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An Overview of a Dental Hygienist’s Job

If you’re considering working in the dental field, continue reading to learn all about a dental hygienist’s job.

Job Duties

Dental hygienists perform a wide array of duties on a daily basis. They include but are not limited to:

  • Teaching patients about good dental habits such as brushing for two minutes twice a day
  • Diagnosing medical conditions that relate to the gums, mouth, and teeth
  • Keeping up-to-date records on each patient they treat
  • Maintaining inventory of all dental supplies
  • Maintaining a patient’s confidence and keeping their information confidential
  • Keeping the work environment sterile
  • Making sure patients understand their treatment and any aftercare
  • Sterilizing and sharpening dental equipment
  • Cleaning and polishing a patient’s removable appliances
  • Selecting the proper equipment needed for each patient’s treatment
  • Taking and developing x-rays for the dentist to interpret
  • Administering local anesthetic agents
  • Making impressions for study casts
  • Holding dental health clinics for community groups
  • Removing dressings and sutures
  • Removing any excess cement from the coronal surfaces of the teeth


Obtaining an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Dental Hygiene, a Bachelor of Applied Science Degree in Dental Hygiene, or a certificate is required before finding work in this field. Coursework will depend on the school and whether or not students earn a certificate or degree. Classes may include:

  • Dental Pharmacology
  • Local Anesthesia
  • Periodontology
  • Dental Hygiene and Practice Theory
  • Oral and General Pathology
  • Oral Biology
  • Legal Responsibility in Dentistry
  • Dental Materials
  • Community Dental Health
  • Nutrition in Dentistry
  • Medical Terminology
  • Histology
  • Oral Radiology


Certification is mandatory in the United States, and hygienists must take the National Board Dental Hygiene Exam that covers three topics: Basic Sciences, Community Health and Research Principles, and Clinical Dental Hygiene.

Job Outlook and Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook is positive as a 33 percent job growth is expected between 2012 and 2022. In 2014, dental hygienists earned a mean average salary of $71,970. The highest paying states are the District of Columbia, California, Washington, Nevada, and Arizona, and factors that influence salary are location, education, and experience.

Job Interview Questions

Like most careers, you’ll have an interview before being hired. The interviewer will ask a variety of questions such as:

  • How would you describe you overall academic performance?
  • Describe the type of people you work with best
  • What do you think you will dislike most about being a dental hygienist?
  • Why have you chosen a career in the dental field?
  • What is your work ethic?
  • Are you willing to treat a patient who has AIDS?
  • Do you know the issues facing dentistry today?
  • What are your greatest strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Have you ever worked with children?
  • Can you tell me how to prevent tooth decay?
  • Please share an example of when you went above and beyond the call of duty
  • What is an effective method you have used to maintain dental equipment?
  • Please provide an example of when your ethics were tested?
  • How do you handle a highly stressful situation?
  • How would you rate your writing skills?
  • In your opinion, what is the key to developing a good team?
  • What hobbies do you have that require hand skills?
  • When did you discover you wanted to be a dental hygienist?
  • What interests you about this profession?
  • What would your previous employer say about you?
  • Do you have any business experience?
  • How do you feel about working with indigent patients?
  • How did you manage your time between school, work, and other activities?

To best prepare for your interview, go over these questions with someone who will give you honest feedback.

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