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Careers in Dental Hygiene

The career options in dental hygiene is far more expansive than most individuals realize. In fact, the dental industry as a whole offers a broad array of career pathways and specialties to consider. We cover a number of career options in our Dentistry article and will further dive into options below. A cross-section of career pathways in the dental field include:

  • Dental Hygienist
  • Specialty Care
  • Prosthodontics
  • Restorative Dentistry
  • Practice Management
  • Preventative Dentistry
  • Periodontics
  • Pediatric Dentistry
  • Partial Dentures
  • Complete Dentures
  • Digital Radiography & Imaging
  • Endodontics
  • Implantology
  • Esthetic
  • Infection Management
  • Occlusion
  • Orthodontics
  • Oral Surgery
  • Pharmacology
  • Dental Laboratory Technician
  • Dental Assistant

In this article, we will focus on the career pathways for a dental hygienist as we have extensively covered dental hygiene college programs and dental hygiene degrees in other resource guides.

Top Dental Hygiene Careers

Employment in a private dental office is the most common type of employment setting for a dental hygienist, year over year. Looking forward, we see a number of opportunities for professional growth and upward mobility in the field. Below, we will look at a variety of professional settings to help you better understand your vision of the future as a dental hygienist. A sampling of work settings and pathways for hygienists include:

  • Entrepreneur
  • Corporations
  • Educator
  • Research
  • Public Health
  • Administrator
  • Clinics

Self-Employment and Entrepreneur

Through the power of your creativity and imagination, you may be inclined to be part of a start-up or new commercially viable business within the dental field. A sampling of entrepreneurial job types to consider include:

  • Sales and Sales Manager
  • New Product Development
  • Industry Speaker
  • Lobbyist
  • Practice Management
  • Temporary Employment Services
  • Association Manager
  • Consulting
  • Nonprofit Manager
  • Founding an Independent Clinic
  • Professional Writer


Many dental hygienists choose to work for large corporations to help promote positive oral health industry by providing education, services, and products to corporate employees. As an effective communicator, corporate hygienists leverage their clinical expertise and dental know-how to help improve overall oral well-being. Corporate employment opportunities may include:

  • Corporate Managers
  • Sales Managers
  • Product Researchers Professionals
  • Corporate Liaison

Education Specialist

With a growing demand for dental hygiene professionals, the path of becoming an oral health educator is a viable career path. Higher education institutions across the country are in need of knowledgeable and capable professors. These instructors must possess a deep understanding of dental methodology and academic theory to help educate the next generation of dental hygienists. Jobs that may be of interest in education include:

  • Adjunct Professor
  • Clinical Manager
  • Classroom Teacher
  • Program Manager
  • College Liaison
  • Association Chairperson

Research Professional

Vital research performed by hard working dental hygiene specialists are as important as front-line professionals as the research drives progress in the dentistry field. Research that helps the dental field improve the oral health of the general public can either be qualitative (testing a product or procedures efficacy) or quantitative (data collection and analysis). conducted by dental hygienists can be either qualitative or quantitative. Opportunities for dental research may include:

  • Colleges and universities
  • Private Companies
  • Public Agencies
  • State Agencies
  • Government Divisions

Public Health Specialist

A public health specialist may work for a state funded community health organization in an effort to bolster care for those lacking quality dental access. A public dental health specialist may work for a variety of institutions such as:

  • Public Clinic
  • State Research Facility
  • State College or University
  • State Public Health Administration
  • Community Health Organization
  • Head Start programs
  • State Health Department
  • Urban Community Clinic


The crucial role of a dental hygienist in a clinical setting is likely to include a holistic role. More specifically, a hygienist may sit down with a patient to understand their current health situation then work to establish a short-term and long-term oral health plan. The management and facilitation of that plan would likely be in concert with a variety of other healthcare professionals to help increase awareness and focus on an improved state of health for patients. Clinical settings for a dental hygienist may include:

  • Colleges and Universities
  • Correctional Facilities
  • Private Clinics
  • Public Clinics
  • Healthcare Facilities & Hospitals
  • Public Schools
  • Adult Family Homes

Healthcare Administration

For dental hygiene professionals looking to segue into an administrative track, this may be an attractive pathway. In this type of role, you will utilize project management skills, communication skills, and dental know-how to help best manage resources of a healthcare organization. A sampling of job titles include:

  • Clinic Manager
  • Program Director
  • Associate Dean of Health Sciences
  • Administrative Manager
  • Executive Director

For additional information about educational requirements, employment outlook, career pathways, online programs, tuition, financial aid, and accredited college programs for dental hygienists simply visit our dedicated resource page today.

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