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Dental Hygienist



What Is a Dental Hygienist?

A dental hygienist provides many preventive care measures from teaching their patients how to take care of their teeth to removing soft and hard deposits such as plaque, stains and tartar from the teeth.  He or she also examines the gums and teeth to make note of any defects or diseases.  The overall function of a dental hygienist is to help patients maintain good dental health.  Specific duties may vary according to state.  For instance, hygienists may be permitted to administer anesthetics, remove sutures or work with fillings.

A hygienist must receive a degree from an accredited school and also receive a state license to work.  Most states require prospects to pass clinical and written exams.  The Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations of the American Dental association oversees the written exams while regional or state organizations oversee the clinical portion.  Although anyone interested in pursuing this line of work may start with a high school diploma and one year of college, a private practice may require an associate’s degree or certificate.  Those who want to pursue clinical practice, research or teaching may only need a bachelor’s degree but some programs may require a master’s degree.  In any case, a prospective hygienist should study biology, chemistry and math.

Dental hygienists must create good relationships with their patients since they must explain many elements of oral health to patients.  They tell their patients the importance of a good diet in developing good oral health, how to select toothbrushes and even show them how to brush and floss.  These are the workers who use the models of teeth to provide examples for patients.

Their work also goes beyond explaining these things to patients.  They tend to be the ones to takes the x-rays and may even have to develop the film themselves.  They also provide periodontal therapy and the means to prevent cavities in the form of fluorides and sealants.  In some cases, they can diagnose patients.  Furthermore, hygienists may be present with dentists as the dentists treat patients, but this may depend upon the individual practice.