Dental Hygienist
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Skill Requirements

Mental - Basic

  • Attention to detail.
  • Ability to understand the cause of problems.
  • Ability to evaluate different solutions.
  • Ability to find the essential information by looking or talking with the patient.

Mental - Specialized

  • Knowledge of the causes and treatment for dental injuries and diseases.
  • Knowledge of living cells, tissues and organisms, including their functions and how they interact with each other and the environment.


  • Desire to help and motivate others.
  • Ability to explain concepts to others, and to suggest better dental practices without making others feel defensive.
  • Sensitive to the physical pain they might be causing their patient.


  • Ability to keep the hand and arm steady.
  • Ability to make quick, coordinated movements with one's hands.
  • Ability to control stationary and motorized tools.
  • Requires working in a seated position for approximately 30 minutes at a time.
  • Perfect close vision, with or without corrective lenses.

Skill Maintenance Requirement
Minimal. New tools and techniques will continue to be developed, but not at the fast pace found in other occupations.


Experience Prerequisites

No experience is needed, though an awareness of what takes place in a dental office is helpful.


Education/Training Required

A license from the State of California is required for this occupation. The steps to gain a license are:

  1. Complete a dental hygiene program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. A list of the schools in California can be found at (
  2. Undergo a criminal history investigation by submitting fingerprints.
  3. Pass a written exam.
  4. Pass a clinical exam which includes examining a patient and completing scaling and root planing of at least one quadrant (i.e., quarter section of teeth).

While the state certification focuses on clinical skills and state laws, the National Board of Dental Hygienist Examination focuses on adademic knowledge, and is also required.

Many employers prefer candidates who have earned a Bachelor's or Associate's degree, but sometimes a certificate is an acceptable substitute for a degree.

Most educational programs require one to have a valide CPR certification and to have completed one year of high school biology, algebra and chemistry.

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