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What is a Dental Hygienist?

A Dental Hygienist is a dental professional who works in collaboration with a general dentist to meet the oral health needs of the patients they serve. Dental Hygienists are preventative health care experts who work with dentists to provide services for healthy gums and the management and maintenance of periodontal (gum) disease. 

A Dental Hygienist’s education is between two to four years and consists of basic sciences, dental sciences, clinical science and application and general education. They must pass National Board Exams and State Board Exams to hold a license to practice. Most states require 12 to 24 hours of continuing education per year to maintain licensure as a dental hygienist.

What procedures does a Dental Hygienist do? 

The range of services provided by Dental Hygienists can vary from state to state. The services a Dental Hygienist provides may include:

  • Patient-screening procedures, such as assessment of oral health conditions, periodontal charting, review of the patient’s health history, oral cancer screening, head and neck inspection and dental charting
  • Taking and developing Digital X-rays
  • Healthy mouth cleaning (prophylaxis)
  • Non-surgical treatment for the management of gum infections or periodontal disease (scaling and root planing, laser decontamination, administration of localized antibiotics)
  • Applying preventive materials to the teeth (e.g., sealants, fluorides and enamel remineralizing agents)
  • Administration of local anesthesia and nitrous oxide
  • Teaching patients appropriate oral hygiene strategies to maintain oral health (e.g., toothbrushing, flossing and nutritional counseling)
  • Working in collaboration with the dentist to plan treatment for the best care outcomes.