Dental hygienist salary studies show that the median salary pay is over $68,000 a year or $32.81 per hour as of May 2010.1 The earning potential for a dental hygenist often varies by geographic location, employment setting, and their number of years of experience. They can be paid hourly, daily, salary, or on commission. Additional benefits vary substantially by practice setting and may be contingent upon full-time employment. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), almost all full-time dental hygienists employed by private practitioners received paid vacation. The ADA also found that 9 out of 10 hygienists received dental coverage. Dental hygienists who worked for school systems, public health, state or federal agencies, usually had substantial benefits.
Employment opportunities for dental hygienists is expected to grow by 38 percent between 2010 and 2020.1 The success of preventive dentistry in reducing the incidence of oral disease, has led to an increased demand for dental care. With the emphasis on preventive care, dentists are employing more dental hygienists to perform preventive dental treatments, so that they may devote their own time to more profitable procedures.
Practice patterns will also influence employment opportunities for dental hygienists. The trend towards group practice and practice styles which emphasize effective and productive use of office personnel, will only serve to increase job opportunities for dental hygienists. Older dentists, who have been less likely to employ hygienists, are leaving the occupation and being replaced by recent graduates, who are more likely to employ them.
A high school diploma and college entrance test scores are usually required for admission to a dental hygienist school. Dental hygienist career program admission requirements vary, depending upon the school. High school courses such as health, biology, psychology, chemistry, mathematics and speech are beneficial in pursuing a dental hygienist career. Most dental hygiene programs tend to prefer individuals who have completed at least one year of college study. Some baccalaureate degree dental hygiene programs require that applicants first complete two years of college, prior to enrollment.
Working with people is one of the most enjoyable aspects of a career as a dental hygienist. Each day, dental hygenists use a variety of interpersonal and clinical skills to meet the oral health needs of many different patients. As a result of their education and clinical training in a highly skilled discipline, hygienists are valued and respected as oral healthcare practitioners.
1 Dental Hygienist Salary Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Dental Hygienists, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dental-hygienists.htm (8/3/12).