Dental hygiene is a practice area that continues to grow with the increased consumer awareness of the importance of good oral hygiene in the prevention and detection of periodontal disease. Dental hygienists are professionals, licensed by the state in which they practice, who complete extensive educational and clinical preparation in preventive oral health care through their NHTI education. Most dental hygienists practice in private dental offices where they provide a wide range of preventative and therapeutic dental services, including periodontal examination, scaling and debridement, pain management, radiography, dental sealants, in-office whitening, and oral hygiene instruction for a variety of patients.
According to the US Department of Labor, employment of dental hygienists is projected to grow 33 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. As their practices expand, dentists will hire more hygienists to perform routine dental care, allowing the dentist to see more patients. In addition, as the large baby-boom population ages and people keep more of their original teeth than previous generations did, the need to maintain and treat these teeth will continue to drive demand for dental care.
Federal health legislation is expected to expand the number of patients who have access to health insurance. People with new or expanded dental insurance coverage will be more likely to visit a dentist than in the past. As a result, the demand for all dental services, including those performed by hygienists, is expected to increase.
- Career Paths for This Major
- Skills Developed Through This Major
- Sample Career Titles
- Sample Employers
- Ways to Explore and Reality Test Careers
- How to Increase Employability
- Professional Association Links
- Employment and Internship Links
When you graduate with this major, you will have work options that are varied and that depend upon your specific interests, abilities, work values, and hands on experience in the field.
Depending upon the level of education and experience achieved, dental hygienists can apply their skills and knowledge to a variety of other career activities such as teaching hygiene students in dental schools and dental hygiene education programs. Research, office management and business administration offer additional career possibilities. Employment opportunities also may be available with companies that manufacture and/or market dental-related materials and equipment.
- Good manual dexterity
- High degree of accuracy
- Removal of soft and hard deposits from teeth
- Teach patients how to practice good oral hygiene
- Provide other preventative dental care
- Take, develop, expose, and interpret dental radiographs (x-rays)
- Perform root planing as a periodontal therapy
Perform oral health assessments to include health history review, oral cancer screening, dental and periodontal charting and measurement of vital signs.
These titles include positions that you qualify for with this associate degree:
- Dental Hygienist
- Dental Product Sales Representative
These titles require a bachelor's degree and beyond:
- College/University Professor
- Dental Education Instructor
- Private dental offices of general dentists and dental specialists
- Dental schools
- Private and government hospitals
- Public health agencies
- State and local public health departments
- U.S. Armed Forces
- Public or school health programs
- Dental equipment manufacturers
- Dental research facilities
There are four key ways to explore your favorite career interests … through reading, through speaking with those in the know, through observing and through doing. Use the links below to begin exploring major-related careers through reading. Go to the Exploring Career Interests link to get tips on all four key exploration strategies.
- Dental Hygienists overview from the US Department of Labor
- Dental Hygienist overview from the American Dental Association
- Dental Hygienist career paths from American Dental Hygienists Association
- Dental Assistants
Additional sources of information for this major include:
- NHTI Faculty, Academic Advisors, and Dental Hygiene Department resources
- Professionals working in the field
- Professional Associations (see below)
- Become an active student member of college, community, or professional associations, which helps you build leadership skills and promote connecting (networking) with fellow professionals.
- Obtain quality practical experience prior to graduation through part-time, full-time and summer employment/internship positions related to your targeted field.
- Participate in volunteer and service learning opportunities.
Professionals who do work related to this major belong to these associations. You can use the links below to do career research and to connect with local association members. You may also be able to join an association of interest, at a reduced rate, as a student member.
- American Dental Association
- American Dental Hygienists’ Association
- American Dental Hygienists’ Association-New Hampshire Chapter
- Dental Assisting National Board
- Academy of General Dentistry
Search job posting sites for employment opportunities related to this major (including our own homegrown NHTI job posting site – see the first link).
- NHTI Job Posting Site
- Career Center sponsored by the American Dental Hygienists’ Association
- Dental Post.com
- Dental Assistant Jobs.com
- Dental Workers.com