What Does A Dental Hygienist Do (including Their Typical Day at Work)

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Salary, Job Description, How To Become One, and Quiz

Dental Hygienists

Dental Hygienists clean teeth and examine oral areas, head, and neck for signs of oral disease. May educate patients on oral hygiene, take and develop x rays, or apply fluoride or sealants.

Salary
$78050
Becoming One
Medium
Education
Associate's degree
Job Satisfaction
Job Growth

Personality





Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.Confucius

What they do

Dental Hygienists clean teeth and examine oral areas, head, and neck for signs of oral disease. May educate patients on oral hygiene, take and develop x rays, or apply fluoride or sealants.

  • Clean calcareous deposits, accretions, and stains from teeth and beneath margins of gums using dental instruments.
  • Record and review patient medical histories.
  • Examine gums, using probes, to locate periodontal recessed gums and signs of gum disease.
  • Feel and visually examine gums for sores and signs of disease.

Typical day

On a daily basis, Dental Hygienists clean calcareous deposits, accretions, and stains from teeth and beneath margins of gums, using dental instruments. They record and review patient medical histories.

A typical day for a Dental Hygienist will also include:

  • Feel and visually examine gums for sores and signs of disease.
  • Chart conditions of decay and disease for diagnosis and treatment by the dentist.
  • Examine gums, using probes, to locate periodontal recessed gums and signs of gum disease.
  • Provide clinical services or health education to improve and maintain the oral health of patients or the general public.
  • Feel lymph nodes under the patient’s chin to detect swelling or tenderness that could indicate the presence of oral cancer.

Other responsibilities

Besides their typical day, Dental Hygienists also remove excess cement from the coronal surfaces of teeth. They may also administer local anesthetic agents.

On a weekly to monthly basis, Dental Hygienists make impressions for study casts. They might also maintain a patient recall system.

In addition, they place and remove rubber dams, matrices, and temporary restorations.

Although specific duties may vary, many of them remove sutures and dressings.

To some Dental Hygienists, it is also their responsibility to conduct dental health clinics for community groups to augment the services of dentists.

Freedom to make decisions

How much decision making freedom does this job offer?

No freedom
0%

Very little freedom
1%

Limited freedom
44%

Some freedom
29%

A lot of freedom
26%

Structured vs unstructured work

To what extent is this job structured for you versus allowing you to determine your own tasks, priorities, and goals?

No freedom
0%

Very little freedom
0%

Limited freedom
21%

Some freedom
60%

A lot of freedom
19%


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What is the job like

Job satisfaction

Very High

Is this job meaningful

Very High

79% said they were satisfied with their job and 78% said they found their job meaningful.


A small dental office

My name is Calandra Farley. I am a Registered Dental Hygienist and have been for over 10 years now. I work clinical 4 days per week as a Dental Hygienist and I run a blog about dentistry HygienistOpinion.com. I have an associates of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene, but one can also obtain a bachelor’s … Read More


I’ve been a registered dental hygienist for 15 years. I’m currently a stay at home mom of 3, but before the pandemic, I worked 4 days a week. Most dental hygienists work part-time. I worked 2, 8-hour days and 2, 5-hour days, which is 26 hours a week in total. The nature of the work … Read More


Babylon Dental Care

I always knew I wanted to help people, and the medical field was always interesting to me but I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a nurse, because of how deeply emotional their cases can be. I stumbled across the dental hygiene program at my college and knew this would be a great fit for … Read More


Sutton Place Dental Associates

I am a hygienist working in NYC at Sutton Place Dental Associates. I work as an independent health professional in collaboration with Dr. Joseph Salim at Sutton Place Dental Associates. My task is not only to ensure patients’ good dental hygiene during my interactions with them, but I also focus on the prevention of pathologies … Read More


Pros

Suitable for people who like to help and teach others.

Suitable for people who value relationships between co-workers and customers and want to work in a friendly non-competitive environment.

This career is perfect for people who love to work indoors.

It is not too difficult to get into this career. Previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience is required for this career.

Short working hours (Less than 40 hours per week).

Cons

Not suitable for people who like to work with designs.

How much do they make

Average salary

$78050 per year

Average hourly wage

$38 per hour

Entry-level Dental Hygienists with little to no experience can expect to make anywhere between $54,200 to $65,440 per year or $26 to $31 per hour.

Salary range Hourly Annual
Highest (Top 10%) $50 $104,420
Senior (Top 25%) $44 $91,620
Middle (Mid 50%) $37 $77,090
Junior (Bottom 25%) $31 $65,440
No experience (Bottom 10%) $26 $54,200

What is the work day like

Working hours

Less than 40 hours
88%

40 hours
4%

More than 40 hours
9%

Working schedule

87%

13%

0%

Work with group or team

How important is it to work with others in a group or team in this job?

Not important at all
0%

Fairly important
1%

Important
6%

Very important
22%

Extremely important
71%

Deal with external customers

How important is it to work with customers in this job?

Not important at all
13%

Fairly important
8%

Important
9%

Very important
14%

Extremely important
55%

Manage or lead others

How important is it to coordinate or lead others in completing work activities in this job?

Not important at all
13%

Fairly important
5%

Important
23%

Very important
45%

Extremely important
14%

Email

How often do you use email in this job?

Once a week
22%

Every day
5%

Telephone

How often do you have telephone conversations in this job?

Once a week
33%

Every day
32%

Group discussions

How often do you have group discussions in this job?

Once a week
10%

Every day
89%

Public speaking

How often does this job require you to do public speaking?

Never
62%

Once a year
16%

Once a month
8%

Once a week
6%

Every day
8%

Frequency of conflict situations

How often are there conflict situations in this job?

Never
23%

Once a year
10%

Once a month
47%

Once a week
17%

Every day
3%

Dealing with angry people

How often do you have to deal with angry, unpleasant, or discourteous individuals in this job?

Never
1%

Once a year
22%

Once a month
38%

Once a week
22%

Every day
17%

Dealing with physically aggressive people

How often do you have to deal with physically aggressive people in this job?

Never
74%

Once a year
19%

Once a month
7%

Once a week
0%

Every day
0%

Level of competition

How much competitive pressure is in this job?

Not competitive at all
17%

Slightly competitive
13%

Moderately competitive
19%

Highly competitive
27%

Extremely competitive
23%

Repetition in this job

How important is repeating the same type of task over and over in this job?

Not important at all
0%

Fairly important
0%

Important
1%

Very Important
41%

Extremely Important
58%

Impact of decisions on co-workers or company results

What results do your decisions usually have on other people or the reputation or financial resources of your employer?

No impact
11%

Minor impact
7%

Moderate impact
1%

Important impact
54%

Very important impact
27%

Frequency of decision making

How frequently do you have to make decisions that affect other people, the financial resources, and/or the reputation of the company?

Never
2%

Once a year
10%

Once a month
2%

Once a week
21%

Every day
65%

Responsibility for others’ health and safety

How much responsibility is there for the health and safety of others in this job?

No responsibility
7%

Limited responsibility
17%

Moderate responsibility
8%

High responsibility
34%

Very high responsibility
35%

Responsibility for outcomes and results

How much responsibility is there for the work outcomes and results of other workers?

No responsibility
20%

Limited responsibility
39%

Moderate responsibility
25%

High responsibility
9%

Very high responsibility
6%

What is the work environment like

Office-style environment

Indoors in an environmentally controlled condition

Never
3%

Once a year or more
0%

Once a month or more
0%

Once a week or more
0%

Every day
97%

Warehouse-style environment

Indoors in a non-controlled environmental condition such as a warehouse

Never
91%

Once a year or more
9%

Once a month or more
0%

Once a week or more
0%

Every day
0%

Outdoors

Outdoors exposed to all weather conditions

Never
88%

Once a year or more
12%

Once a month or more
0%

Once a week or more
0%

Every day
0%

Outdoors – Under Cover

Outdoors but under cover (e.g. structure with roof but no walls)

Never
94%

Once a year or more
6%

Once a month or more
0%

Once a week or more
0%

Every day
0%

How to become one

Difficulty to become one

Medium
You will need previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience. Most careers in this difficulty category require training in vocational schools, related on-the-job experience, or an Associate’s degree, and one or two years of on-the-job training. Similar careers include Travel Agents, Agricultural Technicians, Court Reports, and Medical Assistants.

Required level of education

What level of education do you need to perform the job?

Less than a High School Diploma
0%

High School Diploma or equivalent
0%

Post-Secondary Certificate
0%

Some College Courses
0%

Associate’s Degree or similar
79%

Bachelor’s Degree
21%

Post-Baccalaureate Certificate
1%

Master’s Degree
0%

Post-Master’s Certificate
0%

First Professional Degree
0%

Doctoral Degree
0%

Post-Doctoral Training
0%

Relevant work experience

How much related work experience do you need to get hired for the job?

None
51%

1 month
2%

1 to 3 months
1%

3 to 6 months
7%

6 months to 1 year
4%

1 to 2 years
34%

2 to 4 years
1%

4 to 6 years
0%

6 to 8 years
0%

8 to 10 years
0%

Over 10 years
0%

On The Job Training

How much on the job training do you need to perform the job?

None or short demonstration
54%

1 month
21%

1 to 3 months
6%

3 to 6 months
12%

6 months to 1 year
2%

1 to 2 years
6%

2 to 4 years
0%

4 to 10 years
0%

Over 10 years
0%

Should you become one

Best personality for this career
The Helper

People with this personality type likes to work with people and in teams. They prefer work that allows them to build relationships with others.

81%

43%

14%

86%

29%

52%

You can read more about these career personality types here.

People who are suitable for this job tend to like working with, communicating with, and teaching people. They like helping or providing service to others.

They also like work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They like working with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery.

Take this quiz to see if this is the right career for you.

FAQ

How long does it take to become a Dental Hygienist?

At least 3-4 years. There is usually one year of core classes, English, Math, Science, Anatomy & Physiology, and other courses. After that, one must apply to and be accepted to a Dental Hygiene Program. Qualification usually involves taking and submitting a placement test & having excellent grades because the competition for schools can be … Read More

Answered by:
Calandra Farley
Registered Dental Hygienist


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