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Career profile Dental Hygienist

Also known as Dental Hygienist; Dental Hygienist, Mobile Coordinator; Hygienist; Pediatric Dental Hygienist; Registered Dental Hygienist (RDH); Registered Dental Hygienist, Part Time Clinical Faculty

Dental Hygienist

Also known as Dental Hygienist; Dental Hygienist, Mobile Coordinator; Hygienist; Pediatric Dental Hygienist; Registered Dental Hygienist (RDH); Registered Dental Hygienist, Part Time Clinical Faculty

Interests Profile
  • Social
  • Realistic
  • Conventional
Pay Range
$54,200 - $104,420 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Active Listening
  • Speaking
  • Critical Thinking
Knowledge Areas
  • Medicine and Dentistry
  • Customer and Personal Service
  • Psychology
Core tasks
  • Record and review patient medical histories.
  • Feel and visually examine gums for sores and signs of disease.
  • Examine gums, using probes, to locate periodontal recessed gums and signs of gum disease.
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What does a Dental Hygienist do?

Dental Hygienists administer oral hygiene care to patients.

In addition, Dental Hygienists

  • assess patient oral hygiene problems or needs and maintain health records,
  • advise patients on oral health maintenance and disease prevention,
  • may provide advanced care such as providing fluoride treatment or administering topical anesthesia.

What kind of tasks does a Dental Hygienist perform regularly?

Dental Hygienists are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Record and review patient medical histories.
  • Feel and visually examine gums for sores and signs of disease.
  • Examine gums, using probes, to locate periodontal recessed gums and signs of gum disease.
  • Clean calcareous deposits, accretions, and stains from teeth and beneath margins of gums, using dental instruments.
  • Provide clinical services or health education to improve and maintain the oral health of patients or the general public.
  • Chart conditions of decay and disease for diagnosis and treatment by dentist.
  • Expose and develop x-ray film.
  • Attend continuing education courses to maintain or update skills.
  • Apply fluorides or other cavity preventing agents to arrest dental decay.
  • Maintain dental equipment and sharpen and sterilize dental instruments.
  • Maintain patient recall system.
  • Feel lymph nodes under patient's chin to detect swelling or tenderness that could indicate presence of oral cancer.
  • Administer local anesthetic agents.
  • Remove excess cement from coronal surfaces of teeth.

The above responsibilities are specific to Dental Hygienists. More generally, Dental Hygienists are involved in several broader types of activities:

Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.
Assisting and Caring for Others
Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.
Performing for or Working Directly with the Public
Performing for people or dealing directly with the public. This includes serving customers in restaurants and stores, and receiving clients or guests.
Documenting/Recording Information
Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
Making Decisions and Solving Problems
Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.

What is a Dental Hygienist salary?

The median salary for a Dental Hygienist is $77,090, and the average salary is $78,050. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Dental Hygienist salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Dental Hygienists earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Dental Hygienists earn less than $54,200 per year, 25% earn less than $65,440, 75% earn less than $91,620, and 90% earn less than $104,420.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Dental Hygienists is expected to change by 11.2%, and there should be roughly 15,600 open positions for Dental Hygienists every year.

Median annual salary
Typical salary range
$54,200 - $104,420
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)

What personality traits are common among Dental Hygienists?


Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as a Dental Hygienist are usually higher in their Social and Realistic interests.

Dental Hygienists typically have very strong Social interests. Social occupations frequently involve working with, communicating with, and teaching people. These occupations often involve helping or providing service to others.

Also, Dental Hygienists typically have strong Realistic interests. Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.


People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as a Dental Hygienist tend to value Relationships, Support, and Independence.

Most importantly, Dental Hygienists very strongly value Relationships. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Second, Dental Hygienists strongly value Support. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees.

Lastly, Dental Hygienists moderately value Independence. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Dental Hygienists must consistently demonstrate qualities such as concern for others, integrity, and dependability.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Dental Hygienists, ranked by importance:

Concern for Others
Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
Job requires being honest and ethical.
Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.

What education and training do Dental Hygienists need?

Dental Hygienists often have training in vocational schools, related on-the-job experience, or an associate's degree.

Dental Hygienists usually need one or two years of training involving both on-the-job experience and informal training with experienced workers. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with this occupation.

Educational degrees among Dental Hygienists

  • 0.6% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 2.7% completed high school or secondary school
  • 8.3% completed some college coursework
  • 50.5% earned a Associate's degree
  • 32.0% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 3.0% earned a Master's degree
  • 2.7% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Dental Hygienists

Dental Hygienists may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as medicine and dentistry, customer and personal service, or psychology knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Dental Hygienists might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Medicine and Dentistry
Knowledge of the information and techniques needed to diagnose and treat human injuries, diseases, and deformities. This includes symptoms, treatment alternatives, drug properties and interactions, and preventive health-care measures.
Customer and Personal Service
Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.
Education and Training
Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
Computers and Electronics
Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.

Important Abilities needed by Dental Hygienists

Dental Hygienists must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Dental Hygienists need abilities such as problem sensitivity, arm-hand steadiness, and finger dexterity in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Dental Hygienists, ranked by their relative importance.

Problem Sensitivity
The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
Arm-Hand Steadiness
The ability to keep your hand and arm steady while moving your arm or while holding your arm and hand in one position.
Finger Dexterity
The ability to make precisely coordinated movements of the fingers of one or both hands to grasp, manipulate, or assemble very small objects.
Near Vision
The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
Oral Comprehension
The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.

Critical Skills needed by Dental Hygienists

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Dental Hygienists frequently use skills like active listening, speaking, and critical thinking to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Dental Hygienists, ranked by their relative importance.

Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Critical Thinking
Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

If you have any questions or suggestions about this information, please send a message.