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What do Dental Hygienists do?

By Harriette Halepis
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Most dental hygienists work to prevent medical complications and diseases associated with oral hygiene. Dental hygienists are licensed medical professionals that usually work for a dentist. The tasks that hygienists are legally allowed to perform are determined by local laws and regulations. In some states hygienists are permitted to administer local anesthesia, though this is not the case in every state.

Overall, the main tasks of a dental hygienist include cleaning, scaling, root planing, applying dental sealants, and advising patients on proper dental care. Across the globe, almost all dental hygienists must obtain some type of formal training before practicing. The academic degree that dental hygienists receive varies from country to country, though most have the equivalent of an associates degree.

Schooling is generally comprised of basic courses that include anatomy, oral anatomy, pharmacology, nutrition, and basic skills that are used within a clinical setting. Knowledge obtains from these courses will be used in order to effectively work with dental patients. Practicing dental hygienists follow the same structured procedure for each patient.

Hygienists must first assess each patient in order to determine a patient's medical background. This assessment might include necessary x-rays, a thorough examination, and a periodontal procedure. Following an initial assessment, a hygienist will then comprise a hygiene diagnosis. After a complete diagnosis has been assumed, a hygiene plan will then be implemented.

The final stage that each hygienist must complete occurs after the initial assessment, diagnosis, and plan have been prescribed. On a return visit, each patient must be evaluated. During this time, a hygienist will then determine whether or not the original hygiene plan was effective. If the plan has proven to fall short of expectations, a new plan will be created.

After visiting with each patient and moving through all necessary steps, the work that a hygienist has completed will be constantly be assessed by a dentist. It is only during this time that a dentist can determine whether or not a hygienist has accurately and precisely performed all necessary steps towards preventative dental hygiene care.

Statistically, there are far more female dental hygienists than there are male hygienists. Generally, the number of jobs available in this field are plentiful, and the average salary of a hygienist is rather good. Various countries and states may have additional requirements that are asked of hygienists, which may impact the number of licensed hygienists within any one geographical area.

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Discussion Comments
By Ocelot60 — On Jul 16, 2014

@rundocuri- Though the recommendations vary when it comes to the age a child should start visiting the dentist, it is a good idea to introduce a youngster to professional dental care at a young age. Most professionals agree that it is a good idea to have an initial dentist visit and dental cleaning by a dental hygienist around age 5, give or take a year or two.

Though the first dental visit may be traumatic for a young child, once he or she gets familiar with having a dental exam and cleaning, it will get easier. Since most dentists provide various types of toys and treats for their young patients, parents can use this as motivation for their children to behave while having their teeth examined and cleaned.

By Rundocuri — On Jul 15, 2014

Does anyone have any advice about the best age to start taking a child to see a dental hygienist? I know this is a great way to introduce preventative dental care to kids, but young kids are usually so scared to visit the dentist's office.

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