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The Top 5 Skills of a Dental Hygienist

Posted: October 9, 2018 by Diane Smith
Photo of dental hygiene student doing hands-on training.
Dental hygiene student doing hands-on training.

Dental hygienists are highly valued members of the dental care team. They interact directly with patients, helping them properly care for their oral health. Melissa McDougal-Plese, the Dental Hygiene Program Director at our Albuquerque campus says it’s both a technical and communicative profession. 

"By that I mean a successful dental hygienist needs excellent fine motor skills to excel in the technical aspect of the job; as well as exceptional interpersonal communication skills to educate and motivate patients in oral wellness."

Take a look at the top five skills of a dental hygienist and see if this career might be the right one for you!

Photo of dental hygiene student during class. Dental hygiene students during class.
 1. Must love learning! Dental hygienists are highly educated to ensure they can assess and provide care to diverse populations. Degrees of higher education vary in range from an associate to master’s degree. Regardless of the degree earned, all dental hygienists are required to successfully pass between 3-5 board examinations to prove competency and gain licensure to practice. As a licensed dental hygienist one must obtain continuing education to renew one’s license every 2-3 years. Dental hygienists are LIFE LONG LEARNERS!  

2. Time management skills: Dental hygienists must be able to manage their time appropriately and work efficiently. Their schedules are very tight and they have a lot to do for each patient in a short period of time. Planning ahead, being organized and being able to prioritize tasks are essential skills for a dental hygienist. 

3. Physical endurance: Dental hygiene is a physically demanding profession that requires the provider to be able to repeat motions of bending/twisting when working with patients as well as fine and gross motor skills to grasp, handle, control instruments and feel for objects. Vision and hearing are essential as a dental hygienist must be able to see details of objects (colors and shades) and hear various sounds and recognize the difference between sounds.
Photo of dental hygiene student with patient. Dental hygiene student with patient.
4. People skills: Although the profession requires technical skills to perform job related duties, a dental hygienist must interact with patients in a very close and personal setting-in all reality they are having interactions with patients as they are essentially laying on their laps! A dental hygienist’s job is to provide a comfortable and stress-free experience; this can only be accomplished by having qualities or traits that enable the dental hygienist to establish an authentic and genuine rapport with patients.
5. Self-directed and ethical behavior: Dental hygienists are licensed providers that are responsible for their own decisions and actions. Although the majority of dental hygienists work under the supervision of a dentist, they must recognize that they themselves are required to possess the character of a professional who upholds the standards of care and code of ethics set forth by the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA). As hygienists, their actions and behaviors must support the public’s health and safety and therefore they must provide oral healthcare utilizing high levels of professional knowledge, judgement and skill.

Do these five skills seem right up your alley? Learn more about the program here.


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