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How to Become a Dental Hygienist

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An associate's degree is the standard educational requirement for a dental hygienist. After completing your degree, you need to pass written and practical exams and then apply for your state's hygienist license to perform work.

Education and Training

Science and math classes in high school help prepare you for a college hygienist program. During your two-year associate program, you complete courses in science, nutrition and radiology. Along with classroom instruction, a hands-on clinical experience is a standard component of a dental hygiene degree. You can continue with school and get a bachelor's or master's degree to increase pay and career options. With more advanced education, you can teach or supervise clinicals.

Building Skills

Dental hygienists need certain abilities that you develop through education and training. Technical skills with dental tools, along with manual dexterity, help you perform cleaning and oral care tasks. Orientation to detail is important to ensure that you clean teeth properly. You also need strong interpersonal skills and compassion to build rapport with patients who often don't look forward to visiting the dentist.

2016 Salary Information for Dental Hygienists

Dental hygienists earned a median annual salary of $72,910 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, dental hygienists earned a 25th percentile salary of $60,500, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $86,390, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 207,900 people were employed in the U.S. as dental hygienists.

Number of Jobs for Dental Hygienists (by year)
Year Number of Jobs