One of the most significant issues in the dental hygiene profession is the recruitment of qualified applicants. Throughout the decade of the 80s, a dramatic decline in enrollment has occurred in dental hygiene programs across the nation. According to recent demographic reports, there are fewer individuals in the age group where dental hygiene students are traditionally recruited and no significant change is expected. Therefore, in order to maintain and improve the pool of students preparing for a career in dental hygiene, it is critical that an attempt be made to understand the forces which lead students to choose the health care profession. A study was conducted using baccalaureate alumni and three classes in the baccalaureate degree dental hygiene program at The Ohio State University in order to determine why they had chosen the career of dental hygiene. This study was subsequently expanded to include students enrolled in eight associate degree dental hygiene programs in Ohio. The results from the survey indicate that career decisions are made at varying points in the educational process. Dentists and dental hygienists account for half of the influence in the decision process with high school guidance counselors having negligible influence. Nearly all respondents chose working with people as the top career benefit. Those findings point to the importance of involving dental and dental hygiene professionals in the recruitment process and the necessity to provide appropriate information to others who may provide career counseling.