What is it like to be a Dental Hygienist?

Post by Open Colleges on July 16th, 2020

What does a Dental Hygienist do? 

Dental Hygienists have an important role to play when it comes to dental health. They assist Dentists during patient procedures and help to educate people on the importance of oral hygiene.  

The duties of a Dental Hygienist include: 

  • removing deposits and stains from teeth; 
  • fluoride therapy; 
  • removing plaque;  
  • teeth whitening; 
  • taking and interpreting dental X-rays; 
  • recording treatment and creating plans; and 
  • providing guidance for patients to help improve their oral hygiene. 

What is the difference between a Dentist and a Dental Hygienist? 

Primarily, a Dental Hygienist’s responsibilities focus on cleaning a patient’s teeth. A Dentist’s responsibilities are a little more wide-ranging, and cover everything from diagnosing dental health issues, to providing a treatment plan, to performing procedures.   

Dental Hygienists will work under the supervision of a Dentist. This may not necessarily be in a private dental surgery - it could also be in a community health centre, regional facility, school, or an aged care facility.  

The majority of Dental Hygienists in Australia have a Diploma or Advanced Diploma, according to the government’s Job Outlook website.¹ Whereas to become a Dentist, you need to hold a Bachelor Degree or higher. 

What skills do you need to be a good Dental Hygienist? 

As a Dental Hygienist, you’ll be working closely with patients. This means you’ll need to have good interpersonal skills. You may also find yourself dealing with patients who are anxious about having a dental procedure, so you’ll need to make sure that you’re able to show compassion and understanding while maintaining your professionalism.  

A good Dental Hygienist will also have a keen eye for detail, so that you can spot even the smallest signs of trouble when you’re cleaning a patient’s teeth. You will also need to have good fine motor skills, as you’ll be working with specialised tools in a very small area.  

It’s important that you’re also capable of working within a small team environment and that you have good communications skills and can take direction.   

Is Dental Hygienist a good career choice?  

According to Payscale, the average yearly wage for a Dental Hygienist in Australia is around $68,056. However, this figure will increase along with your experience.² 

The government’s Job Outlook website states that most full-time Dental Hygienists work an average of 40 hours a week. However, most Dental Hygienists work on a part-time basis (67%). This shows that there are many opportunities in Australia for employees looking for a more flexible work environment that can offer part-time hours.¹  

52.2% of employees hold a Diploma or Advanced Diploma, while the remaining employees hold either a Bachelor Degree, Postgraduate Degree, or Graduate Diploma.¹  

Becoming a Dental Hygienist is a good career choice for people who are interested in dental hygiene, who have an empathetic nature, and who are interested in a career that will allow them to effect positive, healthy change in peoples’ lives.  


How to become a Dental Hygienist in Australia 

To become a Dental Hygienist, you will need to obtain an Advanced Diploma of Oral Health (Dental Hygiene), or a Bachelor degree.  

According to ADA, the Australian Dental Association, “entry to these courses of study is highly competitive and one of the reasons there is a shortage of trained dental hygienists in the country.”³ 

A shortage of qualified professionals means that there should be a low unemployment rate for Dental Hygienists; but it also means that it can be tough to get your foot in the door when first starting out.  

Open Colleges offers the HLT35015 Certificate III in Dental Assisting. This is a great place to start if you’re considering a career in the oral health sector. This certificate will provide you with all the skills and knowledge you need to begin a career as a Dental Assistant, which would see you gain experience working under the supervision of a Dentist.  

Are you ready to begin your career in oral health? Check out our course page to see what could be in store for you.  




Source: *1. Job Outlook. ‘Overview for Dental Hygienists’. https://joboutlook.gov.au/Occupation?search=Career&code=411211 

Source: *2. Payscale. ‘Average Dental Hygienist Hourly Pay in Australia’.    https://www.payscale.com/research/AU/Job=Dental_Hygienist/Hourly_Rate 

Source: *3. ADA. ‘Dental Hygienist’. https://www.ada.org.au/Careers/Dental-Team/Hygenist 

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