Dental hygienist

oral health practitioner

Career outlook for dental hygienist

Average UK salary


Currently employed in Scotland


"LMI for All" supplies our salary and employment status information. "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

You would encourage children and adults to take good care of their teeth and gums. You’d give people advice and information and show them the best way to brush and floss to keep their teeth and gums healthy.

You’d also do dental treatments to prevent and treat tooth decay and gum disease, using a range of dental instruments.

You would:

  • Remove plaque
  • Clean and polish teeth to help prevent gum disease
  • Apply antibacterial treatments to reduce decay
  • Give local anaesthetic under the supervision of a dentist
  • Apply temporary coatings and sealants to protect teeth
  • Demonstrate good tooth brushing and flossing to individuals and groups
  • Keep the instruments sterile
  • Occasionally take x-rays

You could work in general dental practice, the community dental service and in hospitals. A dentist would supervise your work and a dental nurse may support you for some procedures.

You could work for the National Health Service (NHS) or in the private sector.You can see more about this role in the National Health Service on the Dental hygienist page on the NHSScotland Careers website.

Working conditions


You would usually work between 8.30am and 5pm, with occasional evening and weekend duties. If you were based at a hospital, you could work shifts or be on call. Part-time hours and opportunities for self-employment are often available.


If you worked for the community dental service, you would see patients at home and at health centres. As a self-employed hygienist, you would often see clients at a number of locations.


If you worked for the community dental service, your day-to-day work would usually involve travelling between patients and health centres. As a self-employed hygienist, you would often see clients at a number of locations.

UK employment status





Self employed


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  • Cooperating
  • Verbal communication
  • Empathising
  • Attention to detail
  • Developing a plan
  • Taking initiative
  • Time management
  • Taking responsibility

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you'll need.

Foundation Apprenticeships

Choosing a Foundation Apprenticeship as one of your subjects in S5 and S6 can help you get a head start with this type of job.

You'll get an SCQF level 6 qualification (the same level as a Higher) plus valuable work placement experience and skills you can't learn in a classroom.

Interested? Find out what's on offer at your school on


You would need to do a course approved by the General Dental Council (GDC) such as the BSc in Oral Health Science (Hygiene and Therapy) (SCQF level 9/10).

There are three-year degree courses available at Dundee University, Glasgow Caledonian University and the University of the Highlands and Islands.

Edinburgh University offers a four-year honours degree in Oral Health Sciences (Hygiene and Therapy).

To enter a Oral Health Science degree requires National 5 qualifications and a minimum of four Highers at B or above.

Edinburgh University offer the BSc Hons Oral Health Sciences. For entry you require four highers at BBBB including Biology. To enter the Edinburgh University course you would need to gain BBBB before the end of S5 or ABBB/BBBBB in S4-S6 with a minimum of three highers at B achieved in one go. Edinburgh do not require but strongly recommend gaining Advanced Highers or Baccalaureatte qualifications (SCQF level 7) as preparation for university.

You can also apply with:

  • A relevant Higher National Diploma (SCFQ level 8) in Dental Nursing or other science-based HND qualifications, provided you also have Highers at BB including Biology or Human Biology
  • Work-based qualifications such as a Modern Apprenticeship in Dental Nursing (SCQF level 7)
  • If you are returning to education with few or no qualifications you can complete a one-year Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP) courses but you should confirm the SWAP course is accepted by the university before applying (the University of the Highlands and Islands lists accepted SWAP courses on their entry requirements)

Useful subjects

Many courses require:

  • Biology or Human Biology (at a B or above)
  • Chemistry/science subject
  • English
  • Maths
  • Care or health related subjects

You will also need

To be approved for membership of the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme run by Disclosure Scotland.

You may be called to an interview before entering some courses. You may also have to pass a health check and complete a full course of immunisation against Hep B, MMR and BCG.

Helpful to have

Qualifications and experience that show understanding of health, wellbeing and care such as:

  • Foundation Apprenticeship in Social Services and Healthcare (SCQF level 6)
  • Relevant work experience