Dental hygienist

Oral health practitioner

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

Salary range: £24,214 to ££37,267

How to become a dental hygienist

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course


You could do either:

  • 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.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • 1 or 2 A levels, or equivalent, for a foundation degree or higher national diploma
  • 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree

More information

More information


Further information

You can find out more about dental hygiene careers from the British Society of Dental Hygiene & Therapy.

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You’ll need:

  • customer service skills
  • knowledge of medicine and dentistry
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • sensitivity and understanding
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • the ability to work well with others
  • the ability to work well with your hands
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device

Restrictions and requirements

You’ll need to:

What you’ll do

Day-to-day tasks

You’ll use dental instruments to provide treatments. On a daily basis you could be:

  • removing plaque
  • cleaning and polishing teeth to help prevent gum disease
  • applying antibacterial treatments to reduce decay
  • giving local anaesthetic under the supervision of a dentist
  • applying temporary coatings and sealants to protect teeth
  • encouraging and demonstrating tooth brushing and flossing

Working environment

You could work at a dental practice, in an NHS or private hospital or at a health centre.

You may need to wear protective clothing and a uniform.

Career path and progression

With experience, you could 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.

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