Dental hygienists need to be licensed, and specific licensing requirements vary from state to state. Licensure exams have written and practical components. Most dental hygienists have associate degrees in dental hygiene, but some have bachelor's degrees, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In order to teach, conduct research or practice in a public health program, a bachelor's or master's degree is needed. Common duties of dental hygienists include teeth cleaning, examining the mouth for oral diseases such as gum inflammation, providing preventive dental care and giving patients advice on how to improve and keep good oral hygiene. Nearly all of them work in dental clinics, and the majority work part-time.
High school students planning to embark on a career as dental hygienists take classes in biology, chemistry and math. Entrance requirements to some dental hygiene programs require candidates to complete a year of college. The typical dental hygiene curriculum consists of classroom instruction, laboratory work and a clinical practicum. Specific courses include human anatomy, nutrition, physiology, radiography and periodontology.
Awareness of the link between oral health and general health continues to sustain the high demand for dental hygienists. Job growth for the period 2012 to 2022 is forecast at 33 percent, according to the BLS, with a median salary of $70,210, as of May 2012.