Dental hygienists hold an integral role in assisting individuals and groups in attaining and maintaining optimal oral health. They provide educational, clinical and consultative services to people and populations of all ages in diverse settings and capacities. The professional roles of the dental hygienist include the following categories:


Dental hygienists in a clinical role assess, diagnose, plan, implement, evaluate and document treatment for prevention, intervention, and control of oral diseases. They work  in close collaboration with other health professionals to deliver integrated care. The educational requirement is an entry-level (associate or bachelor’s) degree. Examples of clinical employment settings include:

  • Private dental practices
  • Community clinics
  • Hospitals
  • University dental clinics
  • Prison facilities
  • Nursing homes
  • Schools


Corporate dental hygienists are employed by companies that support the oral health industry through the sale of products and services. Leaders throughout the dental industry often employ dental hygienists due to their clinical experience and understanding of dental practice. Educational requirements vary. Some corporate dental hygienists may have an associate degree with 2 years experience; however, a bachelor degree is preferred. Examples of corporate positions include:

  • Sales Representatives
  • Product Researchers
  • Corporate Educators
  • Corporate Administrators

Public Health

Community Health programs are typically funded by government or nonprofit organizations. These positions often offer an opportunity to provide care to those who otherwise would not have access to dental care. Educational requirements vary. As more community health programs emerge, the need for dental hygienists with advanced education and training is necessary. Typically these positions require a bachelor’s degree.

Examples of positions for dental hygienists in public health settings include:

  • Clinician
  • Rural or inner city community clinics
  • Indian Health Service
  • Head Start programs
  • School sealant programs
  • Administrator
  • State Public Health Officer
  • Community Clinic Administrator


Research conducted by dental hygienists can be either qualitative or quantitative. Quantitative research is the process of collecting and analyzing numerical data to find patterns, make predictions and test relationships. Qualitative research is the study of phenomena and helps answer questions about behaviors. Education requirement is a bachelor degree; however a graduate or doctoral degree is preferred. Examples of employment settings for dental hygienist researchers include:

  • Colleges and universities
  • Corporations
  • Governmental agencies
  • Nonprofit organizations


Dental Hygiene educators are in great demand. Colleges and universities throughout the U. S. are in need of dental hygiene instructors who use educational theory and methodology to educate a cadre of competent oral health professionals. Corporations also employ dental hygiene educators who provide continuing education to licensed dental hygienists. Typical education requirements are listed below. Examples of dental hygiene educators include:

  • Clinical Instructors:  Must hold a bachelor’s degree
  • Classroom Instructors:  Must hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree
  • Program Directors:  Must hold a master’s or doctoral degree
  • Corporate Educators:  Education requirements vary by corporation


Dental hygienists in administrative positions apply organizational skills, communicate objectives, identify and manage resources, and evaluate and modify programs of health, education and health care. Educational requirements vary by position; however, most require a graduate or doctoral degree. Examples of administrative positions held by dental hygienists include:

  • Clinical Director, statewide school sealant program
  • Program Director, dental hygiene program
  • Executive Director, state association staff
  • Research Administrator, university
  • Director, corporate sales


By using imagination and creativity to initiate or finance new commercial enterprises, dental hygienists have become successful entrepreneurs in a variety of businesses. Educational requirement is an entry-level (associate or bachelor’s degree). Some examples of business opportunities developed by dental hygienists include:

  • Practice Management Company
  • Product Development and Sales
  • Employment Service
  • CE Provider or Meeting Planner
  • Consulting Business
  • Founder of a Nonprofit
  • Independent Clinical Practice
  • Professional Speaker/Writer/Blogger