Dental Hygienist

Job Description:

Dental hygienists offer advice, information and treatments to prevent and treat tooth decay and gum disease.

Job Category:
Health Care & Social Assistance

What you will do:

You’ll work with children and adults, one to one and sometimes in groups, advising on how to take good care of their teeth and gums. You’ll also use instruments to do dental treatments.

On a daily basis you could:

  • remove plaque
  • clean and polish teeth to help prevent gum disease
  • apply fluoride and sealant treatments to reduce decay
  • give local anaesthetic under the supervision of a dentist
  • apply temporary coatings and sealants to protect teeth
  • encourage and demonstrate tooth brushing and flossing
  • sterilise equipment
  • check and maintain patient records


You’ll need:

  • knowledge of medicine and dentistry
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device

As well as:

  • customer service skills
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • sensitivity and understanding
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • the ability to work well with others (teamwork skills)
  • the ability to work well with your hands
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations (adaptability skills)
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become a Dental Hygienist, you typically need a strong educational background in science and healthcare-related subjects. While specific subjects are not mandatory, it’s essential to have a solid foundation in relevant subjects to prepare for further education and training in dental hygiene. Here are relevant considerations:

  1. Biology: courses in biology are highly valuable, as dental hygiene involves a deep understanding of human anatomy, oral biology, and dental diseases.
  2. Chemistry: A basic understanding of chemistry can be beneficial, as it’s relevant to dental materials, dental hygiene procedures, and infection control.
  3. Mathematics (Maths): Basic math skills are necessary for various aspects of dental hygiene, such as calculating medication dosages or understanding radiographic measurements.
  4. English Language: Strong communication skills, both written and oral, are essential for interacting with patients, documenting patient records, and providing oral health education.
  5. Health and Social Care: If available, courses related to health and social care can provide insights into healthcare systems and patient care, which are relevant to dental hygiene practice.

Post School

You can get into this job through:

University Course

  • a 2-year foundation degree in oral health science
  • a 2-year diploma of higher education in dental hygiene, or dental hygiene and dental therapy
  • a 3-year degree in oral health science, or dental therapy and dental hygiene

Experience as a dental nurse may be useful. A recognised dental nurse qualification can sometimes take the place of an A level for course entry.


  • Level 3 Dental nurse (integrated)
  • Level 4 Oral health practitioner

To do the oral health practitioner apprenticeship you must already be a dental nurse or other appropriate dental care professional, registered with the General Dental Council (in the UK) or similar authority in the country where you wish to practise.

You’ll also need to pass enhanced background checks as you may work with children and vulnerable adults

Working Hours and Environment:

You could work at a dental practice, in a government or private hospital or at a health centre; evenings and weekends on a rota. Typically 37/38 hours a week.

You may need to wear protective clothing and a uniform.

Career Path & Progression:

With experience, you could specialise in dealing with particular groups like people with additional needs, or move into dental practice management.

With further training you could teach student dental hygienists.

You could also move into a related area like orthodontic therapy or health promotion.

In the UK, you could serve in the Royal Navy as a dental hygienist. You can apply while you are still at university but have to be registered with the General Dental Council before you can start basic training.