Dental Hygienist  What They Do

Just the Facts


Dental Hygienists Career Video



Cleans teeth and examines oral areas, head, and neck for signs of oral disease. May educate patients on oral hygiene, take and develop x rays, or apply fluoride or sealants.

This career is part of the Health Science cluster Therapeutic Services pathway.


A person in this career:

  • Cleans calcareous deposits, accretions, and stains from teeth and beneath margins of gums, using dental instruments.
  • Records and reviews patient medical histories.
  • Examines gums, using probes, to locate periodontal recessed gums and signs of gum disease.
  • Feels and visually examines gums for sores and signs of disease.
  • Exposes and develops x-ray film.
  • Charts conditions of decay and disease for diagnosis and treatment by dentist.
  • Maintains dental equipment and sharpens and sterilizes dental instruments.
  • Feels lymph nodes under patient's chin to detect swelling or tenderness that could indicate presence of oral cancer.
  • Provides clinical services or health education to improve and maintain the oral health of patients or the general public.
  • Applies fluorides or other cavity preventing agents to arrest dental decay.

Insider Info

Dig into the details and check out what people in this job have to say about their work.



Working Conditions and Physical Demands

People who do this job report that:

  • You would often handle loads up to 10 lbs., sometimes up to 20 lbs. You might do a lot of walking or standing, or you might sit but use your arms and legs to control machines, equipment or tools.
  • Work in this occupation involves bending or twisting your body more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves use of protective items such as safety shoes, glasses, gloves, hearing protection, a hard hat, or personal flotation devices
  • Exposure to pollutants, gases, dust, fumes, odors, poor ventilation, etc.
  • Requires getting into awkward positions
  • Exposed to disease and infections more than once a month through work such as patient care, laboratory work, and sanitation control
  • Work in this occupation involves using your hands to hold, control, and feel objects more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation requires being inside most of the time
  • Sound and noise levels are loud and distracting
  • Exposed to radiation more than once a month
  • Work in this occupation involves making repetitive motions more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves sitting more than one-third of the time

Working in this career involves (physical activities):

  • Seeing clearly up close
  • Speaking clearly enough to be able to be understood by others
  • Identifying and understanding the speech of another person

Work Hours and Travel

  • Regular working hours and limited travel

Specialty and Similar Careers

Careers that are more detailed or close to this career:

  • Registered Dental Hygienist (RDH) --