DENTAL HYGIENISTS clean teeth and provide other preventive dental care, as well as teach patients how to take care of their teeth. They examine the teeth and gums of patients and make note of any disease or abnormalities. They remove tartar, stains, and plaque from above and below the gum-line of the teeth. They apply decay-preventive agents such as fluorides and pit and fissure sealants. They take and develop dental x-rays. They may give anesthetics, place temporary fillings, and apply periodontal dressings. They prepare clinical and lab diagnostic tests for the dentist to interpret. They may work chair-side with the dentist during treatment.
Salary, Size & Growth
- $69,000 average per year ($33.25 per hour)
- A large occupation (177,500 workers in 2010)
- Expected to grow rapidly (3.6% per year)
DENTAL HYGIENISTS must be licensed by the state in which they practice. To obtain a license, candidates must graduate from an accredited dental hygiene school and pass a written and clinical examination. Exams on the legal aspects of dental hygiene practice are also required by most states. Some programs in dental hygiene lead to a bachelor's degree, most grant an associate degree, which is sufficient for practice in a private dental office. A bachelor's or master's degree is usually required for research, teaching, or clinical practice in school health programs.