A Career in Dental Hygiene

The dental hygienist is a health care professional who focuses on the prevention and treatment of oral diseases. The Registered Dental Hygienist, R.D.H., is a licensed professional who graduates from an accredited dental hygiene education program, successfully passes a national comprehensive written examination, in addition to passing the state-authorized clinical examination.

Scope of Practice

Specific regulations and the range of services performed by dental hygienists vary from one state to another. As part of dental hygiene services, dental hygienists may:

  • perform oral health care assessments including reviewing patients' health history, dental charting, oral cancer screening, and taking and recording blood pressure;
  • expose, process, and interpret dental X-rays;
  • remove plaque and calculus (tartar)-soft and hard deposits-from above and below the gumline;
  • apply cavity-preventive agents such as fluoride, varnishes and sealants to teeth;
  • provide oral health education and teach patients proper techniques to maintain healthy teeth and gums;
  • counsel patients about plaque control and developing individualized at-home oral hygiene programs;
  • counsel patients on the importance of good nutrition for maintaining optimal oral health; and
  • administer local anesthesia and nitrous oxide in Michigan

See the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs website for more information on the rules and regulations for dental hygienists in Michigan.

Practice Settings 

  • Private dental and dental specialist offices
  • Hospitals and nursing homes
  • Public health programs
  • Private business and industry
  • Correctional facilities
  • School districts or departments of education
  • Insurance companies
  • Educational programs for dental hygienist and dental assisting students
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Dental equipment supply companies
  • Health Maintenance Organizations

Job Outlook

Dental hygienists rank among the fastest growing occupations, and job prospects are expected to remain excellent throughout the country.  Employment of dental hygienists is expected to grow 19 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is in response to increasing demand as the population grows, older generations retain more teeth, and there is an increased focus on preventative oral health care. As a result, there will be more employment opportunities for dental hygienists, additionally, to perform services that have been performed by dentists in the past.  

For more information on the outlook of the Dental Hygiene profession, please visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Want more info about the dental hygienist?

Please contact the American Dental Hygienists' Association - the largest national organization representing the professional interests of the more than 120,000 licensed dental hygienists nationwide, by visiting www.adha.org.