Dental hygienist

Dental hygienists are licensed health professionals who focus on the prevention and treatment of diseases of the mouth and gums.

Dental hygienists work under the direction of dentists and oral surgeons in private dental offices, schools, public health clinics, hospitals, managed care organizations, correctional institutions, and nursing homes. Each state has specific regulations controlling the range of services dental hygienists can perform. Services may include:

  • Providing oral health care assessments that include reviewing individual health histories, dental charting, and oral cancer screening.
  • Taking and processing dental X-rays.
  • Cleaning the teeth by removing plaque and calculus (tartar) from above and below the gumline.
  • Applying cavity-preventing solutions, such as fluorides and sealants, to the teeth.
  • Teaching proper oral hygiene and plaque control techniques.
  • Developing individualized at-home oral hygiene programs.

Dental hygienists are graduates of accredited dental hygiene education programs. They must pass written and clinical exams before they can practice.

Last Updated: August 25, 2008

Author: Bets Davis, MFA

Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine

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