Dental Hygiene as a profession

Licensed dental hygienists enjoy a flexible career and have the opportunity to work with people of all ages and backgrounds to assist in providing preventive, educational and treatment services.

In order to become a licensed dental hygienist, you must graduate from an ADA accredited dental hygiene program and pass the National Dental Hygiene Board Examination and regional clinical examination.

Primary responsibilities

Dental hygienists are highly valued and integral members of the oral health team. Their primary direct patient care responsibilities include:

  • assessment of medical and dental histories;
  • taking and recording blood pressure and pulse;
  • screening for oral cancer;
  • examination of the teeth and gums and charting of oral conditions;
  • exposing, processing and interpreting dental radiographs (x-rays);
  • administration of local anesthesia (in PA);
  • removing plaque and calculus from above and below the gum line;
  • applying preventive agents to reduce/eliminate decay such as fluoride therapies and sealants;
  • providing individualized patient education.

Career Opportunities

Licensed dental hygienists serve the community in a variety of settings including private dental practices, specialty practices, clinics, public health agencies, hospital settings, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, home health services, military service, government agencies and corporate health facilities. With an advanced degree, dental hygienists can also work in non-traditional environments such as school systems, corporate sales, as educators in dental and dental hygiene programs and in health research and management.

Job outlook

The outlook for dental hygienists is strong due to the demand and need for preventive oral health care by a growing aging population. According to the most recent Occupational Outlook Handbook by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, dental hygiene is one of the fastest growing occupations. Employment of dental hygienists is expected to grow 19% from 2014 to 2024. The Dental Hygiene Program maintains a list of job opportunities and provides students with assistance in career decisions. For more information on the outlook of the dental hygiene profession, please visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics.