Prospective Students

The Practice of Dental Hygiene

Dental Hygiene students volunteer at Give Kids A Smile Day at the College of Dentistry

A dental hygienist is a licensed, preventive oral health dental professional. As a dental hygienist, you will work with the dental team in the prevention and control of dental disease, as well as provide education, clinical and therapeutic services supporting total health through the promotion of oral health.

Practice Settings

A dental hygienist may work in such practice settings as:

  • Private dental offices and dental clinics
  • Federal, state and local health departments
  • Hospitals and nursing homes
  • School districts or departments of education
  • Educational programs for dental hygiene and dental assisting students
  • Private business and industry
  • Correctional facilities
  • Private and public centers for pediatric, geriatric and other individuals and groups
  • Health Maintenance Organizations

Dental Hygiene Functions

Although legal dental hygiene functions vary from state to state, some of the functions routinely performed by a dental hygienist include, but are not limited to:

  • Monitoring of patient's health history, including blood pressure
  • Thorough examination of the teeth and oral structures, including a soft tissue exam
  • Removal of calculus, stain and plaque from above and below the gum line
  • Application of caries preventive agents such as fluorides and sealants
  • Providing plaque control instructions and development of individualized oral hygiene programs for home care
  • Offering dietary analysis and counseling
  • Exposure, processing and interpretation of dental x-rays
  • Placement of temporary fillings and periodontal dressings, removal of sutures, and polishing and recontouring amalgam fillings
  • Educating the individual patient, the general public and special population groups about the importance of good oral hygiene habits
  • Oral cancer and blood pressure screening
  • Designing and implementing community dental hygiene programs
  • Placing and carving of filling materials (expanded functions)

For more information about career opportunities in dental hygiene, visit the American Dental Hygienists' Association (ADHA) career information page.

Scope of Practice

The dental hygienist gains recognition as a health professional on a team working to serve the public by satisfying the need for dental service and education.

Salary and benefits vary with employment settings, geographic location and the dental hygienist's training and experience. Median pay nationally for dental hygienists is $35.61/hour. Most employers also offer additional benefits such as health insurance and paid vacations. The availability of full-time and part-time employment opportunities and flexible work hours are also advantages of the profession.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, dental hygiene is one of the 20 fastest growing occupations.


Dental hygienists must be licensed by the state in which they practice. Licensure requirements vary by state. In general, dental hygienists must graduate from an accredited dental hygiene program and earn passing scores on the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination and state or regional examinations. 

Visit the Ohio State Dental Board web site for more information about licensing in the State of Ohio. 

Ohio State academic programs are designed to prepare students to sit for applicable licensure or certification in Ohio. If you plan to pursue licensure or certification in a state other than Ohio, please review state educational requirements for licensure and certification and state licensing board contact information at for online programs and for on-campus programs.