A dental hygienist and her patient take a break from surgery to smile at the camera

Is Becoming a Dental Hygienist the Right Career Move for You?

In today's ever-changing economy, choosing the right career is more important than ever. For many people looking for a career in healthcare, a job as a dental hygienist is very appealing. It's one of the fastest-growing careers in today's job market and it requires typically no more than two years of college. It also offers excellent pay, benefits, and opportunities to work anywhere you choose. Before embarking on this career, it's a good idea to know the exact duties of the job and decide if you can see yourself enjoying this career on a daily basis.


To become a successful dental hygienist, you need to have a good combination of technical ability along with being able to relate well with your patients. Before starting a dental hygienist program in college, you need to have an aptitude for science and math classes. Most dental hygienist programs have classes in such areas as nutrition, anatomy and physiology, and radiology, along with a hands-on clinical experience working in a dentist's office.


Since most hygienists spend the majority of their workday cleaning teeth and assisting patients with preventive care, you'll need to be able to relate well with people and put them at ease. Many people are scared of going to the dentist because they expect to be put through a lot of pain during the process, so it's important to let patients know how the majority of procedures in today's modern dentistry can be made pain-free. Compassion and empathy are two essential personal qualities needed to be a dental hygienist, since building rapport with patients will make treating them easier and keep them coming back for regular appointments.


Having a thorough understanding of various dental tools and possessing good manual dexterity will also contribute to being an excellent dental hygienist. Most dental tools are very small, so being able to handle them comfortably and with confidence can help you do your job better while also making the procedures less stressful and painful on patients. You must also possess excellent written and verbal communication skills in this career because it will be up to you to explain to patients what you are doing and why you are doing it. With so many advances in dentistry, most dentists choose to spend their time on more complicated procedures, leaving the maintenance tasks to the dental hygienists. Being able to discuss issues such as proper nutrition for healthy teeth, why x-rays need to be taken, and more, will not only help you do your job more effectively, but also help patients relax while having their questions answered.

With salaries approaching $50,000 annually and excellent career growth ahead for the next decade or more, a career as a dental hygienist may be an excellent decision. If you enjoy meeting people of all ages and backgrounds and have a strong desire to help others maintain healthy teeth, consider pursuing this career. By using a combination of communication and technical skills, you can find yourself as a vital member of a dentist's team.

Last Updated: April 15, 2015