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.

Featured Schools


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

This table shows the top 10 highest paying industries for Dental Hygienists based on their average annual salary.

Salary by industry Annual Hourly
Specialty Hospitals $80800 $38.85
Management of Companies and Enterprises $80470 $38.69
Offices of Other Health Practitioners $79550 $38.25
Offices of Dentists $78320 $37.65
Outpatient Care Centers $77980 $37.49
Offices of Physicians $77810 $37.41
Employment Services $76000 $36.54
Nursing Care Facilities (Skilled Nursing Facilities) $73680 $35.42
Individual and Family Services $73550 $35.36
Facilities Support Services $73540 $35.36

View more salary by industries here.

Where can they work

Where can Dental Hygienists work? Here is a table showing the top 10 largest employers of Dental Hygienists including the average salary in that industry.

Employers Total Employed Annual Salary Hourly Wages
Offices of Dentists 183280 $78320 $37.65
Employment Services 2950 $76000 $36.54
Offices of Physicians 2410 $77810 $37.41
Outpatient Care Centers 1640 $77980 $37.49
Federal Executive Branch 860 $65970 $31.72
Local Government 700 $70920 $34.10
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals 660 $73470 $35.32
Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools 590 $68930 $33.14
State Government 540 $63910 $30.73
Offices of Other Health Practitioners 310 $79550 $38.25

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%

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%

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%

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 majors

Dental Hygiene/Hygienist

A program that prepares individuals to clean teeth and apply preventive materials, provide oral health education and treatment counseling to patients, identify oral pathologies and injuries, and manage dental hygiene practices. Includes instruction in dental anatomy, microbiology, and pathology; dental hygiene theory and techniques; cleaning equipment operation and maintenance; dental materials; radiology; patient education and counseling; office management; supervised clinical training; and professional standards.

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 type 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.

The Builder
81%

People with The Builder personality type likes practical and hands-on work. They prefer working with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery.


The Thinker
43%

People with The Thinker personality likes to work with ideas that require an extensive amount of thinking. They prefer work that requires them to solve problems mentally.


The Artist
14%

People with The Artist personality likes to work with designs and patterns. They prefer activities that require self-expression and prefer work that can be done without following a clear set of rules.


The Helper
86%

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


The Leader
29%

People with The Leader personality likes to start and work on projects. They also like leading people and making many decisions.


The Organizer
52%

People with The Organizer personality type likes to follow set procedures and routines. They prefer working with data and details more than with ideas.


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.

Work Values

Which values are the most important to a person’s satisfaction for this job?

Achievement
62%

You are someone who is results oriented. You prefer work that allows you to utilize your skills and abilities while at the same time giving you a sense of accomplishment.

Working Conditions
64%

You are someone who values job security, steady employment, and good working conditions. You also prefer work that keeps you busy all the time with something different to do every day.

Recognition
52%

You are someone who values job advancement and leadership roles. You prefer work that receives recognition for the work you do and jobs that are looked up to by others in the company and your community.

Relationships
95%

You are someone who likes to provide a service to others. You prefer a work environment where you can work with your co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Support
71%

You are someone who values a company that stands behind their employees. You prefer a work environment where everyone is treated fairly and is being supported by the company.

Independence
67%

You are someone who likes to work on your own and make your own decisions. You prefer work that requires little supervision and are allowed to try out your own ideas.

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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