLS predicts a 38% growth in jobs for dental hygienists, who provide such services, from 2010 to 2020. Expanding dental practices, the development of new dental technologies, and a large, aging baby boomer population in need of dental care is also stimulating the need for more dental hygienists.Read More
Job Growth for
Becoming a Dental Hygienist
Dental hygienists typically hold an associate's degree in dental hygiene and are state-licensed. The requirements for licensure vary by state. Completing of an accredited two to three-year associate degree in dental hygiene typically qualifies students to sit for the state licensure exam. Many schools offer online bachelor's degree completion programs in dental hygiene for students with an associate's degree in dental hygiene.
Associate degree programs will include classroom, laboratory, and clinical instruction. Students will study anatomy, physiology, nutrition, radiography, and periodontology, the study of gum disease. Some typical classes in a dental hygiene degree program include:
- Oral Science
- Dental Hygiene Theory and Practice
- Dental Materials
- Pain Management
The majority of dental hygienists work part time, and may be paid by the hour or on commission. Benefits for dental hygienists vary by employer and are most likely available only to full-time employees. Dental hygienists with a bachelor's or master's degree in dental hygiene may advance to a research, teaching, managerial, or public health position.