Career as a Dental Hygienist
By Bailey Arndt

Career Overview

Clean teeth and teach clients how to prevent tooth decay and gum disease.

Dental hygienists discuss general health issues with patients and update dental charts. They inspect patients' teeth for deposits and decay, and look for disease in the gums.

Hygienists take pictures of patients teeth using X-rays and develop the film. The Dentists then use those pictures to diagnose problems and plan treatments.

Jobs hygienists perform everyday:

  • Clean plaque and various stains from teeth
  • Clean and scale teeth
  • Scale roots
  • Apply sealants
  • Apply fluoride

Career Skills and Interests

Listen to patients, understand and ask questions. Be able to express ideas in writing and speaking. Read and understand materials.

Understand new information or materials by studying and working with them.Notice when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. Bring together different pieces of information and have conclusions.Concentrate and not be distracted while performing a task.Follow guidelines for the procedure. Manage the time of self and others.Check/ask people how well they are learning or doing something.

Working Conditions

  • They work closely with clients and coworkers.
  • Are responsible for others' health and safety.
  • Work as part of a dental team.
  • Communicate with patients daily by telephone and in person.
  • May occasionally be placed in conflict situations in which others may be rude or unpleasant.
  • Are responsible for the health and safety of others.
  • Always work indoors.
  • Always wear protective attire. They wear masks, safety glasses, and rubber gloves to protect themselves and their clients from diseases.
  • Are always exposed to diseases and infections from their contact with clients.
  • Are often exposed to radiation, such as when x-raying clients' teeth
  • Work very near other people and have little space between self and others.
  • Sometimes must get into awkward positions to reach patients' teeth
  • May work full time or part time. May work days, evenings, or weekends.May work for more than one dental office.

Career Wages and Outlook

Hygienists may be paid by the client, day, or by the hour. Many hygienists work part time and some are paid a combination of salary and commission.

Hourly Wage - $36.50

Salary Wage - $75,000

Hygienists' wages also depend on the hours they work and their responsibilities. Their level of education and the area of the country where they work also affect their wages.

Benefits vary by employer. Full-time hygienists may receive paid vacation, sick days, and health insurance. Part-time hygienists generally are paid a wage, but do not receive benefits.

Outlook is high in Minnesota

Career Related Occupation

The occupations listed below may have similar work duties, use similar skills, be in the same career ladder, have a similar level of education.

  • Dentist
  • Dental Assistant

Program of Study

Dental hygiene programs teach people to clean and protect patients' teeth. Students learn oral anatomy, hygiene theory, and cleaning techniques. They also study ways of identifying oral diseases and injuries.

Many undergraduate programs require applicants to have taken one to two years of college first. Many programs require students to have some of the following courses:

  • Dental anatomy, microbiology, and pathology
    • Cleaning equipment operation and maintenance
    • Dental materials
    • Radiology
    • Patient education and counseling
    • Office management
    • Professional standards
  • During the final year of your dental hygiene program, you complete an internship. During this period, you work with patients under the supervision of a dental hygienist.

    Related Programs:

    • Advanced Dentistry and Oral Surgery
    • Dental Assisting
    • Dental Laboratory Technology
    • Dentistry
    • Dentistry and Dental Services
    • Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy, and Veterinary
    • Pre - Dentistry

    Schools that Offer my Program of Study:

    Minnesota State, Mankato

    University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

    College Choice:
    University of Minnesota

    • Size and Location - U of M is located right in the heart of the Twin Cities in Minnesota. There are roughly about 64,964 students enrolled.
    • Admission Requirements - ACT is the required test that you need to take to get into the U of M with a score above 24.
    • College Expenses - About $13,620 for tuition, room and board. The estimated total budget is $16,814 per year. There is also a $25.00 application fee to submit your application.
    • Financial Aid - Grants and Scholarships - Presidential Scholarship
    • Housing - Dorms or Apartments - You can choose to live on or off campus
    • Activities - There are over 600 clubs that you can join. Fraternities and Sororities are also available to join.

    Sources : Minnesota Talent Search

    Informational Interview

    I went to Oz Family Dentistry and interviewed dental hygienist Rachele Sellner. Rachele was very friendly and was very specific and honest during the interview, she is the hygienist that cleans my teeth so I knew her from past experiences. I learned a lot about  the hygienist career and all the work that you need to do to achieve success in this field. I like that you can meet with new people every day and have different but similar tasks on a daily basis. One of my concerns in this occupation is having to take board exams, and having to numb peoples teeth. The work environment at Oz Family Dentistry is very friendly and I would love to be able to work their someday for Doctor Dan Osdaba.

    Rachele told me to be prepared to have all your attention on the program, have fun and make sure that you will enjoy your job everyday.

    Date of Interview/Job Shadow Experience - March 17th 2014

    Interview/Job Shadow Contact - Rachele Sellner

    Name of Company - Oz Family Dentistry

    Position - Dental Hygienist

    Phone Number - (507) 387-2603

    Plans to reach my goal!

    • Interview someone in the same career but works in a different environment
    • Job shadow someone in a different office and learn for their point of view. Have more mentors in this field
    • Volunteer overseas to help underprivileged children
    • Internship at a local office and learn the business
    • Summer Job working in the office