A dental hygienist is a licensed dental professional who specializes in preventing and treating oral disease. Dental hygienists focus on health promotion and disease prevention. The scope of their work extends beyond the oral cavity as many diseases will manifest in the oral cavity.
In order to obtain licensure dental hygienist must be graduates of an accredited institution and pass multiple examinations. Dental hygienists are able to work in private practice dental offices, public health clinics, educational institutions, research facilities and many more.
Each state determines the scope of practice for dental hygienists. Generally, dental hygienists are able to:
- perform oral health care assessments
- expose, process, and interpret dental radiographs (x-rays);
- remove plaque and calculus (“tartar”) from above and below the gumline using dental instruments;
- apply cavity-preventive agents such as fluorides and sealants to the teeth;
- administer local anesthetic (pending in Indiana)and / or nitrous oxide analgesia ;
- educate patients on proper oral hygiene techniques to maintain healthy teeth and gums;
- counsel patients about plaque control and developing individualized at-home oral hygiene programs;
- administer smoking cessation programs; and
- counsel patients on the importance of good nutrition for maintaining optimal oral health.
*taken from ADHA.org/career info/dhfacts accessed December 1, 2010.
When dental hygienists obtain their license they become a Registered Dental Hygienist.
This is an exciting time for dental hygiene. With the call to action of the Surgeon General's report in 2000 entitled Oral Health in America the public is becoming more and more aware of the need for proper oral health and how the mouth connects with the health and wellness of the whole body.