Dental Hygienist

Work Activities/Work Locations

  • Dental Hygienists work with Dentists as they examine and treat patients. They also provide educational, clinical, and therapeutic services. They perform a complete oral prophylaxis, which may include deep periodontal scaling and root debridement as well as polishing of natural and restored tooth surfaces. Records and updates medical and dental histories and does dental charting. Tasks may also include applying fluoride, performing x-rays, and examining gums for disease. They can also administer local anesthetics.
  • Educate patients regarding oral hygiene and preventive oral care.
  • Hygienists may not diagnose diseases, but they can prepare clinical and laboratory diagnostic tests for the Dentist to interpret and can administer prescribed preventative agents.
  • Hygienists may also work chair-side with the Dentist during treatment.
  • Most Dental Hygienists work with Dentists in general or specialized dental offices, either for individual Dentists or for groups of Dentists. They are also employed at public health departments, hospitals, nursing homes, private business, correctional facilities or the military. They may also teach oral hygiene for educational programs, community groups, or at schools.

Advantages and Disadvantages

  • Dental Hygienists enjoy teaching people how to take care of their teeth.
  • They sometimes do not like to do the same things day after day

 Education: 2-3 years

 Patient Interaction: High

 Physical Activity: Medium

 Salary: $63,212

 Job Growth: High

Getting Started

  • High School Courses
    • Students should take a college preparatory curriculum.
    • Helpful high school courses would include algebra, biology, chemistry, and medical terminology.
    • Northcental Technical College (NTC) has chemistry as a prerequisite, either one full credit of high school (typically two semesters) OR one full credit of college (typically one semester) with a “C” or better (“C-“ is not sufficient).
  • Education and Training


    • College students may complete an Associate (2-3 years) Degree, or Bachelor’s Degree (4 years) in an accredited program.
    • NTC offers a 5 semester (72 credits) Associate Degree.
    • Program coursework includes studying the sciences, anatomy & physiology, pharmacology, biochemistry, microbiology, psychology, histology (study of tissue and cells), nutrition, dental materials, sociology, Public Health, and pathology. Schools offer laboratory, clinical and classroom instruction
    • Most dental hygiene programs grant an Associate Degree, although some offer a certificate, a Bachelor’s Degree, or Master’s Degree. A minimum of an Associate Degree or Certificate in Dental Hygiene is generally required for practice in a private dental office. Whereas a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree is usually required for research, teaching, or clinical practice in public or school health programs.

    Educational Institutions

    Chippewa Valley Technical College
    Fox Valley Technical College
    Lakeshore Technical College
    Madison Area Technical College
    Milwaukee Area Technical College
    Nicolet Area Technical College
    Northcentral Technical College
    Northeast Wisconsin Technical College
    Waukesha County Technical College 

    Hospitals with Associated Educational Programs

    Veteran’s Administration Medical Center, Milwaukee

  • Method of Entry
    • Dental Hygienists must be licensed in the state where they wish to work. To do this, they must complete a training program AND then pass written AND practical exams.
    • The American Dental Association Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations administers the written examination accepted by all States and the District of Columbia. State or regional testing agencies administer the clinical examination.
    • In addition most states require an examination on legal aspects of dental hygiene practice.
    • Students may choose either an accredited Associate (2 years) or a Bachelor’s Degree (4 year) dental hygiene program.
  • Professional Organizations


    Alliance of the American Dental Association
    211 E. Chicago Avenue, Suite 730
    Chicago, IL, 60611-2616
    800/621-8099, Ext. 2865

    American Dental Assistants Association
    140 N. Bloomingdale Road
    Bloomingdale, IL, 60108-1017
    630/994-4247 or 877/874-3785

    American Dental Association (ADA)
    211 E. Chicago Ave.
    Chicago, IL, 60611-2678

    American Dental Hygienists’ Association
    444 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 3400
    Chicago, IL, 60611

    Dane County Dental Society
    PO Box 6407
    Madison, WI, 53716
    (608) 222-8344

    Dental Record
    6737 W. Washington Street, Suite 2360
    West Allis, WI, 53214
    (800) 243-4675

    Greater Milwaukee Dental Association

    Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations
    211 E. Chicago Avenue, Suite 600
    Chicago, IL, 60611-2637

    Wisconsin Dental Association
    6737 W. Washington St., Suite 2360
    West Allis, WI, 53214

    Wisconsin Dental Hygienists’ Association
    6510 Grand Teton Plaza, Suite 312
    Madison, WI, 53719

    Wisconsin Oral Health Coalition
    6737 W. Washington St., Suite 1111
    West Allis, WI, 53214
    (414) 337-4560

Career Outlook

Number Employed in 2014 (Wisconsin): 4,940
Number Employed in 2014 (U.S.): 200,500
Expected Employment in 2024 (U.S.): 237,900
Percent Employment Growth (2014-2024): 19%
Expected Annual Openings: 7,030
Median Salary in 2014 (Wisconsin): $63,212
Salary information is located at Career One Stop
Wisconsin AHEC Health Careers Information Center provides the most current salary information available from CareerOneStop. CareerOneStop will have a lapse between when the information is gathered and when it is released.
  • Dental Hygienists work 35 to 40 hours a week.
  • Flexible scheduling is a distinctive feature of this job. Full-time, part-time, evenings, and weekend schedules are widely available.
  • Dentists frequently hire hygienists to work only 2 to 3 days a week, so hygienists may hold jobs in more than one dental office or work part-time.
  • Hygienists who work in dentist offices usually receive pay increases as they gain additional experience.
  • Graduates with a Bachelor’s Degree may become teachers or researchers.
  • Generally, a Master’s Degree is needed to move into administrative positions in dental schools or public health agencies.