Dental hygienists typically need an associate’s degree in dental hygiene. Every state requires dental hygienists to be licensed; requirements vary by state.
Dental hygienists typically need an associate’s degree in dental hygiene to enter the occupation. Certificates, bachelor's degrees, and master's degrees in dental hygiene are also available but are less common among dental hygienists. Private dental offices usually require a minimum of an associate’s degree or certificate in dental hygiene. A bachelor's or master's degree is usually required for research, teaching, or clinical practice in public or school health programs.
High school students interested in becoming dental hygienists should take courses in biology, chemistry, and mathematics. Some dental hygiene programs also require applicants to have completed at least one year of college. Specific entrance requirements vary from one school to another.
Most schools offer laboratory, clinical, and classroom instruction. Hygienists study anatomy, physiology, nutrition, radiography, and periodontology, which is the study of gum disease.
Compassion. Sometimes patients are in extreme pain or mental stress, and the hygienist must be sensitive to their emotions.
Detail oriented. Dental hygienist must follow specific rules and protocols to help diagnose and treat a patient. In rare cases, dental hygienists work without the direct supervision of a dentist.
Dexterity. Dental hygienists must be good at working with their hands. They generally work in tight quarters on a small part of the body using very precise tools.
Interpersonal skills. Dental hygienists must work closely with dentists and patients.
Stamina. Dental hygienists should be comfortable performing physical tasks, such as bending over patients for a long time.
Technical skills. Dental hygienists must understand how to operate complex machinery, including x-ray machines and powered instruments.
Every state requires dental hygienists to be licensed; requirements vary by state. In most states, licensure requires a degree from an accredited dental hygiene program and passing written and practical examinations. For specific application requirements, contact your state’s medical or health board.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition