I Want That Job: Dental Hygienist

Here's a future-proof job that can earn a great salary without a major investment in higher education. Dental Hygienists like Helen apply their technical and soft skills to ensure the oral health of patients.

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Do you want a health care job that pays an excellent salary, has flexible hours and is needed all across the country? If so, then consider becoming a dental hygienist.

Dental hygienists are highly-trained professionals who provide oral care to patients inside a dentist’s office. Their job entails routine cleanings, inspections, assessments and education.

Dental hygienist Helen Akopyan.
Helen Akopyan. Photo – WorkingNation

The star of our video, Helen Akopyan, works at LiveWell Dentistry as a dental hygienist. She received her two-year associate’s degree in dental hygiene from Pasadena City College and then completed the Dental Hygiene Program at PCC immediately after obtaining her associate’s degree.

Now is the right time to become a dental hygienist. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 20 percent growth in the career by 2026 — roughly 40,900 new jobs. With the appropriate licenses, dental hygienists can work in any state. On average, dental hygienists can expect to make $74,000 a year.

Here are FOUR STEPS to become a Dental Hygienist:

  1. Understand the Dental Hygienist Role

Dental hygienists are highly professional and trained service providers. Not only do they clean teeth and examine mouths for oral disease, but they are also responsible for educating their patients and providing ways to maintain good health. The best hygienists combine their extensive technical knowledge with essential soft skills like empathy and caring.

  1. Get an Undergraduate Degree

Typically, a two-year associate degree in science is required for the job. Many community colleges, four-year universities and technical schools offer this training. More specialized skills can be pursued in dental hygiene with a bachelor’s and master’s degrees. While advanced degrees can fetch higher salaries, they are not required to enter this career pathway.

  1. Land a Job (or two)

In 2016, about half of dental hygienists worked part-time because dentists typically hire hygienists to work only a couple days a week. Because of that, it is quite common for dental hygienists to work for more than one dental office, but doing so is up to each different hygienist and their personal schedule.

  1. Secure a License and Never Stop Learning

Every state requires dental hygienists to obtain licensure (requirements vary by state). The license is ongoing — in order to keep it active, dental hygienists must complete continuing education every two years. Again, each state has different requirements.

Want more information on how to become a dental hygienist?

  • Study.com has a great primer on the career and helpful links to educators.
  • Find out why U.S. News and World Report calls dental hygienist a “booming career.”
  • An emerging role in the world of dentistry is the Dental Health Aide Therapist. DHATs are trained in more intensive procedures while under the supervision of a dentist. This role allows for greater access to oral care, especially in rural areas. While the job of DHAT is not widely recognized in the United States, these workers who serve Native American communities are making a difference. Watch our Do Something Awesome video about the Alaska Dental Therapy Education Program below.


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