Inside Dental Hygienist Careers

Things you need to know, but nobody tells you

Biggest Surprises

"Lots Of Responsibilities...
I was surprised by the level of responsibility of the job. The patients and dentist both really trust you to know your stuff, so you have to have confidence in your training and knowledge to be able to help the patients." (Dental Hygienist; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Pennsylvania, female
School: Studied Dental Hygiene at Community College Of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania; completed Associate degree in 2012

"Dealing With The Billing Bureaucracy...
I was surprised at how much I would be involved in billing and insurance. In school we were taught some basics, but I need to be familiar with costs associated with various procedures (not just the ones that I do) so that I can answer questions that my patients ask me." (Dental Hygienist; 2013)

Career: 2 years of experience, female
School: Studied BS In Dental Hygiene at Utah College Of Dental Hygiene; completed Bachelor degree in 2011

"I was surprised that a number of Dentists that I've worked with do not properly follow sterilization and personal protective equipment. I was also surprised to discover that working on patients outside of school is a lot more difficult because many patients are uncooperative and do not listen to your advice." (Registered Dental Hygienist; 2012)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in Oregon, female
School: Studied Dental Hygiene at Eastern Washington University in Washington; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

Best & Worst Things About This Career

Registered Dental Hygienist: "I would say, at the end of the day, I have been a positive influence on someone's life, they leave my office having done something to benefit their health. The worst part of my job by far, oddly enough, is dealing with the public. I just want to do my job of cleaning your teeth. Once a dental hygienist has experience in the field, it isn't a big deal and we really don't think about the fact that our gloved hands are in a stranger's mouth. The most difficult part is that we have to deal with many personalities within a day and not everyone is easy to work on." (2011)

Dental Hygienist: "I truly feel the best part of the job is getting paid to talk all day!! I really enjoy people. Working in the dental office usually means a small staff of only around 6 to 12 people. This can be good and bad depending on what you like. I enjoy the small group and you get very close to your co-workers. I also like the money. We make an average of about 40.00 dollars an hour. What I don't like sometimes is you can get a patient with a really dirty mouth and it can be a little disgusting to clean sometimes, but you do get used to it." (2010)

Career Background

Dental Hygienist

  Job Tasks
  Work Environment
  How to Prepare for the Job
  Job Outlook

Career Video

Career Tips

"Make Sure You Like The Job...
I would make sure you really want to do the program, meaning you are interested in people and like interacting with them, especially in a medical context. You may want to ask your local dentist if you can shadow them for a day to get a good feel of what the job entails." (Dental Hygienist; 2013)

"Learn Collaboration Skills...
Learn how to work in groups. In both school and in private practice you will not do anything solo. I feel more comfortable working by myself, and I had to adapt to the environment." (Dental Hygienist; 2013)

"Go Beyond An Associate's...
I would not stop at an associate degree in dental hygiene. I would continue my education in a field to have a plan B for when the novelty wears off and dental hygiene isn't what you want to do anymore. I would take Latin in high school to facilitate an easier time in college. I would remember that this is a demanding job both physically and mentally even though it looks like it isn't. Our hands and necks and backs take a beating." (Registered Dental Hygienist; 2011)

"Shadow A Dentist For Day...
I would maybe ask a dentist if I could watch in his office one day to make sure I liked it. School is a huge commitment even though you are finished in two years. (There are also four year programs that lead to a bachelor's degree.) It is not like going to a regular college where you may have just a few classes in a day. You usually attend classes just three days a week, but the days that you spend there are long: 8AM to 4PM, mostly. The other days you are in a clinic for the whole day. School does go by fast but is a pretty heavy work load. In school your sciences are very important, so you need to do pretty well in high school science classes. It can also be pretty competitive to get into school as there are not many that specialize in dental hygiene." (Dental Hygienist; 2010)