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Dental Hygienist Salary and Job Description

Dental Hygienists are skilled dental professionals that assist their patients with managing their oral health, both at home and in the office. Continue reading for. More information on dental hygienists, the average dental hygienist salary, and what goes into becoming a licensed dental hygienist.

What Is a Dental Hygienist?

man having a dental checkup with two dental hygienists

A dental hygienist is a licensed professional responsible for helping their patients manage their oral health. Dental hygienists perform professional cleanings for their patients during their visits, and they also perform professional whitening sessions, cancer screenings, and general oral health advising.

As compared with a dental assistant, a dental hygienist has more extensive duties, and hence a dental hygienist salary is typically higher. Most of their work is conducted without the direct supervision of a dentist. A dental hygienist serves as the essential backbone of every dental office.

Hygienists are responsible for taking x-rays, keeping patient charts updated and organized, and performing oral examinations and cleanings. Most of the routine checkup is done by the hygienist while the dentist is responsible for checking over everything at the end of the appointment and focuses on the detection of cavities and decay.

Is There a Need for Dental Hygienists?

dental hygienist


The essential job of a Dental Hygienist is to keep patients’ teeth clean and healthy, as well as to inform them of proper Dental hygiene and care in order to prevent cavities. Hygienists take x-rays to find problems that cannot be detected by the eye and report any issues directly to the dentist. As the public grows more observant to the effects of proper dental hygiene on overall health, the numbers of people that make regular visits to the dentist have soared, and the demand of Dental Hygienists has risen substantially.

While many people may feel that performing routine home care is enough to spare them the need for an appointment with a hygienist, it is important to attend your regularly scheduled visits. Your dental hygienist will conduct thorough cleanings, and he or she will be able to thoroughly clean areas of your mouth that you may find to be rather difficult to reach at home. In most cases, these hard-to-reach spots are in the back of the mouth.

While you may be unable to reach these spots at home, they are no match for your dental hygienist. He or she will be able to thoroughly clean these hard-to-reach areas in your mouth with no trouble at all. It is for this reason that it is very important to make sure you always attend your regular cleaning appointments; leaving plaque or tartar on the teeth can lead to a considerable amount of health problems that can be easily avoided.

Gum Disease



Failing to attend your regular hygiene appointments may lead to decay in the areas that are not thoroughly cleaned at home. Patients who have developed gum disease, otherwise known as periodontitis, are required to attend their regular cleanings in order to manage their condition and prevent it from worsening. Once a substance called tartar develops on the teeth, the substance can not be removed from the teeth simply by brushing or flossing.

Tartar can only be successfully removed by a licensed dental hygienist, using tools specially designed for the job. When tartar is left to accumulate on the teeth, it progresses to gum disease, which causes a myriad of issues, bad breath, loose teeth, and pain in gums being just a few examples.

Oral Cancer Screenings

oral xray


In addition to helping you manage your oral hygiene, your hygienist will be able to detect any signs of decay, as well as any lesions in the mouth that may warrant concern for cancer. Most dental hygienists now offer cancer screenings to their patients. During these cancer screenings, the hygienist will flash an intelligent light throughout the patient’s mouth.

This light will indicate if there are any spots in the patient’s mouth that warrant cause for concern. If they find anything questionable, your hygienist will refer you to a specialist immediately. This five-minute screening is usually not expensive and has the potential to save your life. This is just another example of how dental hygienists truly make an impact on people’s lives.

Dental Hygienist Salary and Job Description

dental hygienist


An official job description for a dental hygienist can be described as a licensed individual who removes stains, plaque, and tartar from teeth, and ensures that patients are informed on proper oral care, as well as how to perform it at home to avoid cavities and gum disease. In order to become a registered dental hygienist (RDH), an individual must achieve their associate’s degree and become licensed through an educational dental hygiene program provided by a college or university.

In 2015, the median yearly dental hygienist salary was $72,720. While considering that only two years of education are necessary to be completed for this career that makes the average dental hygienist salary all the more impressive and attractive to those considering the career.


The salary of a dental hygienist is high compared to the amount of schooling that is needed. This not to say that dental hygienists do not undergo extensive training and education programs; in addition to traditional classroom studies, individuals working towards a degree in dental hygiene also take part in a rigorous clinical training program, in which they learn the hands-on skills that they will need to use each day in order to treat their patients.

During these clinical trials, prospective dental hygienists work their way up from performing cleanings and other oral maintenance on dental dummies to treating real patients; individuals in the area surrounding the school are usually welcomed to enjoy largely discounted or even free dental cleanings so that the hygienist can learn the in’s and out’s of treating real patients in the chair.

This ensures that after graduation and upon entering the workplace, new dental hygienists will be more than comfortable working on real patients. After the successful completion of the clinical aspect of their schooling, individuals will then be required to pass an extensive and relatively difficult set of tests and state-regulated board exams in order to receive their license in dental hygiene. It is then that they may finally enter the workforce and begin helping people manage their oral health.

Breakdown of Salary Information

The average US dental hygienist salary is estimated to be anywhere from $25.06 to $42.99 an hour, placing the median dental hygienist salary at about $33.47 an hour. In addition to this agreeable rate of pay, in some offices, depending on the amount of production (money) the dental hygienist generates for the office, they will be compensated by the dentist. This is done either in the form of bonuses or in some cases, profit sharing. As a dental hygienist is responsible for managing their own schedule of patients, the dentist relies on them to make sure they are treating enough patients to bring in a steady and considerable amount of cash flow for the office.

Together, the dentist and the dental hygienist will set a budget that they wish to meet, either monthly or quarterly, and the hygienist will work to make sure that they schedule enough patients to meet that budget. When the budget is met, in addition to their normal paycheck, these dental hygienists will receive a sum amount as a reward for working so hard to help the office meet its budget goals. Taking all of this into consideration, it is clear to see that dental hygienists salary is comfortable and reliable, and all while doing something that they truly enjoy while taking advantage of the opportunity to help people take care of their teeth.

Pros & Cons of the Dental Hygienist Career


  • Comfortable pay
  • Regular office working hours
  • Ability to work part time or full time
  • Small chance of working weekends
  • Helping people manage their oral health
  • Small amount of schooling
  • Opportunity for bonus/profit sharing
  • Job security
  • Opportunity to go back to school to become a dentist
  • Projected job growth


  • Difficult schooling
  • Working with patients who do not take care of their teeth
  • Repetitive work

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The career of a dental hygienist can prove to be extremely beneficial, both financially and morally, as dental hygienists enjoy the opportunity to help their patients whenever they can. If you are considering a career as a dental hygienist, it is important to do thorough research so that you can make an educated and informed decision on whether this career is right for you or not.

Considering the amount of schooling, the average dental hygienist salary, and the rewarding practice of helping people manage their oral health, there is no doubt that the career of a dental hygienist is considerably appealing, and it is a good option for individuals who want to enter the dental field and help people manage their dental health. Talk to a licensed dental hygienist to conduct a further amount of research to help you determine if this career is the right path for you.

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