are licensed oral health professionals who examine patients' teeth and
gums in an effort to provide the best possible oral health care.
Hygienists work closely with the dentist to provide educational, clinical,
and therapeutic services in an effort to prevent oral disease such as
dental caries (cavities) and periodontal disease (gum disease). They
evaluate patients' needs by performing screening procedures, which include
reviewing health and dental history and taking temperature, pulse, and
blood pressure. Some of their other duties include examining teeth and
other oral structures, taking and developing dental radiographs (X-rays),
removing calculus and plaque from above and below the gum line, counseling
patients on proper nutrition and appropriate oral hygiene techniques, and
applying cavity-preventing agents (fluoride and sealant) to teeth. Some
dental hygienists are responsible for designing and implementing dental
health programs for communities and organizations. Their main objective is
educating individuals, as well as the general public, on the best
preventative oral health care and the importance of good oral hygiene
habits. Anyone interested in this line of work should enjoy working with a
variety of different people, be articulate and organized, and work well as
part of a team.
The majority of dental hygienists work with dentists in private dental
offices and clinics. Other employment opportunities exist in hospitals,
nursing homes, research organizations, education, health departments, and
public health clinics. They may also be employed with companies that
market dental-related supplies and equipment.
High School Preparation:
Students interested in a future career in dental hygiene should take high
school courses in biology, chemistry, algebra, English, health
occupations/medical professions education, geometry, psychology, computer
skills, physical education, and speech.
Students entering a dental hygienist program should have a high school
diploma or equivalent. Individuals must complete a two-year associate
program or a four-year baccalaureate program accredited by the American
Dental Association's Commission on Dental Accreditation. Upon completion
of the educational requirements, students are eligible to take the Dental
Hygiene National Board Examination (a comprehensive written exam) and the
state board clinical examination. Once these requirements are met, an
individual obtains a license and the title of Registered Dental Hygienist
(RDH). Students interested in dental hygiene should contact schools for
information on admission and course of study.
For educational institutions in
offering this course of study
Employment opportunities for dental hygienists should be very good. The US
Department of Labor predicts that demand for hygienists will grow by more
than 36% through the end of the decade. This is a much faster growth than
the average for all other occupations over the same period. This
demand is largely due to the increasing number of services that a
hygienist provides that were previously performed by dentists. There will
also be numerous job openings caused by the need to replace hygienists
that transfer to other occupations, retire, or leave the profession for
other reasons. Population growth and greater retention of teeth will also
increase the demand for qualified oral health professionals.
Average Annual Salary
American Dental Hygienists'
444 North Michigan Avenue,
Chicago, IL 60611-3902
Phone: (312) 440-8900
Phone: (800) 243-2342
Fax: (312) 440-8929
American Dental Education Association
1625 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: (202) 667-9433
American Dental Association
211 E. Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
Phone: (312) 440-2390
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