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Dental Hygienist


Dental hygienists are an important part of the dental team, preventing dental problems in adults and children.

You will carry out procedures such as scaling teeth (at times under local anaesthetic), polishing teeth and applying topical fluoride and fissure sealants. You will help children and adults look after their teeth and gums. Sometimes you might be working on a one-to-one basis while on occasion you will work with groups of people.

Your work as a dental hygienist will save teeth by preventing and treating gum disease, helping people get rid of associated problems like bad breath. The dentist will usually advise you and help direct your work, although it is now possible for hygienists and therapists who have extra training to set up their own practices or work independently in a dental practice so they can see patients without them seeing a dentist first.

In the community, you could work with people with a wide range of special or additional needs. If you are based in a hospital, you will help patients who may have had major surgery or complicated orthodontic treatment or have particular medical conditions. The hospital patients you see may be very ill, apprehensive or unsure after life-changing surgery.


You will 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


You can get into this job through a university course or an apprenticeship. You will need five GCSE subjects graded 4-7 or A-C, plus two or three A levels depending on the university) or a recognised dental nursing qualification to get on to a dental hygiene course. Good people and communication skills are very important and as you might work in different settings, you will need to enjoy a job with plenty of variety.  To practise as a dental hygienist, you need to take a course approved by the General Dental Council (GDC) and then need to register with the GDC. Subjects studied include anatomy and physiology, preventive dentistry, dental health education, dental pathology, the management and care of patients, several dental schools offer courses combining dental hygiene and dental therapy.

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