How Much Does a Dental Hygienist Make? Salary Information and Best-Paying States
Updated March 3, 2023
Dental hygienists often enjoy rewarding careers that allow them to help improve the oral health of their patients. If you are thinking about pursuing a career as a dental hygienist, the earning potential for this position is probably a key consideration. Learning about what dental hygienists make, along with their primary duties and the educational requirements can help you decide if this career is right for you. In this article, we discuss the national average salary for dental hygienists, how you can become one, the required skills and some of the most frequently asked questions about this career.
How much does a dental hygienist make?
The national average salary for a dental hygienist is $38.39 per hour. Here is a look at the average salary by state.
Alabama: $53,206 per year
Arkansas: $73,382 per year
Delaware: $76,564 per year
Idaho: $70,096 per year
Mississippi: $69,867 per year
Missouri: $67,142 per year
Montana: $70,200 per year
Nebraska: $69,846 per year
The job outlook for dental hygienists
Demand for dental hygienists is expected to increase by 11% from 2018 to 2028, significantly faster than the five percent average for all jobs. The increase in demand has been linked to an aging baby-boomer population and an increase in awareness for the importance of dental care. Studies indicate that interest in oral health and the continued efforts to expand consumer access to oral health services will continue to drive the demand for preventative dental treatments.
Related: Learn About Being a Dental Hygienist
How do you become a dental hygienist?
These are the basic steps you can take to become a dental hygienist.
1. Complete an associate degree
Most dental hygienists hold an associate degree, such as an Associate for Applied Science in Dental Hygiene. These programs can be found at community colleges, technical schools and dental schools. Students prepare for their careers through a combination of classroom and clinical instruction. The programs usually take two or three years to complete and cover areas like anatomy, ethics and periodontics (the study of gum disease).
Related: Highest Paying Two-Year Degrees
2. Obtain a license
While the eligibility requirements for licensure can vary from state to state, all dental hygienists are expected to be licensed in the U.S. Applicants are generally required to have completed an accredited dental hygiene program. Some states may require candidates to obtain a CPR certification as well as submit letters of recommendation and school transcripts.
To obtain a license, qualifying candidates must then sit for the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination, a written exam administered by the American Dental Association.
3. Consider an advanced degree
While a bachelor's or master's degree isn't a requirement for a position as a dental hygienist, it can qualify you for roles outside of a dental office, such as positions in research or teaching. These degrees may also be required for positions in school clinics or public health.
Related: 12 High-Paying Trade Jobs
Dental hygienist skills
Several skills are beneficial for success in this role. They include:
Dental hygienists must have strong communication skills to discuss oral care routines, medical histories and explain the courses of treatment. They must also have good active listening skills to be able to hear patient concerns and respond appropriately.
This refers to the behaviors and tactics that dental hygienists use to work well as part of a team in an office environment.
Attention to detail
To provide quality treatments, dental hygienists must have strong attention to detail and be able to take note of small details in the teeth or gums of each patient. Overlooking even small details could have serious consequences for patients.
Dental hygienists must be compassionate to calm patients who are nervous or even scared before dental procedures.
They must be able to have strong problem-solving skills to deal with the unique challenges that can accompany each patient.
To complete the tasks associated with their roles, dental hygienists must be able to work with sharp tools inside their patients' mouths. This requires naturally steady hands and the ability to use them in a coordinated way to manipulate and grasp objects.
Dental hygienists must have technical skills like the ability to take x-rays, apply fluoride treatments, remove deposits from teeth or examine patient mouths.
Since dental hygienists spend much of the day on their feet, it's important to have physical stamina.
FAQ about dental hygienists
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about a career as a dental hygienist.
What does a dental hygienist do exactly?
Dental hygienists are responsible for providing preventative oral care under the supervision of a dentist. They clean teeth and examine the patients' mouths for signs of damage or diseases. They also teach patients how to practice good oral health. Some of their primary duties include:
Completing a patient's preliminary examination
Cleaning and removing stains, tartar and plaque from teeth
Applying fluorides and sealants to protect the teeth
Taking and developing dental x-rays
Administering local anesthetics before treatment
Examining patients before their appointment and communicating findings with the dentist
Documenting treatment plans
Educating patients about how to care for their teeth
Utilizing tools for dental services, such as hand and power tools for cleaning and polishing teeth or x-ray machines
How many hours does a dental hygienist work?
Dental hygienists work both full-time and part-time hours and they typically treat one patient every hour in an eight-hour period. Because dentists sometimes hire hygienists for only a few days per week, many hygienists work for more than one dentist. Many hygienists choose to work only three or four days per week.
Do dental hygienists work weekends?
While there may be some exceptions, dental hygienists usually aren't required to work nights, weekends or holiday hours.
How long do you have to go to school to be a dental hygienist?
Students can usually complete a dental hygienist program in two or three years.
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