How to become a Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists use preventive, educational and therapeutic methods for controlling oral diseases to help individual patients and groups achieve and maintain oral health.

Personal requirements of a Dental Hygienist

  • Good hand–eye coordination
  • Able to perform precise and detailed work
  • Good problem-solving skills
  • Good communication skills
  • Interest in healthcare work
  • Able to work as part of a team

Education & Training for a Dental Hygienist

To become a dental hygienist you usually have to complete a VET qualification in oral health (dental hygiene) or a degree in oral health or oral health therapy approved by the Dental Board of Australia. To get into these courses you usually need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education. Prerequisite subjects, or assumed knowledge, in one or more of English, mathematics, biology, chemistry and physics are normally required. Applicants may also be required to attend an interview. A number of institutions in Australia offer these courses. Institutions have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information.

Duties & Tasks of a Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists may perform the following tasks:

  • assess and record oral health conditions and plan treatments
  • educate, counsel and provide instruction for people of all ages, as well as other healthcare professionals, on oral health and hygiene, plaque control and nutrition
  • remove deposits and stains from teeth by scaling, root debridement and tooth polishing
  • identify and apply prevention strategies and control mechanisms for dental caries (decay) and periodontal (gum) disease
  • select and use appropriate fluoride treatments, and polish tooth restorations
  • apply professional tooth whitening agents
  • place temporary dental restorations
  • expose, process and interpret dental X-rays
  • take impressions of patients’ mouths for the construction of study casts, mouthguards and orthodontic appliances
  • carry out orthodontic procedures that do not initiate tooth movement (such as band sizing and selection or bonding of fixed retainers)
  • apply and remove periodontal dressings and rubber dams
  • stabilise teeth affected by gum disease
  • select and administer pain control techniques, including local anaesthesia
  • remove dental sutures (stitches)
  • instruct patients on looking after their teeth and mouth after operations.

Working conditions for a Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists may work in a team with other dental practitioners.

Employment Opportunities for a Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists mainly work with other dental professionals in private dental practices. There are some opportunities in community health centres, schools, childcare centres, aged-care facilities, dental hospitals, regional clinics and supported residential facilities. There are limited training places available and competition is strong.

Additional Information
Before undertaking clinical placements required by courses, students will need to obtain a National Police Certificate, Provide First Aid Certificate and Working with Children Check, and fulfill immunisation requirements. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information. It is a legal requirement for graduates to be registered with the Dental Board of Australia before practising as a dental hygienist in any state or territory in Australia. For full details, see the board’s website. The Dental Hygienists’ Association of Australia is a professional association that represents dental hygienists at a national level. Visit their website for more information.
Related careers