Pros and cons of being a dental hygienist

Dental hygiene is an in-demand career.Did you have a fascination with the tooth fairy as a child? Or always looked forward to going to the dentist? Then perhaps a career as a dental hygienist is right for you. Dental hygienists play an integral role in every dentist’s office, and are responsible for everything from cleaning teeth to taking x-rays and helping patients feel at ease. Check out the pros and cons of pursuing this profession:

PRO: Growing employment

The field of dental hygiene is growing rapidly. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of dental hygienists is expected to increase by 38 percent between 2010 and 2020 – considerably faster than average.1 Plus, dental hygienists will always be in demand because people will always need their teeth to be cleaned!

CON: Not much career variety

While some degrees lend themselves to multiple career paths, a job as a dental hygienist is pretty much the same no matter where you decide to live or work. This consistency can be great, particularly if you love what you do, but if you’re looking for more variety, dental hygiene may not be right for you.

PRO: Great salary

Because dental hygienists are in such demand, you can earn a relatively good salary right away. The median annual pay for dental hygienists is $68,250 – or $32.81 per hour – according to BLS, and it can vary based upon experience and whether you are a full- or part-time employee.

CON: Can be repetitive

Dental hygienists have a specific role to play in dentist’s offices, and they will essentially be repeating the same tasks in the same environment every day. While your work may vary slightly between patients, you’ll mostly be cleaning teeth all day.

PRO: Minimal schooling

All you need to become a dental hygienist is an associate degree or certificate, so you can enter this in-demand career relatively quickly! Once you earn your licensure in the state in which you plan to work, you’ll be ready to begin your career as a dental hygienist.2

CON: Occasionally unpleasant patients

As you may expect, much of a dental hygienist’s job requires working with people’s mouths, and it’s possible that you will come into contact with the occasional patient who has bad breath, swollen gums or tooth decay.

PRO: Flexibility

Dental hygienists have the option of working full-or part-time, so your schedule may have some flexibility to it. Unlike some other careers, dental hygienists also generally don’t have to work nights, weekends or holidays.

1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, ‘Dental Hygienists,’ March 29, 2012 – http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dental-hygienists.htm
2 American Dental Hygienists’ Association, ‘Licensure,’ 2012 – https://www.adha.org/licensure

12 thoughts on “Pros and cons of being a dental hygienist

  1. Keaira

    Can the salary make a good living

  2. Juan

    Is 72k enough to make it in life alone without anyone’s help? I want a career where I can make a living alone and won’t have to depend on people as much as being depended on.

    • Robin Blunck

      Hi Juan,

      Salary and making a living definitely depend on a person’s lifestyle; some people may be comfortable with a salary of much less while others could be unhappy making much more. It may help you to research and see how your lifestyle would stack up to different salaries to find what you would be comfortable at.

      However, the job site career builder conducted a survey and found most Americans would feel successful making 70,000 dollars a year, and other studies have found that Americans are happy with a salary of 75,000 dollars a year.

      You can read more here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/19/success-money_n_1608925.html and here: http://lifehacker.com/5632191/75000-is-the-perfect-salary-for-happiness

  3. Lauren

    Trust me, now a days making just 60,000 a year is a very good salary. Especially if you are living alone, how much do you really need to survive. Don’t be greedy. You just need to budget.

  4. Kekeletso Montsitsi

    Which one has the best salary between Oral Hygienist and Dental Therapist?

    Can I also open my own private practise if I’m an Oral Hygienist?

  5. Gabriel

    Im about to start Dental Hygienist school. But i saw some from saying that DH is not a good idea, i wont find a job, i will have to depend of the dentist for everything, i will have to work in different places to get hours working. im worried.

  6. Monica

    That salary information is wrong! I’ve been a dental hygienist for ten years and on average, a full time, 32 hours per week, hygienist makes about 42,000$ per year. It’s a bad career choice with no way out. The statement that hygienists are in demand in also incorrect. In most of the southeastern states the market is saturated. Too many hygienists! Dentists won’t advertise job openings anymore because they get hit with so many applicants!

  7. Monica

    Nursing would be a far better choice! There is growth opportunities and so many options with a nursing career. With a hygiene degree all you can do is work for a dentist. I’ve read all the Bologna about how we can work in hospitals or schools, etc…I see no actual positions?

  8. Amarjeet Singh

    Hi. Monica. Thanks for input. Pl post if you are aware how to persue dentistry after DH for international students

  9. Mia

    I’m 17 years old and live I hawaii. I have just graduated High school, and am thinking about pursuing a career in the dental industry! But I’m not to sure about it, is hygienist a good job?

  10. Rice

    Don’t do hygiene! No jobs, no benefits, crazy employers. When you get older they will want younger and you will be out. The work will ruin your back, hands and is psychologically tolling. Dead end boring career. Sorry I wasted my time in it.

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