Skip to content Skip to navigation

Dental Hygiene


Employment opportunities for dental hygienists have never been better. An increased number of dental insurance plans, greater awareness of the importance of oral hygiene, and an expansion of the role and function of the dental hygienist means a higher employment growth rate than is likely for many other occupations.

The majority of hygienists are employed in private dental offices, although an increasing number are working in public health agencies, school systems, industrial firms, clinics, hospitals, universities, and research organizations. Specific responsibilities of the hygienist vary with the setting and with the laws of the state in which the hygienist is employed. Typically, hygienists in private practice will provide the following services:

  • oral prophylaxis (removing deposits and stains from teeth)
  • exposing, processing, and mounting radiographs (x-rays)
  • instructing in preventive dental care
  • counseling on diets
  • applying dental sealants and fluoride
  • taking medical and dental histories

Within school systems, hygienists function in two roles: clinicians and educators. As clinicians, they conduct dental screening examinations, participate in dental surveys and follow-up studies, and provide oral prophylaxes. Expansion of the educator role presents the hygienist with the opportunity to develop and implement classroom programs on oral health and to serve as a consultant to teachers on dental health education.

  • Dental hygienists in public health agencies typically have clinical, consultative, supervisory, and/or administrative responsibilities. These responsibilities include:
  • application of topical fluorides
  • demonstration of new dental preventive methods and procedures
  • assistance in planning, organizing, and conducting community dental health programs
  • participation as dental health advisers in community health activities
  • service as liaisons with agencies to help channel funds from various sources to specified recipient groups

Dental hygiene is a licensed profession. Following graduation from an accredited program, dental hygienists will be required to demonstrate proficiency by successful completion of a board examination that includes both written and clinical practice sections. The license to practice dental hygiene is issued by the state board of dentistry in the state where the hygienist is employed.

Student & Professional Organizations

  The University of Michigan Student Chapter of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association

The purpose of this organization is to acquaint the hygiene students with their professional organization of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA). ADHA is the largest professional association representing all dental hygienists. Membership is open to all dental hygiene students. Dues are paid in the fall semester of each year.

Dental hygiene students can apply for a student membership in the American Dental Hygienists' Association (ADHA), the official organization of the dental hygiene profession. The University of Michigan Dental Hygiene Program has an ADHA Student Chapter and those enrolled in all programs are invited to this group’s events. Student members receive all the benefits of full membership, plus additional opportunities for personal and professional development including resources for scholarships and grants, National Board prep, and continuing education. The ADHA website has more information:

Upon graduation from an accredited program in dental hygiene you are eligible to become professional members of ADHA. Professional membership has all the benefits of student membership, and many more.

  Student Council

The Student Council has the responsibility of providing a means of communication among individual students, various organizations in the dental school community, and between students and faculty. Student Council members are selected by general class election.

The Student Council attempts to conceive, plan, and execute appropriate projects for the good of the dental school community and the profession as a whole.

  Honor Council

The Honor System is one expression of the high degree of personal and professional integrity for dental and dental hygiene students. The Honor Council determines policies governing all aspects of the Honor System and acts as a judicial body on any infractions of the Honor System. The Council tries cases of student offenders and issues warnings or makes recommendations to the executive committee on the disposition of student violations. Eleven representatives, two elected from each class of dental students, one elected from each class of dental hygiene students, and two faculty advisors, make up the Honor Council.

  Johnathan Taft Honorary Dental Society

The Taft Society attempts to uphold the integrity, accomplishments, and professional values of the first dean, Jonathan Taft. The Taft Society is a volunteer organization open to both dental and dental hygiene students of all levels. The Taft Society is mainly a service-oriented group which sponsors activities of value to the students and the community.

  Christian Medical/Dental Society (CMDS)

Founded in 1931, the CMDS serves as a voice and ministry of Christian doctors. This organization is open to all dental and dental hygiene students.

  American Association of Public Health Dentistry (AAPHD)

The AAPHD U-M Chapter was created in January of 2010 for those interested in public health and public policy. The mission is to create a sustainable relationship with the underserved community in Washtenaw County to promote oral health, prevent disease, and reduce disparities in oral health status and promote public health science as a vital part of dental education. Focus of this association is on education, outreach, and interacting with some of the most well respected public health professionals in the world. This group is open to anyone in the School of Dentistry

  American Dental Education Association (ADEA)

  • This organization is open to both dental and dental hygiene students of all levels.
  • The objectives of the ADEA U-M School of Dentistry Student Organization is to:
  • Support core values, mission, and strategic direction of ADEA
  • Provide effective student input into both dental and allied dental education
  • Promote the advancement of dental education by providing student input into and involvement with ADEA activities
  • Stimulate students to assume roles in dental and allied dental education and research
  • Work in partnership with other student organizations to promote their involvement in the advancement of dental education.

  Scholars Program in Dental Leadership (SPDL)

The University of Michigan School of Dentistry is one of the nation's leading dental schools engaged in oral health care education, research, patient care and community service. To fulfill each of these goals requires vision and leadership. The mission of the University of Michigan’s Scholars Program in Dental Leadership (U-M SPDL) is to facilitate these goals by providing dental and dental hygiene students with skill sets that empower visions through leadership training and provision of the opportunity to exercise these skills. This program will target pre-doctoral dental and dental hygiene students to facilitate the development of leaders in the dental profession. The program is intended to capitalize on human potential by developing a leadership mindset through activities such as coaching and counseling for maximal performance, fostering the power of working together and managing change.

  Sigma Phi Alpha

Sigma Phi Alpha is the national dental hygiene honor society, and student election to it is limited to 10 percent of each graduating class. Candidates are selected on the basis of scholarship, character, and potential for professional leadership.