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Men in dental hygiene: Shaping a future of diversity, collaboration, and patient awareness

Feb. 1, 2024
The increasing number of men in dental hygiene is marking a pivotal shift in a historically female-dominated profession. Rafael Rondon discusses the impact on the profession and patients.

"Empowering each other within a diverse team fuels our growth and raises patient care to new heights." —Dr. Sarah Johnson

The increasing number of men entering the field of dental hygiene is marking a pivotal shift in a historically female-dominated profession. At this time, 5.3% of students currently enrolled in accredited dental hygiene programs are men.1 This evolution, as emphasized by the influence of male dental hygienists, brings forth a spectrum of successes and opportunities.

We men who venture into the dental hygiene field are not ordinary practitioners; we serve as pioneers of change, reshaping conventional norms with steadfast passion that echoes throughout the profession. Our engagement extends across different domains, encompassing clinical practice, leadership roles, education, and innovation. With our diverse skill sets and distinctive perspectives, we are transforming patient care, infusing limitless enthusiasm into every facet of the field, promoting innovation, and advocating for inclusivity.

More inclusivity for providers and patients

As our influence grow brighter, there's opportunity to ignite a passion among high school students in our communities about dental hygiene as a thrilling and viable career option for both men and women. When I was in high school, the dental hygiene profession was never presented as such an option, and I suspect that this lack of awareness persists. My younger friends and family members have shared that our profession is still not represented during career days in schools. That’s why I say that hygiene chose me! Initiatives incorporating dental hygiene into career guidance programs, mentorship opportunities, and hands-on experiences inspire the next generation to break stereotypes and embrace the diverse and passionate realm of the profession.

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The inclusion of men in dental hygiene not only promotes diversity in health-care providers but also offers patients a broader choice, creating a more inclusive environment for all. I recall the early days of my career when certain patients expressed concern about me, a male, performing teeth cleaning due to my big hands. In response, I pointed out that the dentist was also a man, to which they agreed, acknowledging the validity of my perspective. (Of course, I really worked on ensuring the patient was comfortable.)

Offering unique perspectives

Informing our patients about the passion and dedication of male dental hygienists can foster trust, comfort, and satisfaction throughout their oral health-care journey. When patients grasp the dedicated commitment, diverse skill sets, and unique perspectives that male dental hygienists contribute, it can go from a simple clinical encounter to a rich and meaningful experience. Additionally, this process undoes gender biases and stereotypes, enabling patients to value the proficient and unwavering professionalism demonstrated by all dental hygienists, regardless of gender.

Exposing patients to the collaborative nature of dental care, where female and male dental hygienists work synergistically, can make a significant impact on patient perception of treatment. Highlighting how these professionals encourage each other's skills, fostering a team-based approach to patient care, not only instills confidence but also sets an example for collaborative patient care, ensuring comprehensive and tailored oral health solutions.

Studies show that patient satisfaction increases when patients have the opportunity to choose health-care providers based on their preferences.2 By acknowledging and passionately educating patients about the diverse professionals available in dental hygiene, we empower them to make informed choices and fuel a more comprehensive health-care environment.

The collaboration between female and male dental hygienists is a key aspect that elevates the value and strength of our profession. Emphasizing unity in diversity, this collaboration is not just a partnership; it's a dance that leverages the complementary expertise of both genders, fosters an inclusive environment, and sets the stage for a continuous journey of learning and professional growth. Together, we're not just advocating for inclusivity within the profession; we’re setting the dental hygiene world on fire, laying the groundwork for a stronger, more unified future.

The rise of men in dental hygiene represents not merely a change but a fervent transformation, bringing diverse perspectives and nurturing innovation with an unwavering commitment. Efforts such as increasing awareness among high school students, educating patients about the profession, and placing a strong emphasis on collaboration between female and male dental hygienists contribute to a more inclusive and strong future.

Dr. Johnson’s quote accentuates the passionate empowerment and development within a diverse team, underscoring the collaborative endeavors of dental hygienists in enhancing patient care. Together let's not only influence the future; let's ignite it with the commitment we have for our patients and ourselves! We are one, and we contribute to an incredible profession, providing a high standard of care for one patient at a time.


  1. American Dental Education Association (ADEA). Dental hygiene by the numbers. https://www.adea.org/GoDental/Future_Dental_Hygienists/Dental_hygiene_by_the_numbers.aspx
  2. Alam A, Verma N, Awasthi S, Yadav K, Gupta P, et. al. Clinical spectrum and prognostic markers of multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children hospitalised in Northern India. https://cegh.net/article/S2213-3984(23)00144-6/pdf
About the Author

Rafael Rondon, BS, RDH

Rafael Rondon, BS, RDH, has been in the dental field for more than 30 years. He worked in a hospital setting and private practice, and for the past 20 years with dental group practices. He’s helped develop a dental hygiene standard of care for the organization, which includes periodontal therapy, communication, efficient hygiene schedules, improving patient care, and team development. He’s also founder of Mr. RDH, a platform for male hygienists to network and discuss factors that affect men as dental hygienists.