The Profession: What is a dental hygienist?
Dental hygienists are licensed health care professionals that specialize in preventing oral health problems and diseases. To become a licensed, registered dental hygienist requires successful completion of an ADA accredited dental hygiene program, The National Dental Hygiene Board Examination, and a state or regional examination.
The primary responsibility of a dental hygienist is to treat and educate patients in the control and prevention of oral diseases. Typical functions of the clinical dental hygienist include assessment of health histories, evaluating and charting oral conditions, removing deposits (plaque, tartar, and stain) from the teeth, exposing and processing dental x-rays, applying preventive agents to the tooth surfaces such as fluoride and sealants, and providing individualized oral hygiene instruction services.
What are the opportunities for dental hygienists?
Today's dental hygienists work as clinicians in dental offices; however, dental hygienists can be found in numerous settings, such as nursing homes, long-term care facilities, hospitals, corporate health facilities, school systems, research centers, state and federal agencies and public health clinics. Other popular avenues for the dental hygienists seeking alternative roles include positions as educators, researchers, and in management services.
This growing career field is projected to be one of the 30 fastest growing occupations. The population growth combined with the increasing rate of retention of natural teeth will continue to stimulate the need for dental hygienist. For additional information on the profession of dental hygiene, contact the American Dental Hygienists' Association.