20 Pros and Cons of Being a Dental Hygienist

Choosing a career as a dental hygienist comes with its own set of advantages and challenges.

The pros of being a dental hygienist include stable job prospects, competitive compensation, flexible work schedules, positive societal impact, and continuous opportunities for professional development.

The cons of being a dental hygienist involve physical demands, exposure to health risks, potential for stressful patient interactions, requirement for state-specific licensure, and limited career advancement without further education.

It’s essential to weigh these factors when considering a career in dental hygiene.

Key Takeaways:

  • Job stability can vary depending on location and demand for dental services
  • Dental hygienists enjoy a competitive salary compared to many other professions, providing a comfortable standard of living and financial stability
  • Dental hygienists have a flexible work schedule, allowing for work-life balance, reduced stress, increased job satisfaction, and career growth opportunities
  • Dental hygienists have the opportunity for career growth through advanced education and specialization, opening doors to various career opportunities in private practices, hospitals, and educational institutions

Dental Hygienist: Quick Facts & Insights


  • Role & Responsibilities: Dental hygienists examine patients for oral diseases like gingivitis, provide preventive care, and educate patients about oral health.
  • Work Environment: Predominantly in dentists’ offices. Many positions are part-time.
  • Social Impact: Crucial in healthcare, helping patients maintain oral health, and improving quality of life.

Financial Insights:

  • Annual Median Pay (2022): $81,400
  • Earnings Spectrum (2022):
    • Lowest 10%: $61,510
    • Highest 10%: $107,640

Entry Requirements:

  • Educational Background: Associate’s degree in dental hygiene typically required.
  • Work Experience: No specific work experience or on-the-job training typically required.
  • Training & Development: Ongoing learning and professional development opportunities available through various organizations.

Job Market:

  • Current Employment (2022): Not specified.
  • Projected Growth (2022-2032): 7% – faster than average.
  • Annual Openings: 16,400 on average over the decade.

Professional Life:

  • Work-Life Balance: Part-time work common, allowing for schedule flexibility.
  • Benefits & Stability: Access to health insurance, paid time off, retirement plans varies by employer; job considered stable.

Industry Trends & Diversity:

  • Emerging Trends: Increased demand for dental services as the link between oral health and overall health gains recognition.
  • Social Impact & Diversity: Field is diverse and inclusive, with a significant role in healthcare.


Information is based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other sources. Specifics can vary by state and employer.

Pros of Being a Dental HygienistCons of Being a Dental Hygienist
Stable and Growing Job MarketPhysical Demands
Competitive CompensationExposure to Health Risks
Part-Time and Flexible Work SchedulesStressful Work Environment
Positive Social ImpactRequirement for Licensure
Diverse and Inclusive FieldLimited Career Advancement Without Further Education
Benefits and Job SecurityPart-Time Work May Limit Benefits
Professional Development OpportunitiesPotential for Monotonous Tasks
Associate’s Degree SufficesWorkplace Dependent on External Factors
Licensure Leads to Standardization of SkillsEmotional Challenges
Increasing Demand for Dental ServicesRegulatory Differences by State

Pros of Being a Dental Hygienist

Luxwisp Dental Hygienist smiling sitting on a tooth chair with hearts
  1. Stable and Growing Job Market: The field is experiencing a growth rate of 7%, which is faster than average, ensuring a stable job market. This growth is driven by the increasing recognition of the importance of oral health in relation to overall health, promising continued demand for dental hygiene professionals. Furthermore, the profession’s annual openings of approximately 16,400 positions indicate ample opportunities for new entrants into the field.
  2. Competitive Compensation: Dental hygienists receive a relatively high median annual salary of $81,400, with the top 10% earning up to $107,640. This level of compensation is quite competitive, especially considering the position typically requires only an associate’s degree. Moreover, the lowest 10% still have a respectable income, with earnings of $61,510, demonstrating a strong earning potential across the spectrum.
  3. Part-Time and Flexible Work Schedules: Many positions in this field are part-time, which allows dental hygienists significant flexibility in their work schedules. This aspect of the job is ideal for individuals who have personal commitments or pursue further education, as it allows for a better balance between work and personal life. The availability of part-time work can also be an attractive option for retirees or those looking to gradually transition out of full-time employment.
  4. Positive Social Impact: Dental hygienists play a crucial role in healthcare by helping patients maintain their oral health, which is integral to their overall well-being. By providing preventive care and education on oral health, they directly contribute to improving the quality of life for individuals they serve. This aspect of the job can be incredibly rewarding, knowing that one’s work has a meaningful, positive impact on others’ health.
  5. Diverse and Inclusive Field: The dental hygiene profession is recognized for its diversity and inclusivity. This environment not only fosters a more dynamic workplace but also promotes cultural competence and understanding, enhancing the quality of patient care. Professionals in this field can expect to work with and serve a diverse population, providing opportunities for continual learning and personal growth.
  6. Benefits and Job Security: Due to the stable and growing nature of the field, dental hygienists often enjoy job security. Additionally, common benefits such as health insurance, paid time off, and retirement plans add to the job’s attractiveness. These benefits, coupled with the field’s positive growth outlook, provide a sense of financial security and long-term career stability.
  7. Professional Development Opportunities: While specific on-the-job training isn’t required, there are numerous opportunities for ongoing learning and professional development. This continuous learning helps dental hygienists stay informed about the latest in oral healthcare and can lead to more advanced roles or specializations, enhancing career progression and satisfaction.
  8. Associate’s Degree Suffices: To become a dental hygienist, individuals typically need only an associate’s degree in dental hygiene, a relatively short educational path compared to other healthcare professions. This shorter period of study means entering the workforce quicker and with less student debt. Additionally, it makes the profession more accessible to a broader range of individuals with varying educational backgrounds.
  9. Licensure Leads to Standardization of Skills: The requirement for licensure ensures that all dental hygienists meet specific standards of professionalism and competency. This standardization not only helps maintain high-quality patient care but also enhances the credibility and recognition of dental hygienists as essential healthcare professionals.
  10. Increasing Demand for Dental Services: With the growing understanding of the link between oral health and overall health, the demand for dental services is projected to increase. This trend suggests that dental hygienists will continue to see an expansion in their roles and responsibilities, potentially leading to a broader scope of practice and more varied work, increasing job satisfaction.

Cons of Being a Dental Hygienist

Luxwisp Dental Hygienist  working on a smiling paper craft art tooth
  1. Physical Demands: The job of a dental hygienist can be physically demanding, often requiring long periods of standing and bending. This continuous strain can lead to musculoskeletal issues or chronic discomfort if proper ergonomics are not practiced. Additionally, the precise and meticulous nature of dental work can lead to hand strain and potential repetitive motion injuries.
  2. Exposure to Health Risks: Dental hygienists are exposed to various health risks, including potential infections from patient contact or exposure to harmful chemicals used in dental procedures. Although personal protective equipment is used, the inherent risk of working in close proximity to patients’ mouths, where bacterial and viral infections can be transmitted, remains a concern.
  3. Stressful Work Environment: The need to manage anxious or fearful patients, maintain a tight schedule, and meet high standards of care can create a stressful work environment for dental hygienists. This stress can be exacerbated when dealing with patients who have neglected their oral health, leading to complex and sometimes uncomfortable procedures.
  4. Requirement for Licensure: Becoming a dental hygienist requires obtaining licensure, the requirements for which vary by state. Preparing for and passing the required examinations can be rigorous and stressful. Additionally, maintaining licensure typically involves ongoing education, which can be time-consuming and sometimes costly, depending on the state’s specific requirements.
  5. Limited Career Advancement Without Further Education: While entry into the field requires only an associate’s degree, career advancement opportunities are often limited without further education. Dental hygienists seeking higher-level positions or a transition into other areas of healthcare may need to invest time and resources into additional degrees, certifications, or specialized training.
  6. Part-Time Work May Limit Benefits: Although part-time work offers flexibility, it may come with limited benefits compared to full-time positions. For instance, part-time professionals might not receive health insurance, retirement plans, or paid time off, which are typically associated with full-time employment. This factor needs to be carefully considered when evaluating the benefits of flexible scheduling.
  7. Potential for Monotonous Tasks: Some dental hygienists may find certain aspects of the job monotonous over time, as tasks can become repetitive. Performing the same preventive care procedures and patient education may lead to a lack of stimulation and decreased job satisfaction for some individuals seeking more diverse challenges in their daily work.
  8. Workplace Dependent on External Factors: The workflow and patient volume in a dental office can be significantly impacted by external factors such as economic downturns or public health crises. For instance, during an economic recession, patients may forgo routine dental care, affecting the job stability and earnings of dental hygienists.
  9. Emotional Challenges: Dental hygienists occasionally deal with patients who are in pain or experiencing anxiety, which can be emotionally taxing. The need to maintain a calm, professional demeanor while managing one’s own emotional responses can be challenging and may lead to burnout if not properly addressed.
  10. Regulatory Differences by State: The conditions and requirements for practicing as a dental hygienist can vary considerably by state. This variability can create challenges for those wishing to move to another state, as they may need to meet different licensure requirements or adjust to different scopes of practice, potentially hindering mobility and career flexibility.

Job Stability

Luxwisp Dental Hygienist teaching others about tooth health

The job stability of a dental hygienist can vary depending on the location and demand for dental services. In areas where there’s a high population and a greater need for dental care, dental hygienists are more likely to find stable employment. These regions tend to have a higher concentration of dental practices and a steady stream of patients seeking oral healthcare. On the other hand, in rural or underserved areas where there’s a scarcity of dental facilities, job stability may be more uncertain.

Additionally, the demand for dental services can fluctuate over time. Economic factors, changes in insurance coverage, and shifts in population demographics can all impact the need for dental care. For example, during an economic downturn, individuals may prioritize essential healthcare needs over routine dental visits, leading to a decrease in demand for dental hygienists’ services.

Furthermore, advancements in dental technology and treatment modalities can also influence job stability. Dental practices that embrace innovative techniques and technologies may attract more patients and provide additional job security for dental hygienists.

Competitive Salary

A dental hygienist can enjoy both job satisfaction and a competitive salary, making it an appealing career choice. Dental hygienists are well-compensated for their expertise and skills, which require specialized training and education. The salary of a dental hygienist varies depending on factors such as experience, location, and the type of dental practice they work in.

To provide a clearer picture of the potential earnings of a dental hygienist, here is a breakdown of the average annual salaries in different settings:

SettingAverage Annual Salary
Private Practice$75,000 – $85,000
Dental Clinics$70,000 – $80,000
Hospitals$70,000 – $75,000
Government$65,000 – $75,000

It is important to note that these figures are averages and can vary depending on factors such as location and years of experience. However, even at the lower end of the salary range, dental hygienists still enjoy a competitive income compared to many other professions.

With a competitive salary, dental hygienists can enjoy a comfortable standard of living and financial stability. This aspect, coupled with the job satisfaction that comes from helping others maintain their oral health, makes a career as a dental hygienist a rewarding choice.

Flexible Work Schedule

Luxwisp Dental Hygienist sitting on a chair enjoying some free time

One of the main advantages of being a dental hygienist is that they have a flexible work schedule, allowing them to balance their professional and personal lives. Here are four reasons why a flexible work schedule is beneficial for dental hygienists:

  1. Work-life balance: Dental hygienists can schedule their work hours to accommodate personal commitments such as family responsibilities, pursuing further education, or participating in hobbies and interests. This flexibility enables them to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
  2. Reduced stress: Having control over their work schedule can help dental hygienists reduce stress levels. They can avoid long commutes during peak traffic hours, take breaks when needed, and have more control over their day-to-day tasks. This autonomy contributes to a more relaxed work environment.
  3. Increased job satisfaction: With a flexible work schedule, dental hygienists have the opportunity to tailor their work hours to align with their preferences. This can lead to increased job satisfaction as they can create a schedule that suits their needs and optimizes their productivity.
  4. Career growth opportunities: A flexible work schedule allows dental hygienists to explore additional career opportunities. They can take on part-time or freelance work in different dental practices, teach dental hygiene courses, or pursue advanced certifications while still maintaining a regular work schedule.

Opportunity for Career Growth

Four dental hygienists have the opportunity to expand their careers and grow professionally by pursuing advanced education and specialization in various areas of dentistry. By delving into specialized areas, dental hygienists can enhance their knowledge and skills, making them more valuable in the field. Here is a table that highlights some of the opportunities for career growth in dental hygiene:

Public HealthFocusing on educating communities and promoting oral health
PeriodonticsSpecializing in the treatment and prevention of gum diseases
Pediatric DentistryWorking with children and providing specialized care for their dental needs
Dental EducationTeaching future dental hygienists and contributing to the field of education

Pursuing these specializations can open doors to a range of career opportunities. Dental hygienists can work in a variety of settings, including private practices, hospitals, and educational institutions. Additionally, they may have the chance to take on leadership roles or become consultants in the dental industry. With continuous advancements in dental technology and research, the field of dental hygiene offers a promising future for those seeking career growth and professional development.

Impact on Patients’ Oral Health

Luxwisp Dental Hygienist  smiling showing white teeth

Being a dental hygienist has a significant impact on patients’ oral health. By providing preventative care, dental hygienists help patients maintain healthy gums and teeth, preventing future dental issues.

Additionally, dental hygienists play a crucial role in early detection of oral diseases, allowing for prompt treatment and better outcomes.

Lastly, patient education is a key aspect of a dental hygienist’s role, empowering patients to take control of their oral health and make informed decisions about their dental care.

Preventative Care Benefits

Regularly visiting a dental hygienist can greatly improve patients’ oral health. By receiving preventative care from a dental hygienist, patients can experience several benefits that contribute to maintaining a healthy mouth.

Here are four advantages of preventative care provided by dental hygienists:

  1. Early Detection of Oral Health Issues: Dental hygienists are trained to identify signs of dental problems such as tooth decay, gum disease, and oral cancer. Through regular check-ups and cleanings, they can catch these issues in their early stages, allowing for prompt treatment and prevention of further complications.
  2. Professional Teeth Cleaning: Dental hygienists perform thorough cleanings that remove plaque and tartar buildup, which can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. This process helps to prevent cavities and keeps the gums healthy.
  3. Guidance on Oral Hygiene Practices: Dental hygienists educate patients on proper oral hygiene techniques, including brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash. They provide personalized advice on maintaining good oral health at home, ensuring patients have the knowledge and tools to care for their teeth and gums effectively.
  4. Preventative Treatments: In addition to cleanings, dental hygienists may apply fluoride treatments or dental sealants to protect teeth from decay. These preventative measures can significantly reduce the risk of cavities and other dental issues.

Early Detection Advantages

Undoubtedly, early detection of oral health issues can have a significant impact on patients’ overall oral health and well-being. As a dental hygienist, one of the primary responsibilities is to examine patients’ oral health and identify any potential problems at an early stage. By doing so, dental hygienists can help prevent the progression of oral diseases and ensure prompt treatment.

Early detection allows for timely intervention, which can prevent further damage to the teeth and gums. Moreover, identifying oral health issues early on can also save patients from experiencing severe pain and discomfort.

Dental hygienists play a crucial role in educating patients about proper oral hygiene practices and the importance of regular dental check-ups. By emphasizing the significance of early detection, dental hygienists contribute to maintaining their patients’ oral health and overall well-being.

Patient Education Importance

Luxwisp Dental Hygienist teaching others how to care for their teeth

By actively engaging in patient education, dental hygienists can significantly impact their patients’ oral health. Patient education is an essential aspect of a dental hygienist’s role as it empowers individuals to take control of their oral hygiene practices and make informed decisions about their dental health.

Here are four ways in which patient education can positively influence patients’ oral health:

  1. Increased Awareness: Educating patients about the importance of oral hygiene and regular dental visits can help them understand the impact of their habits on their oral health.
  2. Preventive Measures: Dental hygienists can educate patients about preventive measures such as proper brushing and flossing techniques, the importance of a balanced diet, and the use of fluoride.
  3. Disease Management: Patient education plays a crucial role in managing oral diseases such as gum disease and tooth decay. Dental hygienists can educate patients about the signs and symptoms, treatment options, and the importance of regular professional cleanings.
  4. Motivation and Compliance: By providing patients with the necessary knowledge and skills, dental hygienists can motivate them to maintain good oral hygiene practices and comply with recommended treatments.

Through patient education, dental hygienists can empower individuals to make positive changes in their oral health habits, leading to improved overall oral health.

Continual Learning and Professional Development

Luxwisp Dental Hygienist teaching children at a school about being a Dental Hygienist

One of the advantages of being a dental hygienist is the opportunity for continual learning and professional development. Dental hygienists are required to stay updated on the latest advancements in dental hygiene techniques and technologies. This enables them to provide the best possible care to their patients and stay at the forefront of their field.

Continual learning and professional development in dental hygiene can take various forms. Dental hygienists can attend conferences, workshops, and seminars to learn about new treatment methods, tools, and research findings. They can also pursue advanced certifications or specializations to expand their knowledge and skills in specific areas of dental hygiene.

Professional development not only enhances a dental hygienist’s clinical skills but also improves their overall professionalism. It helps them stay up to date with changes in dental regulations, ethics, and best practices. This knowledge is essential for providing high-quality care and building trust with patients.

Furthermore, continual learning and professional development can open doors to new career opportunities for dental hygienists. With additional certifications and specialized training, they may be eligible for roles in research, education, or administration.

Physical Demands and Potential Burnout

Unfortunately, dental hygienists often face physical demands and potential burnout due to the nature of their work. The physically demanding aspects of the job can take a toll on their bodies, leading to exhaustion and fatigue. Here are four reasons why dental hygienists experience such challenges:

  1. Repetitive motions: Dental hygienists spend a significant amount of time using repetitive motions, such as scaling and polishing teeth. These repetitive movements can strain their muscles and joints, leading to musculoskeletal disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome.
  2. Prolonged standing: Dental hygienists spend long hours standing while treating patients. This constant standing can cause foot and leg pain, varicose veins, and lower back problems. It can also lead to fatigue and discomfort, making it challenging to maintain focus throughout the day.
  3. Emotional stress: Dental hygienists often work with patients who have dental anxiety or fear. Dealing with emotional stressors and challenging patient behaviors can be mentally exhausting and increase the risk of burnout.
  4. Workload pressure: The high patient volume and tight schedules in dental practices can create a high-pressure work environment for hygienists. This pressure to meet productivity targets and complete tasks efficiently can contribute to burnout and job dissatisfaction.

To mitigate these challenges, dental hygienists should prioritize self-care, take regular breaks, practice proper ergonomics, and seek support when needed to maintain their physical and emotional well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does It Typically Take to Become a Dental Hygienist?

It typically takes about two years to become a dental hygienist.

Are Dental Hygienists Required to Work Weekends or Holidays?

Dental hygienists may be required to work weekends or holidays, depending on the specific dental practice. This allows for flexibility in scheduling appointments and meeting the needs of patients.

What Are Some Common Challenges Dental Hygienists Face in Their Day-To-Day Work?

In the day-to-day work of dental hygienists, they face common challenges such as managing patient anxiety, dealing with difficult patients, and staying updated on the latest dental techniques and technologies.

Are There Any Specific Skills or Qualities That Make Someone Successful as a Dental Hygienist?

There are specific skills and qualities that make someone successful as a dental hygienist. These include strong communication skills, attention to detail, empathy, and the ability to work well with others.

Is It Common for Dental Hygienists to Work in Different Settings, Such as Hospitals or Schools, or Do They Mainly Work in Dental Offices?

Dental hygienists often work in various settings, including hospitals, schools, and dental offices. They provide oral healthcare services, such as cleaning teeth and educating patients on proper oral hygiene.