Dental hygiene is a rewarding career, both personally and financially. Learn about the potential salary of a dental hygienist.
Dental hygienists don’t just make their patients smile; they are trained oral healthcare professionals who provide important services to individuals and communities. They offer therapeutic care and significant education to the patients they treat.
Those trained and employed as dental hygienists have numerous responsibilities. Examples of experienced dental hygienist job duties include:
- Assessing a patient’s gums, mouth, and teeth
- Demonstrating empathy regarding patients’ cultural, economic, and social circumstances
- Dispensing advanced care like topical anesthesia or fluoride treatment
- Documenting patient care and management plans
- Following all federal and state regulatory requirements
- Processing x-rays
- Providing health, wellness, nutrition, nicotine cessation, and disease prevention counseling, and
- Removing plaque, stains, and tartar from teeth
Dental Hygienist Salary & Employment Outlook
It is common for prospective dental hygienists to wonder about the dental hygiene salary, and specifically, “How much do dental hygienists make?”
As noted above, dental hygienists maintain a rewarding career, with personal satisfaction and comfortable compensation.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national average salary for dental hygienists is $81,360 annually.
Dental hygienist salaries vary by state. In Connecticut, a dental hygienist’s average wage is $88,610 per year.
The top three, highest-paying industries for dental hygienists are:
- Community food, housing, emergency, and other relief services — Annual average wage: $84,770
- Facilities support services — Average yearly salary: $83,410
- Employment services — Average annual wage: $83,330
There were 206,100 dental hygienists working in the United States in 2020, and it’s estimated that by 2030, employment will reach 229,200.
The future of dental hygiene is projected to grow 11% from 2020 to 2030, accounting for 15,600 job openings each year over the decade — a faster than average career field compared to all other occupations.
How to Start a Career (and Start Earning) as a Dental Hygienist
Dental hygienists must earn an associate degree in dental hygiene from a higher education institution accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).
Although admission criteria vary per program, a high school diploma or GED is generally required to apply for undergraduate post-secondary studies.
High school students looking to become dental hygienists in Connecticut should specifically take (and do well in) their biology, chemistry, and math classes, in order to demonstrate competence and potential in the professional healthcare sector. Transfer students and adult learners also can prepare with pre-dental science classes prior to career-focused coursework.
As a part of the application process into a dental hygiene program, applicants may be subject to ranking point systems, grade or GPA minimums, criminal background checks, drug screens, and other determining clearances.
Dental hygienist hopefuls should also complete any post-secondary prerequisites before their core dental hygiene courses begin.
With program content covering classroom, clinical, and laboratory instruction, dental hygiene students study a blend of theory and evidence-based learning. The fundamental courses in a dental hygiene curriculum contain head and neck anatomy, nutrition, pharmacology and pain management, and more.
At Goodwin University, future dental hygienists also gain practical experience in the state-of-the-art dental lab and free dental clinic, caring for actual patients in the local community.
Dental hygiene programs typically take three years to complete. However, Goodwin University’s flexible dental hygiene program swiftly readies students for the oral healthcare profession in as few as 24 months.
With day, evening, on-campus, online, Saturday, and hybrid classes available, Goodwin ensures that dental hygiene students receive a rewarding, convenient, and career-focused education.
By the conclusion of a dental hygiene associate degree, program outcomes are optimistic, and the patient-centered and prepared students are well on the way to promoting oral health and becoming lifelong learning professionals.
Dental Hygienist Exams & Continuing Education
After graduating with an associate degree in dental hygiene, students must pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination (NBDHE) and successfully complete one of the five following clinical performance exams:
- The Commission on Dental Competency Assessments
- Council of Interstate Testing Agencies
- Southern Regional Testing Agency
- Central Regional Dental Testing Service
- Western Regional Examining Board
Connecticut documentation requirements for dental hygiene licensure application include degree transcripts, an official report of national board scores, and any applicable application fee.
Once a dental hygiene license is obtained, hygienists must participate in 16 hours of continuing education every two years to maintain their credentials.
Highlights of Becoming a Dental Hygienist
Dental hygiene is an in-demand career with job stability and an excellent salary. With several career settings to choose from, dental hygienists can work in dental offices, orthodontist offices, schools, nursing homes, or be hired by the government to provide preventative care. Dental hygienists are characteristically considerate and people-oriented specialists with abundant career advancement opportunities.
The return on investment for an associate degree in dental hygiene is substantial and sustaining. In addition to the rewards of a possible 401(k), paid time off, paid sick time, dental, disability, and health, life, and vision insurance, other perks for dental hygienists include potential tuition reimbursement, professional development assistance, and continuing education credits.
Count on a compassionate career in dental hygiene for countless reasons to make you smile.
Are you interested in earning your associate degree in dental hygiene?
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Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.