21 Pros and Cons of Being a Dental Hygienist

Being a dental hygienist can provide you with a rewarding and lucrative career.

Your duties will include cleaning, scaling, and examining patients’ teeth.

You may also assist dentists during procedures, and educate patients on how to care for their teeth. 

Pros of Being a Dental Hygienist

There are many benefits of being a dental hygienist. 

The pros of being a dental hygienist include: 

  1. Shorter education than many careers
  2. Competitive salary
  3. Steady job growth
  4. No holidays/nights/early hours
  5. Comfortable environment
  6. Work in different settings
  7. Career advancement opportunities
  8. Improving the lives of patients
  9. Job autonomy
  10. Team environment

1. Shorter Education Than Many Careers

You will need to go to dental hygienist school to become a hygienist.

However, programs are typically 2 to 3 years long, making them much shorter than most careers.

This means you can start your career faster, with less debt. 

2. Competitive Salary

Dental hygienists can expect to make a competitive salary as well.

The average salary for this position is $89,000 per year.

Wages range from $61,000 to $107,000 per year. 

The average salary for jobs requiring an associate’s degree is $52,000, so dental hygienists make significantly more than most professionals with an associate’s degree. 

3. Steady job growth

Dental hygienist positions are expected to grow by 9% over the next decade, which is significantly faster than most industries.

As baby boomers age and the population grows, you can expect demand to continue to grow in the coming decades. 

4. No Holidays/Nights/Early Hours

If you want a job that has regular hours, being a dental hygienist is a good choice.

You won’t have to worry about working nights or holidays.

If you aren’t an early bird, no problem.

Dental hygienists aren’t expected to work early in the mornings, either. 

5. Comfortable environment

Dental hygienists have a comfortable work environment.

You’ll work in an office or similar setting.

You can expect to have a climate controlled and clean place to complete your work each day. 

6. Work in different settings

As a dental hygienist, you also have the option to work in different environments.

Most hygienists work in a dental office.

However, you can work in an office that specializes in pediatric dentistry, general dentistry, or orthodontics.

You can also work in other settings, including hospitals, schools, and retirement homes.  

7. Career advancement opportunities

You can choose to become a dental hygienist as a stepping stone to a better career.

You can continue your education and become a dentist or teach upcoming dental hygienists.

You can also choose to go into a business related to dental care, like providing dental care products.

Once you are an established dental hygienist, you have many options. 

8. Improving the Lives of Patients

One of the biggest benefits of being a dental hygienist is that you can improve the lives of your patients.

You can help improve their dental health, confidence, and appearance. 

When you interact with them, you can also brighten their day.

If you are a people person, this may be one of your favorite parts of the job. 

9. Job Autonomy

As a dental hygienist, you’ll have a lot of job autonomy.

You will have tasks you are expected to complete, but you won’t have anyone looking over your shoulder. 

You’ll work as part of a team, but most of your work will be completed on your own.

If you prefer to work solo, this can be a big benefit. 

10. Team Environment 

Yes, you’ll have a lot of autonomy.

However, you’ll also work in a team-oriented environment.

You can develop close friendships with your co-workers.  

You’ll feel like you are included, and a part of something bigger than yourself. 

11. No Bringing Your Work Home 

Many careers allow or even encourage working after hours.

You won’t have to worry about that when you are a dental hygienist.

There’s no way that you can work when you are out of the office. 

This can be a big benefit, particularly if you are the type that has a hard time leaving your work at the office.

Once you clock out, you are done for the day. 

Cons of Being a Dental Hygienist 

Despite the benefits of being a dental hygienist, there are also some downsides. 

Cons of being a dental hygienist include:

  1. Dental hygienist school required
  2. Must be licensed
  3. Lack of variety
  4. Inconvenient Hours
  5. Full-time work can be difficult to find
  6. Heavy workload 
  7. Health risks (blood, saliva)
  8. Challenging patients 
  9. Physically demanding
  10. Can be Stressful 

1. Dental Hygienist School Required

Dental hygienists don’t require as many years of schooling as dentists, but you will need to complete dental hygienist school.

This takes time and money.

It’s well worth it, but it can be a downside as well. 

2. Must be Licensed

In addition to education, you must be licensed as a dental hygienist.

Licensing requirements vary from state to state.

Unfortunately, most states don’t allow licenses from other states.

This means that if you want to change the state you practice in, you’ll need to get licensed in your new state. 

3. Lack of Variety

You will be doing different activities with different people.

However, many of the duties you do as a dental hygienist will stay the same from day to day.

Some hygienists don’t mind this.

However, if you are easily bored, you may find this to be a problem. 

4. Inconvenient Hours

Dental hygienists do work convenient hours most of the time.

However, depending on the setting you work in, you may find yourself working hours that you don’t like from time to time.

This often happens on weekends. 

5. Full-time Work Can be Difficult to Find

Full-time work can be hard to find in some areas.

This can be beneficial if you want to work part-time.

However, if you need full-time work, this is a problem.

Some businesses only provide benefits like paid time off and insurance for full-time employees, so you’ll need to consider this as well. 

6. Heavy workload 

Dental hygienists often have a high workload, depending on the type of practice and dentist they work with.

You’ll need to be prepared for this if you want to be a dental hygienist. 

You may need to work long hours with few breaks.

You may be expected to be very efficient, and move from one patient or task to another quickly. 

7. Health risks (blood, saliva)

Dental hygienists, like healthcare providers, will be exposed to bodily fluids, which carries health risks.

If you are exposed to the saliva or blood of someone who is sick, you can get the disease as well. 

HIV is the biggest concern.

While it’s rare to get HIV or other serious diseases from working with patients today, it does still occur.

Be sure that you are using proper precautions. 

8. Challenging Patients 

One of the biggest cons of being a dental hygienist is that some patients are hard to work with.

These challenging, or difficult patients, can test your self-control and make you question your career choice. 

However, these patients are relatively rare.

You’ll find that most of the people are pleasant and enjoyable to care for. 

It’s also important to keep in mind that everyone has a bad day from time to time.

It’s common for people to have fear of seeing the dentist or dental hygienist, which can cause them to be more short or irritable than they are normally. 

9. Physically Demanding 

When you think of a physically demanding job, being a dental hygienist probably doesn’t come to mind.

You may picture someone in a factory or building homes.

However, dental hygiene is fairly demanding as well. 

 You’ll spend a lot of time leaning over patients, which can be tough on your back and shoulders.

You are also using your hands often. 

Injuries to the neck, shoulders, back, and wrists are common among dental hygienists.

In fact, the Ohio Bureau of Worker’s Compensation found that 4 out of 5 hygienists have chronic musculoskeletal pain. 

10. Can be Stressful 

Dental hygiene isn’t the most stressful job in the world, but it does have its moments.

If you are considering being a dental hygienist, you’ll need to be prepared to deal with stress. 

Stress can come from a heavy workload, difficult patients, or long hours. 

21 Pros and Cons of Being a Dental Hygienist – Summary Table

Pros of Being a Dental HygienistCons of Being a Dental Hygienist
1. Shorter Education Than Many Careers1. Dental Hygienist School Required
2. Competitive Salary2. Must be Licensed
3. Steady job growth3. Lack of Variety
4. No Holidays/Nights/Early Hours4. Inconvenient Hours
5. Comfortable environment5. Full-time Work Can be Difficult to Find
6. Work in different settings6. Heavy workload
7. Career advancement opportunities7. Health risks (blood, saliva)
8. Improving the Lives of Patients8. Challenging Patients
9. Job Autonomy9. Physically Demanding
10. Team Environment10. Can be Stressful
11. No Bringing Your Work Home

Should You Become a Dental Hygienist? 

If you enjoy helping people and keeping smiles beautiful, you should consider being a dental hygienist.

You can finish dental hygienist school in just a few years, so you can get a jump start on your career.

You’ll be working in a comfortable environment, and hours are usually convenient.

You can expect your work to be steady, because demand will only increase over time. 

However, you’ll also need the patience to work with difficult patients.

The work can be physically demanding, and hours can be long.

You may also have a difficult time finding full-time work.   

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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