Dental HygienistJob Description, Salary, Career Path, and Trends

Dental hygienists perform various duties in a dentist’s office for patients to achieve and maintain good oral health. They typically conduct initial screenings, take patient X-rays, clean teeth, take note of any issues or potential issues, and educate patients on proper teeth care. Some dental hygienists also assist dentists with dental emergencies. A dental hygienist must have good people skills and the ability to build trust with patients. They need an in-depth knowledge of health and safety rules and regulations and a trained eye to spot oral diseases and anomalies. Dental hygienists also maintain documentation and charts on each patient.

Patience and a friendly disposition are requirements for a dental hygienist. They must have good attention to detail and empathy as many patients are frightened or anxious when they go to the dentist’s office. A dental hygienist needs to have good problem-solving skills and should be a critical thinker. They should be able to stay calm in the event of an emergency or an unexpected situation. 

Sample job description

We believe in providing high-quality dental care to all of our patients regardless of their oral health status. Because of our commitment to patient satisfaction, we’re looking for an experienced dental hygienist in [your location] to help promote correct oral health practices. Your role will be helping patients decide which dental treatments are best for them, while also being available to assist in any dental emergencies. [Your company name] is committed to providing the highest-quality dental care, which is why we’re looking for a hygienist who has proven experience working with people of all ages and backgrounds. [Your company name] is a patient-centered practice, and we’re looking for someone motivated who will take part in our patient-centric culture.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Prepare and calibrate machinery for printing and other tasks
  • Operate machinery and maintain press to meet product specifications
  • Examine and clean patients’ teeth and gums
  • Educate patients on how to properly care for their gums and teeth and optimize their oral health through proper flossing and brushing
  • Evaluate patients’ mouths and gums for oral disease
  • Document care and treatments plans
  • Apply sealants and fluoride to protect teeth
  • Use a wide variety of tools, such as hand and power tools, x-ray machines, ultrasonic tools, and lasers
  • Review and communicate findings to dentists

Education and experience

  • Associates or bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene or related field
  • Accreditation through the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) as a Registered Dental Hygienist (RDH)
  • Three years of related experience

Required skills and qualifications

  • Exceptional verbal communication skills
  • Impeccable attention to detail
  • Proficiency using power tools and manual dexterity
  • Ability to conduct dental assessments
  • Excellent problem solving
  • Strong interpersonal skills

Preferred qualifications

  • Experience working in a fast-paced dental office
  • Willing to work flexible hours
  • Experience creating a friendly atmosphere for patients

Average salary and compensation

The average salary for a dental hygienist is $72,450 per year in the United States. Salary will vary based on experience, education, and geographical location.

LocationSalary LowSalary High
Phoenix, Arizona$72,850$97,450
Los Angeles, California$81,350$109,900
Denver, Colorado$67,750$91,650
Washington, DC$82,500$111,650
Jacksonville, Florida$59,000$79,950
Miami, Florida$67,400$91,250
Orlando, Florida$62,200$84,150
Tampa, Florida$62,800$84,850
Atlanta, Georgia$65,900$89,150
Chicago, Illinois$75,750$102,500
Boston, Massachusetts$83,000$110,800
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota$65,250$88,300
New York City, New York$86,200$116,650
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania$70,200$95,000
Dallas, Texas$68,350$92,500
Houston, Texas$67,750$91,650
Seattle, Washington$78,800$106,650
National Average$61,600$83,300

Typical work environment

Dental hygienists work in an office as part of a team. They often consult with dentists and other office staff, including dental assistants, to manage the way information circulates throughout the office. Collaboration with dentists and dental assistants also helps them to maintain a high level of accuracy in their work. While dental hygienists are full-time employees in a company, some do work part-time.

Dental hygienists usually keep regular office hours. They will occasionally need to work late or over weekends. Dental hygienists should expect to sit or stand for extended periods of time and occasionally work with a patient’s family to relay important information.

Typical hours

The typical work hours for a dental hygienist in an office setting are 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday. All dental offices have different hours of operation with some closing one day during the week while some offer weekend appointments as well.

Available certifications

As a dental hygienist, you must be an RDH from a properly accredited university or technical college with CODA certification. Many states also require that you continue your education on a bi-yearly basis.

  • Dental Hygienists may need to enroll in continuing education. Credit hours vary by state. Allow yourself plenty of time to attend courses to account for the appropriate number of CEU hours needed.
  • After earning a Dental Hygienist certificate, all dental hygienists are required to become licensed, except for those working in the state of Alabama. You must pass a written licensing exam. Most states require you to have a passing score on the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination as well as pass the state licensing exam for whatever state you’re practicing in. Schools may offer practice sessions to help prepare for the examination.

Career path

The journey to becoming a dental hygienist begins by earning an associate’s degree, or further, in dental hygiene. Students who aspire to be a dental hygienist start by enrolling in an accredited program that offers a dental hygiene program. Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in dental hygiene are available but are less common.

Dental hygienists need to develop compassion and excellent communication skills so they can work well with patients. Treating patients in a dental office is a collaborative process involving multiple members of a dental care team to make sure the patient receives the proper treatment plan.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 29-1292

2020 Employment206,100
Projected Employment in 2030229,200
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 11% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift23,100 increase

Dental hygienists should stay ahead of advancements in oral care. Your knowledge could benefit your career and the patients that you care for. Set goals for your certifications and choose courses that interest you and will benefit your career and make you a valuable employee.

Sample interview questions

  • What interests you about being a dental hygienist in our dental office?
  • What do you know about our dental office and dentists?
  • What measures do you take to stay updated on dental technology and practices?
  • What dental tools do you use on a daily basis?
  • How quickly can you learn to use a new tool?
  • How comfortable are you with conducting patient exams to learn more about the patients’ oral health?
  • How many years of experience do you have as a dental hygienist?
  • Describe a time you received negative criticism from a patient. How did you handle it?
  • Describe a time you received constructive criticism from your supervisor. Why was it helpful?
  • Describe a time you improved processes or workflow in a dental office.
  • Have you worked with dental assistants before? How did that go?
  • Describe one of your most satisfying moments of being a dental hygienist. How do you define success with each patient?

Dental Hygienist Jobs in Ashburn

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