Dental hygienists
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Overview
Dental hygienists clean teeth, examine patients for signs of oral diseases such as gingivitis, and provide other preventive dental care. They also educate patients on ways to improve and maintain good oral health.
Predicted employment growth
Over the next decade, jobs for dental hygienists are expected to grow by 20%, and should have about 17,500 job openings a year.
Safety from automation
The likelihood of autmoation for ${title} is near the middle of all careers' likelihoods.
Workforce size
Dental hygienists, with 207,900 workers, form a larger workforce than 80% of careers.
Education
Only 38% of dental hygienists have a bachelor's degree or higher.
Education attained by dental hygienists
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Context: workers with bachelor's degrees
More dental hygienists have bachelor's degrees than 62% of other careeers.
Salaries
The median (middle) salary for dental hygienists is higher than 81% of all other jobs' middle salaries. The graph shows inflation-adjusted salaries for most dental hygienists.
This job's median $75KAll jobs' median $39K$77K$38K20142015201620172018$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median Salary
Gender
Women account for 92% of dental hygienists -- that's a larger percentage than 98% of other jobs.
Gender of dental hygienists
Men
Women
Context: Salary inequity
For each career, we compared the median (middle) men's salary to the median women's salary. For dental hygienists, the median men's salary was 17% more the median woman's salary.
Race/Origin
About 15% of dental hygienists are minority, and 11% are foreign-born.
Race/origin of dental hygienists
White
Black
Pacific Islander
Hispanic
Asian
American Indian
Multiracial
Other
Context: Foreign-born workers (11%)
Where are the most jobs?
We ranked the number of jobs in Dental Hygienists per thousand workers in each state, DC, and Puerto Rico. The darker the blue, the higher the job density.
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
Job benefits
Employer or union-sponsored pension plans are offered to 36% of dental hygienists, and 42% have company-sponsored health insurance (42% have dependents enrolled in their employer's health plan).
Employer-provided health coverage for dental hygienists
100% premiums covered
Partial premiums covered
Plan with no cost sharing
No health insurance
The downside
Some jobs are more stressful than others, and some are just plain dangerous. The following list gives the percentages of dental hygienists who report hazardous or difficult situations typically occurring at least once a week.
  • Exposed to Disease or Infections (100%)
  • Exposed to Radiation (91%)
  • Exposed to Contaminants (78%)
  • Time Pressure (76%)
  • Responsible for Others' Health and Safety (69%)
  • Consequence of Error (69%)
  • Exposed to Hazardous Conditions (40%)
  • Deal With Unpleasant or Angry People (39%)
  • Exposed to Minor Burns, Cuts, Bites, or Stings (37%)
SOURCES:24.0 O*NET
Salary and diversity
Salary overview
What do dental hygienists earn?

In this section, we want to give you a clear idea of what you can expect to earn in this career. We use two sources of data here: the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which asks employers to classify their workforce and to report salaries using the SOC-specialty level of reporting, and the American Community Survey (ACS), which asks people to classify their jobs using the broad classifications that ididio uses for career profiles, and to self-report their salaries. For some jobs, the differences in survey approaches between BLS and ACS can paint a very different end-picture. Whenever possible, we provide data from both sources.

The BLS-compiled salary data is reported by companies for their employees. This data excludes self-employed workers. We first show the distribution of salaries for dental hygienists, and then we show how the middle (median) salary for dental hygienists compares to the BLS-computed median salaries of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for dental hygienists (BLS Salary Data)
$75K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median salaries across careers (BLS Salary Data)
$75K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
We compiled household data from the ACS to determine the salaries that people working at least 35 hours a week report themselves to earn. Unlike the BLS estimates, this data includes self-employed wages. We first show the full salary distribution for all dental hygienists, and then we show how the median (middle) salary for dental hygienists compares to the median ACS-reported salary of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for dental hygienists (ACS Salary Data)
$55K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median salaries across careers (ACS Salary Data)
$55K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Employers and salary
A look at employers and corresponding salaries
The donut shares the break-down of workers by employer type, and following we show the salary distributions for these workers based on those employer types. For some careers, the salaries can be vastly different between private, government, and self-employment. As with our salary overview, we view the both the BLS economists' salary profiles and the household-reported salaries from ACS to get a thorough understanding of where dental hygienists work and for what salary. We have the great faith in the accuracy of economist-vetted BLS data; however, the BLS restrictions on which employers are surveyed skews the data a bit (read more in the sources), and the ACS responses provide different and useful categorizations of employers and salaries.
Employers of Dental hygienists (ACS)
Private for-profit (88.0%)
Private not-for-profit (4.5%)
Local government (1.0%)
State government (0.9%)
Federal government (1.9%)
Self-employed incorporated (2.0%)
Self-employed not incorporated (1.7%)
Working without pay (0.0%)
Distribution: Salaries of dental hygienists by type of employer (ACS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type calculated by aggregating individual household survey responses.
$55K$54K$58K$53K$83K$54K$53K$0$50,000$100,000$150,000Self-employed incorporatedFederal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivate not-for-profitPrivate for-profitAll
Distribution: Salaries of dental hygienists by type of employer (BLS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type as reported by BLS based on large employer-focused surveys. We note that smaller employer categories are not included by BLS.
$75K$61K$65K$75K$60K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000$100,000$120,000Federal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivateAll
Age and career advancement
Salary growth for dental hygienists

The biggest take-away from the following two charts is the relationship between salary and experience that we can infer from age. Does this job seem to attract especially younger or older workers? Does it reward experience?

Take a minute a look at how much you might expect your salary to increase with each five years' experience, as well as how the numbers working in this career changes. We only provide this data when there are enough consistent ACS survey responses to allow a reasonable margin of error, so for some careers you will see gaps in our reporting of salary by age.

$57K$62K$58K$50K$63K$57K$34K$54K$62K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120KSalary distribution20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64
05K10K15KNumber employed20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Gender and Equity
Dental hygienists and gender

With 92% women, this occupation has a higher percentage of women than 98% of careers.

Context: Women in the workforce
92%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Gender of Dental hygienists
Men (8%)
Women (92%)
Distribution: Salaries by gender

As we'll illustrate at the bottom of this section, the median salary for all full-time male workers in the US exceeds the full-time median salary for women by 20%. The situation is a little better for dental hygienists, with the median salary for men 17% higher than the median salary for women. This chart shows you the salary range for most workers by gender.

$54K$64K$0$50K$100K$150KWomenMen
Context: Salary Inequity

Nationwide there are twenty careers for which men do not have a higher median (middle) salary than women. The chart below shows the salary inequity, the percentage by which the median men's salary is higher than the median women's salary, for most jobs. Dental hygienists have one of the middle percentage increases for men's salary, with the increase for the men's median salary over the women's median salary in this job higher than that for 50% of other jobs.

17%0%20%40%60%80%100%

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Race/Origin
Race and origin of dental hygienists

The representation of minority and foreign-born workers is quite different between careers, and the relative pay of those workers also varies significantly between careers. There is a smaller percentage of minority dental hygienists than for 71% of other careers. As with minority workers, there is also a smaller percentage of foreign-born workers in this career than in most other careers.

Race/origin of dental hygienists
White (83% )
Black (7% )
Asian (5% )
Other (2% )
Multiracial (2% )
Hispanic (0% )
American Indian (0% )
Pacific Islander (0% )
Context: Representation of minorities in the workforce
15%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Context: Representation of foreign-born workers
11%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Distribution: Salaries for dental hygienists by race/origin

For some careers, there is a pay disparity depending on race or origin, though this is not prevalent. We calculate standard errors for all of our calculations, and when the error is high we do not show results. Therefore, for some jobs will have omitted race/origin categories.

$42K$54K$55K$56K$60K$67K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120KOtherBlackWhiteMultiracialHispanicAsian
Distribution: Salaries for dental hygienists by nativity
$54K$62K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120KAll native citizensAll foreign-born

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Pathways to this career
Education requirements and salary
Education attained by dental hygienists

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), dental hygienists typically hold a associate's degree.

Sometimes the typical education identified by the BLS differs a bit from the reality of the how much education current workers actually have. The donut shows the education level held by people currently working as dental hygienists as reported in responses to the American Community Survey. Following, we investigate whether education level influences salary for dental hygienists.

Education attained by dental hygienists
None
High School
Some College
Associate's Degree
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Deg/Doct
Doctorate
Details: Education and training recommended for dental hygienists

Dental hygienists typically need an associate’s degree in dental hygiene. Bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in dental hygiene also are available, but are less common. A bachelor’s or master’s degree usually is required for research, teaching, or clinical practice in public or school health programs.

Dental hygiene programs are commonly found in community colleges, technical schools, and universities. In 2017, the Commission on Dental Accreditation, part of the American Dental Association, accredited more than 300 dental hygiene programs.

Programs typically take 3 years to complete, and offer laboratory, clinical, and classroom instruction. Areas of study include physiology, nutrition, radiography, pathology, medical ethics, anatomy, patient management, and periodontics, which is the study of gum disease.

High school students interested in becoming dental hygienists should take courses in biology, chemistry, and math. Most dental hygiene programs also require applicants to complete prerequisites, which often include college-level courses. Specific requirements vary by school.

Details: Licensing and certification recommended for dental hygienists

Every state requires dental hygienists to be licensed; requirements vary by state. In most states, a degree from an accredited dental hygiene program and passing grades on written and clinical examinations are required for licensure. To maintain licensure, hygienists must complete continuing education requirements. For specific requirements, contact your state’s Board of Dental Examiners.

Many jobs also require cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification.

Distribution: Salary by education level

What level of education is truly needed for dental hygienists? Below we see the distribution of dental hygienists salaries based on the education attained. These comparisons are based on all survey responses by those who identified themselves as dental hygienists, and are not intended as a statistical analysis of salary differences that would correct for non-educational factors that could contribute to high or low earnings.

$35K$42K$55K$61K$68K$62K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120KHigh School (5%)Some College (11%)Associate's Degree (46%)Bachelor's Degree (33%)Master's Degree (3%)Professional Deg/Doct (2%)
Bachelor's degree pathways
College majors held by dental hygienists

This table shows the college majors held by people working as dental hygienists. Select any degree to see detailed information. We are able to connect careers to degrees using the American Community Survey (ACS), and their degrees are defined a little differently from our programs, which are based on standard CIP classifications. Therefore, selecting some degrees will lead to a selection of CIP-level programs from which to choose.

If you see "**" before the name of a degree/program, that means this field is one that the Department of Education believes is preparatory for this career. However, you can see from this list that those recommendations are far from your only path to this job!

Degree
Select any title to learn more about that degree
Percentage of Dental hygienists with this degree
Salary for all majors
Salary distribution (across jobs). Showing 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
Final education level of all people with this major
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Gender
Gender of people this bachelor's degree
Men
Women
The link between degrees and careers
The link between degrees and careers

With the following "sankey" diagram, you can follow the top ten bachelor's degrees held by people working as dental hygienists, and then, in turn, you can see the 10 occupations that hire the most of each degree's graduates. This visualization links fields of studies and careers, suggesting both similar careers and options for degrees. The full list of bachelor's degrees held by dental hygienists given in the previous section reminds us that there are many paths to these careers beyond what we can summarize here.

This job
Top 10 majors
Each major's top ten jobs
Dental hygienistsPhysician assistantsMedical assistantsRegistered nursesPhysicians and surgeonsPostsecondary teachersHealth Practitioner Support Technologists and TechniciansMedical and health services managersDentistsDental assistantsNurse PractitionersNursing, psychiatric, and home health aidesNurse anesthetistsManagers (specialized areas)Elementary and middle school teachersSocial workersPhysical scientists (specialized areas)Epidemiologists and Medical/Life ScientistsClinical laboratory technologists and techniciansPharmacistsFirst-line supervisors of retail sales workersAccountants and auditorsWholesale and manufacturing sales representativesSecondary school teachersCounselorsPsychologistsLawyers, judges, and magistratesHuman resources workersEducation administratorsFinancial managersChief executives and legislatorsSecretaries and administrative assistantsFirst-line supervisors of non-retail sales workersMarketing and sales managersRetail salespersonsSpecial Education TeachersPreschool and kindergarten teachersTeachers and instructors (specialized areas)Physical therapistsOccupational therapistsDiagnostic related technologists and techniciansMedical Assisting ServicesNursingBiologyMultidisciplinary or GeneralSciencePsychologyBusiness Management andAdministrationGeneral BusinessGeneral EducationGeneral Medical and HealthServicesLiberal ArtsAll other degrees
Switching Careers
Most common new jobs
The most common next careers for dental hygienists

What jobs will most dental hygienists hold next year?

The data in this chart comes from person interviews for the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. The survey interviews households eight times over a two-year period, allowing us a glimpse into how people move from job to job. You can see more details from the results of the survey in our last tab in this section, and you can read about our methodology in our source descriptions.

Here we see all of the jobs that at least 1% of dental hygienists reported holding in their second year's survey. Is your future job on this list? For dental hygienists, there isn't a lot of action in this chart! This isn't a career that invites much moving around.

Dental hygienistsDental assistantsSecretaries and administrative assistants
Lateral career moves
Lateral job transitions for dental hygienists

A lateral career transition is a move to a job with similar pay and responsibilities. A move to such a job can offer a change of pace without an increase in stress or a decrease in pay. The following table simply identifies all 2 jobs which were held by at least 1% of survey respondents before working as dental hygienists as well as 1% of respondents after working as dental hygienists. Select a row to investigate the job's full description and determine if it truly offers an opportunity for a lateral transition.

Lateral-move careers for dental hygienists
Annual openings
How many openings are expected each year?
Salary
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Gender
Men
Women
Secretaries and administrative assistants
395,200
$0$200K$36K
Dental assistants
45,900
$0$200K$31K
Full prior and next career listings
Prior and next careers for dental hygienists: full listings

What do people typically do before and after they work as dental hygienists? Here are the full lists of all jobs that at least 1% of dental hygienists surveyed reported as holding a year earlier or later.

Choose which type of transition to view
Prior jobs
Next jobs
Prior careers for dental hygienists
Annual openings
How many openings are expected each year?
Salary
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Gender
Men
Women
Percentage Transitioning
What percentage worked in this job the previous year?
Secretaries and administrative assistants
395,200
$0$200K$36K
2.1%
Dental assistants
45,900
$0$200K$31K
4.9%
Dental hygienists
17,500
$0$200K$55K
77.9%
Dentists
7,300
$0$200K$103K
1.3%
No occupation
4.8%
Read about dental hygienists
Responsibilities and activities
Responsibilities and activities

Dental hygienists typically do the following:

  • Remove tartar, stains, and plaque from teeth
  • Apply sealants and fluorides to help protect teeth
  • Take and develop dental x rays
  • Assess patients’ oral health and report findings to dentists
  • Document patient care and treatment plans
  • Educate patients about oral hygiene techniques, such as how to brush and floss correctly

Dental hygienists use many types of tools to do their job. They clean and polish teeth with hand, power, and ultrasonic tools. In some cases, they use lasers. Hygienists remove stains with an air-polishing device, which sprays a combination of air, water, and baking soda. They polish teeth with a powered tool that works like an automatic toothbrush. Hygienists use x-ray machines to take pictures to check for tooth or jaw problems. Some states allow hygienists with additional training, sometimes called dental therapists, to work with an expanded scope of practice.

Dental hygienists help patients develop and maintain good oral health. For example, they may explain the relationship between diet and oral health. They may also give advice to patients on how to select toothbrushes and other oral care devices.

The tasks hygienists may perform, and the extent to which they must be supervised by a dentist, vary by state and by the setting in which the dental hygienist works. For example, some states allow hygienists to diagnose certain health problems independently of a dentist.

Personality and skills
Personality and skills

Can you see yourself in the ranks of dental hygienists? Here are the skills and traits that could lead to success.

Critical thinking
Dental hygienists must use critical thinking skills in order to assess and evaluate patients.
Communication skills
Dental hygienists must accurately communicate with <u><a href="/ooh/healthcare/dentists.htm">dentists</a></u> and patients about oral health status, oral hygiene care plans, and, as needed, lifestyle counseling.
Detail oriented
Dental hygienists must follow specific rules and protocols to help dentists diagnose and treat a patient. Depending on the state in which they work and/or the treatment provided, dental hygienists may 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, requiring fine motor skills using very precise tools and instruments.
Interpersonal skills
Dental hygienists must work closely with dentists and patients. Some patients are in extreme pain or have fears about undergoing dental treatment, and the hygienist must be sensitive to their emotions.
Problem-solving skills
Dental hygienists develop and implement oral hygiene care plans to maintain or improve patients’ oral health.
Trends in employment
Salary trends
Distribution and trends: Salaries for dental hygienists
Choose actual dollars or inflation-adjusted dollars to view
Adjusted for inflation
Historic dollars

In 2018, the median (middle) salary for dental hygienists was higher than 81% of all other jobs' middle salaries. This graphic shows how the salary distribution (adjusted for inflation) has changed for this job over recent years. The gray line, as a comparison, shows the median salary of all US workers.

This job's median $75KAll jobs' median $39K$77K$38K200420052006200720082009201020112012201320142015201620172018$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Projected versus actual employment
Exploring actual employment trends versus projected trends

Currently, jobs for dental hygienists are anticipated to grow by 20% over the next decade; only 6% of jobs are predicted to grow more.

The projected employment for dental hygienists is the best guess created by talented economists and statisticians at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, as you look through several careers you'll notice that the projections are heavily influenced by past performance and may miss current trends. No one can tell the future, and as new information and better techniques are developed, actual counts and future projections may change. Here's a glimpse at the actual counts versus the projections over time.

20002010202020300100,000200,000300,000
Employment counts
Actual measured employment
BLS 10-year predictions
Variation by state
Employment
State-by-state employment numbers

Some careers tend to be centered in specific parts of the country. For example, most jobs in fashion are in New York or California. Let's see if your dream job is easy to find in your dream location! We have a few choices for viewing the data that can help you get a full employment picture.

Job density versus job count

Which states hire the most dental hygienists? We wonder if that's a fair question since states come in all sizes, so instead let's start with the question of which states have the highest density of people working as dental hygienists. You can choose to view the number of jobs per state if you prefer.

BLS vs ACS data

This map defaults to employment information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which provides job totals carefully compiled for accuracy and with a primary focus on how employers describe their workers. The BLS job totals do not count self-employed workers. We've also compiled totals using the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) which are based on how workers describe themselves. Sometimes ACS results are quite a bit different from the employer-based BLS data.

Choose the metric to review
Jobs per 1000 working
Number of jobs
Use this data source
BLS
Number of Dental Hygienists per 1,000 workers (BLS)
Select a state to see local area details
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
0.01.02.03.0
Salary
Salaries by state
Let's get a feel for where dental hygienists earn the highest salaries. There are several choices for which data we consider and how we view that data, and each can lead to different conclusions, so please read on...
Median salary versus state ratio

We use two methods to compare salaries across states:

  • In-state comparisons: the ratio of median (middle) salaries for dental hygienists compared to the median salary for all people working in each state, or
  • Median salary: the unaltered median salaries for dental hygienists.

We hope the ratio allows perspective about how salaries may compare to the regional cost-of-living.

BLS vs ACS data

We have two sources for statewide salary information with important distinctions. The BLS data is created by surveying companies, missing individuals who are self-employed or work for smaller companies. The ACS data is compiled from multi-faceted household surveys and may reflect the inconsistencies that people may have in reporting information.

Choose the metric to review
In-state comparisions
Median salary
Use this data source
BLS
Median salary ratio: Dental Hygienists to all workers (BLS)
The darkest shading corresponds to states in which dental hygienists earn the highest salary when compared to other jobs in the state. We think this ratio might be a better indicator than the actual salary for your buying power as a state resident.
Select a state to see local area details
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
0.00.51.01.52.02.5
Compare to similar jobs

If this job interests you, then use the dots below to find other jobs you might like. The dots closer to the top represent jobs that are like Dental hygienists (shown with a blue star). Look for the dots to the right to find the best salaries! (We pulled salary data from BLS, and they give a top salary value of just over $200K to protect privacy, so our graph would go much higher if the salaries were not top coded.)

How should the career similarity be computed

There are a number of ways to measure the similarity of jobs, here are a few we provide:

  • Interests: Also known as a Holland Code - Are you a thinker? A helper? What fits your personality?
  • Environment: Are there hazards? Will you be comfortable? Will it be stressful?
  • Knowledge: What do you need to know the most about?
  • Physical Abilities: Do you need to especially strong or coordinated?
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