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Dental Hygienist

Career Overview: Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists provide teeth cleaning services in a dentist's office. The job entails removing deposits on teeth, cleaning and polishing teeth through the use of ultrasound, an assortment of manual tools and electric rotary devices.

A dental hygienist will usually perform a detailed preliminary tooth and gum inspection prior to the dentist's examination of the patient. Hygienists take X-ray films, develop them, perform some basic procedures with cavities and in some states deliver injections. In many instances a dental hygienist will assist a dentist or periodontist during a surgical procedure.

Training & Qualifications

Dental hygiene training and education programs are available in the form of certification, an associates degree or a bachelors degree. Some programs require a year of college while others simply require high school completion. Depending on the level of training, a dental hygiene education can take two to four years.

All states require both a written and clinical exam for licensure. The written portion of the exam is given by The American Dental Association's Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations administers the written examination; the clinical test is given by various state or local agencies.


There were approximately 167,000 dental hygienists working in 2007, virtually all of them in dentist offices.

Job Outlook

Dental hygiene is a rapidly growing field, in a market where there is already a shortage of trained personnel. The job outlook is excellent.

Salary Range

Lowest 10%  $20.42  $42,480
Median Salary  $31.12  $64,740
Highest 10%  $43.07  $89,590

Source: U.S. Labor Department

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