Careers in Dental Hygiene


Whether you’re starting your career now or looking for a change, the many opportunities in dental hygiene can make a satisfying difference in your life.  Think of the advantages:

  • Status of a health care professional
  • Attractive income potential
  • Rewards of keeping people healthy
  • Flexible work schedule--full-time or part-time
  • Direct patient care
  • Variety of professional settings
  • Opportunity to work nationwide or abroad
  • Pleasant surroundings
  • Career potential and stability

Consider the Possibilities

Most people first meet dental hygienists in private dental offices where dental hygienists perform many critical services that detect, prevent, and treat diseases of the mouth.  But a career in dental hygiene also offers you opportunities in multiple settings.

You can work in a health maintenance organization (HMO) or long-term care facility; on a military base or in a school system; for a dental supply company, university, or research center; in veterinary dentistry; for a government agency; or in another country.

Dental hygienists must have multiple and complex abilities to provide comprehensive dental hygiene care in all these settings, and new ones that are emerging every day.

Clinical

  • Perform oral health assessments.
  • Provide nutritional counseling and self-care programs to prevent disease.
  • Examine head, neck, and oral regions for disease.
  • Take and process X-rays and perform other diagnostic tests.
  • Provide services that help patients prevent gum diseases and cavities; for example: remove deposits from teeth and apply sealants and fluoride to prevent decay.

Administrative/Managerial

  • Consult for dental product companies and/or insurance companies.
  • Hold administrative positions in education, public health, hospitals, or professional associations.
  • Sell dental products and supplies.
  • Manage or own dental personnel placement services.
  • Evaluate and facilitate processing of dental insurance claims
  • Initiate and evaluate community dental health programs and resources.

Educational

  • Teach in dental hygiene and dental school programs.
  • Present continuing education seminars.
  • Write/edit educational materials.

Research

  • Write grant proposals.
  • Develop research methodology.
  • Collect and analyze data.
  • Conduct clinical research.
  • Write articles for professional publications.

Consumer Advocacy

  • Help consumer groups obtain access to care.
  • Develop networking systems to match existing resources with health care needs.
  • Advise consumers on insurance policies, commercial products, and political issues affecting oral health.

Change Agent

  • Influence business and government agencies to support health care efforts.
  • Advocate oral health programs for individuals, families, or communities.

Education Leads to Opportunities

Admission requirements and prerequisites vary from college to college but usually include the following elements:

  • High school diploma or GED.
  • Minimum age of 18.
  • High school courses in mathematics, chemistry, biology, and English.
  • College entrance test scores.
  • Depending on the dental hygiene program, prerequisite college courses in chemistry, English, speech, psychology, and sociology.

A dental hygiene education is a minimum of two years but can be as long as four years.

  • Two-year programs offer a certificate or associate degree.
  • Four-year programs offer a baccalaureate degree.
  • Master’s level programs are offered for those interested in education, research, or administration.

RDH: Designation for Professionals

After you graduate from a dental hygiene program, you will be eligible to take a licensure test to become registered.

Licensure is the strongest form of regulation used today.  Your state license and registered credential, RDH (registered dental hygienist) assures the public and other professionals that you have completed a nationally accredited dental hygiene program and successfully passed a national written examination and a state or regional clinical examination.  Examples of other licensed professionals include nurses, physical therapists, dentists, and physicians.

Choose a Winning Career

Health care is a growing, dynamic field, and a career in dental hygiene is your opportunity to make a difference -- in other people’s lives and in your own life.  This is a career that can give you confidence, diversity, professional status, and a sense of purpose and accomplishment.  For more information…

American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA)
444 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 3400
Chicago, IL 60611
1-800-243-2342 (or
www.adha.org)