Dental Services

What Is A Dental Hygienist? (Job Description and Requirements)


What is a dental hygienist?  Have you ever wondered this?  Or maybe you are just curious if this career is something you might want to pursue. I have made a life long career of dental hygiene and I am here to explain the job description and requirements in detail.

Essential functions and responsibilities of the job will be provided.  I will explain the care given to the patients, typical job demands and typical working conditions. I will go into detail about the job description of a dental hygienist and the requirements to become one.

Also, in this article I am going to explain all the prerequisites needed in order to obtain a position as a dental hygienist. You can learn more about me and my dental hygiene career on the About the Author page.What Is A Dental Hygienist? (Job Description and Requirements)

Summary of Position

A dental hygienist will provide dental hygiene services including educational, therapeutic methods and preventative services for the control of oral disease. The goal is to help individuals achieve and maintain optimal oral health. You can see the definition of a dental hygienist here from Wikipedia. Oral health is defined as the absence of disease in the mouth. 

Such disease processes include:  cavities, gum disease and oral cancer.  A dental hygienist strives to treat and prevent such ailments from occurring in their patients. Some people are better suited for this position than others.

In addition to a degree and license (which I will discuss shortly), a dental hygienist will do well if they have a certain set of skills. This is a healthcare position and those who work in this occupation need a desire to help others.

The ability to relate to people is important. A compassionate and caring individual will thrive in this field. A few other skill sets are important. These include great attention to detail and manual dexterity to be able to complete a thorough cleaning and work inside the mouth of a patient.

Essential Responsibilities

Patient care is a priority. This includes:

  • Setting up and preparing the treatment room according to OSHA standards.
  • Performing a prophylaxis (cleaning) on a child or adult. This includes removing deposits from above and below the gum line that may contribute to disease. These deposits are generally food debris, bacterial plaque and calculus (tartar).
  • Polishing to remove accretions and stain from all surfaces of the teeth and flossing all teeth.
  • Educated patients on ways they can improve their oral health and answering questions in regard to their oral health.
  • Teaching patients good home care techniques so that they may maintain oral health.
  • Helping patients to feel at ease during their appointment and addressing all concerns.
  • Teaching patients about diet and nutrition for optimal oral and overall health.
  • Taking diagnostic digital x rays prescribed by the Dentist including bitewings, periapical and panoramic x rays.
  • Taking intraoral camera and video images as a diagnostic tool for the Dentist.
  • Performing evaluations of intra and extra oral tissues and report findings to the Dentist.
  • Recording periodontal findings and evaluate patients’ gum health by measuring and recording pocket depths.
  • Performing fluoride treatments as prescribed by the Dentist and applying sealants on teeth to prevent decay.
  • Providing local anesthetic as necessary under the supervision of the Dentist.
  • Cleaning up after patient care and sterilizing instruments
  • Performing daily maintenance on tools and equipment.
  • Practicing the recommended safeguards for personal and patient safety.
  • Computer entries involving charges, scheduling, treatment planning, health histories and insurance information.
  • Record keeping and documentation of all patient information.

Performance RequirementsDental tools and instruments


You will need to be a graduate of an accredited dental hygiene school. This may be an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene. A master’s degree in dental hygiene is also available but less common.

An associate degree will allow you to practice Dental Hygiene in a clinical setting. You will need a bachelor’s or master’s if you desire to hold a position that involves teaching Dental Hygiene in a public or school health program.


In addition to being a graduate of an accredited school, a current state license is required. In order to obtain a state license, you will need to have passed state and national board exams. A current state license is required. This license is good for a period of two years.

After each two years, a fee is paid to the state in order to renew it. Fees vary by state but on average are around $100. You will also need to obtain a certificate to administer local anesthesia.

Skills, Knowledge and Abilities

  • Professional skills with patient contact is necessary.
  • A polite, friendly and personable demeanor is beneficial.
  • Knowledge of computer skills are required. You will be trained in the software for the particular office that you work in.
  • You must be organized and able to stay on schedule.
  • You will need the ability to operate x ray equipment, intra oral cameras, instruments, ultrasonic scalers, polishers, hand pieces and other equipment as needed.
  • A great attention to detail is necessary using tactile and visual senses.
  • You must be able to concentrate and focus.
  • You will need to be able to follow directions closely as given to you by the Dentist.
  • Being able to work well with others will make you a valued employee.Hygienist viewing xrays

What a Dental Hygienist Is

A dental hygienist is a professional health care provider who helps people improve their oral health. By helping people improve their oral health, a Dental Hygienist is also helping to improve their overall health.

Our mouths are connected to our bodies and the mouth is often referred to as a window to our bodies. Oral disease can manifest itself in many ways which correlates to many diseases of the human body.

By choosing to become a dental hygienist, you will be making the commitment to helping others. This is the most rewarding feature of this career and is what attracted me, personally to this line of work. I encourage you to explore this very gratifying career choice. Please read more about oral hygiene and oral health solutions at

Thank you for reading and please leave me a comment or question below and I will be happy to help you!


  1. Carol5162

    I have had several visits to the dentist my entire life.  One day it dawned on me that I should actually have pursued dentistry. I became fascinated by the results of a tooth extraction, cleaning and replacement. I see that to be a dental hygienist is not for the faint hearted. I can imagine cleaning decayed teeth or a mouth with bad breath! But I believe if one is passionate enough, these will not be obstacles. Thank you for putting together what the requirements are and how to go about getting a licence. Great article!

    1. Michelle


      Thanks for your comment.  To become a Dental Hygienist is definitely not for the faint hearted as you say.  It takes education, training and experience to succeed.  This is a very rewarding position and is worth all the hard work and effort.  I appreciate your input.


  2. Dane

    Hello there and thanks for sharing this educational post. The human teeth are a very important aspect of our being and should be kept in good condition always. However, the hygiene of ones mouth isn’t well understood by most people. Coming to the topic, I see a dental hygienist as a very calm and orderly person because it requires lots of care and patience to take on such a job. I actually have a daughter who wishes to be in the dental field and I’d love to show her this post so she can understand this better.

    1. Michelle


      Thank you for reading and commenting on What Is A Dental Hygienist? (Job Description and Requirements).  Please do share this information with your daughter.  This article discusses an in depth look at the many duties of this position and it may help answer any questions she may have.



  3. christopher

    What an extensive article filled with more information about this occupation than I could ever have imagined.  The qualifications are impressive to achieve and maintain over the years with upgraded techniques and more. Personally I see this as a number 1 area of personal hygiene and health consciousness as I understand the teeth can affect your health if not kept and maintained well.  Your message is very optimistic and surely engages potential young people to consider the trade as a good one. I have had many visits to dentists over the years and in different countries and you can be sure the level of quality and attention varies incredibly between types of materials, countries and manufacturers. The descriptions and good guidance on your site is admirable.  Thanks for the tour.


    1. Michelle


      I appreciate all of your comments on the article ‘What Is A Dental Hygienist? (Job Description and Requirements)’  I would highly recommend this profession to any young person trying to decide on a career.  It is definitely a rewarding profession.  To see the improvements in the health of my patients’ mouths is very gratifying.  Thank you for reading.


  4. Melissa

    Hi Michelle,

    I have been researching various career paths and training over the past six months. Dental Hygenist is a topic I haven’t looked up yet, so it was intriguing to read through. My community has experienced massive layoffs, and I know a large number of people looking to make a career change. It’s difficult after being with the same employer for over 15 years. Thanks for leaving details of educational background and job responsibilities.

    1. Michelle


      Thank you for reading and commenting.  I am glad you have taken the time to check into this option.  Depending on where you are located, there may be a waiting list to be accepted into the college of your choice.  Some areas only graduate a limited number of students.  Another thing to consider would be getting on a waiting list for acceptance so that if and when a layoff happens, you will be a step ahead.  Good luck to you!


  5. Bonnie

    Hi, this was a very informative article. My daughter is going to be graduating in the next couple years but she doesn’t know what she is interested in yet. She loves to help people, so I’m going to show her this article to see what she thinks.

    I was wondering what type of college do you need to attend? I see you said an accredited Dental Hygiene School, but I’m not sure what that is. Is it different from a state college, or is it a program that is included in a larger college?

    Thanks again for giving such interesting information. I will be waiting for your response!

    1. Michelle


      That is great news.  I wish your daughter well in her future.  I would encourage her to check out this career path if she enjoys helping others.  The accredited Dental Hygiene School I am referring to would be a technical college where she would earn an Associate’s Degree.  She could also go to a state college and earn her bachelor’s degree (4 year) which would allow her to teach Dental Hygiene in a college setting and/or practice clinically.


  6. Anjali

    Hello Michelle,

    This is a very informative article. I appreciate how a professional in healthcare should have a compassionate side to them. That’s because I often see how people become truly desperate and troubled by not knowing what’s going on when they are not in good health condition. I believe as much as a patient needs a well educated doctor, they need someone who can understand their situation. So I really appreciate how you mentioned about having both educational qualification and compassionate side as to what makes a good dental hygienist.

    1. Michelle


      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on ‘What Is A Dental Hygienist? (Job Description and Requirements).  I agree that many times people wait until they have problems before they come to the Dentist.  At this time, they need more than anything to be made comfortable and know that someone cares about them and their oral health.  I encourage anyone to explore this profession when choosing a lifelong career.  I have and truly enjoy it!


  7. AnnyLe

    My sister is a Dentist Assistant.  She always tells us to keep our teeth clean and not to forget to use the dental floss. I have always wondered what the job of a Dental Hygienist is-it’s good to know that they have a huge knowledge about many diseases in the mouth. I totally agree that some people are better suited for this position than others. I really appreciate everyone who does this job and I know that it’s not just a job, it’s going to help people. Thank you for this educational post.  I’ll definitely share this with my sister and I’m sure she will like it.

    1. Michelle


      I appreciate your comments on this article.  Your sister is now a Dental Assistant but she may wish to become a Dental Hygienist someday.  It is a very rewarding occupation.  The best part, as you mentioned, is being able to help people.  Seeing the improvements in my patients’ mouths is very encouraging.

      Thanks for reading,


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