How much do you actually know about dental hygienists? We appreciate dental hygienists and are happy to show them some love by featuring all the ways they work to help dental offices around the world function day-to-day.
Role of a Dental Hygienist
What are the job duties of a dental hygienist? The answer is more complicated than you may think. A dental hygienist is often the person you spend most of your time with during a dental visit, and they handle various roles such as taking x-rays, conducting oral screenings, performing preventive periodontal procedures, and more.
Not only do dental hygienists handle all those tasks, but they also must be able to communicate with patients about oral health topics and have the skillset to use many different types of tools and instruments. As you can see dental hygienists play a critical role in the dental office, so let’s dive into what they do and how they become dental hygienists:
The dental hygienist position comes with many responsibilities, but one of them is taking x-rays for patients. Taking x-rays requires several rules to be followed including, following procedures to protect themselves and patients from radiation. Dentists may also rely on hygienists to summarize what they see on the x-rays to help get them up to speed with the patient.
Oral Health Screenings
There’s a lot that goes on when you visit the dentist and having an oral health screening is one of them. During these inspections, the dental hygienist looks for signs of oral cancer as well as signs of gingivitis or any other oral diseases.
Preventive and Non-Surgical Periodontal Procedures
The main goal of a dental hygienist is to provide preventive care and educate patients. Preventive care procedures are extremely important because they do much more for the mouth than a toothbrush, mouthwash, and floss can. During the dental hygienist’s first interaction with a patient, they will determine the type of cleaning that is necessary.
Cleaning teeth involves removing tartar, stains, and plaque from teeth, polishing teeth, as well as applying sealants and fluorides to help protect teeth. Additionally, Dental hygienists are tasked with educating patients on oral health techniques, such as brushing and flossing correctly, and they can provide other non-surgical cleanings that include scaling and root planing.
Lastly, a dental hygienist may also administer a local anesthetic to patients, however it is generally a duty under the dentist’s direct or indirect supervision. As of 2019, 45 states allow dental hygienists to administer local anesthesia. This helps keep patients comfortable during certain painful and uncomfortable procedures.
If you think that being a dental hygienist might be the job for you, there are certain steps that can be taken toward making that happen.
How to become a Dental Hygienist
Becoming a dental hygienist requires a minimum of a two-year associate degree, although some universities offer four-year bachelor programs. In the United States, there are over 300 dental hygiene education programs available across various colleges and dental schools.
After completing your degree, you can become a registered dental hygienist (RDA) by passing the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination and taking an authorized licensure exam in the state you want to work.
As you can see dental hygienists play a critical role when it comes to keeping the wheels turning in a dental office. National Dental Hygienist Week is designed to provide recognition and appreciation for dental hygienists, so remember to honor these important team members the next time you have an opportunity.
Interested in other dental careers? Consider becoming a dental assistant. Looking for more information on oral health? Check out 4 Tips for Maintaining Oral Health in Older Adults.