Overview of Profession

Who Is the Dental Hygienist?

Dental hygienists are licensed oral health professionals who focus on preventing and treating oral diseases-both to protect teeth and gums, and also to protect patients' total health. They are graduates of accredited dental hygiene education programs in colleges and universities, and must take written and clinical exams before they are allowed to practice. In addition to treating patients directly, dental hygienists also work as educators, researchers, and administrators.

What Do Dental Hygienists Do?

Each state has its own specific regulations and the range of services performed by dental hygienists vary from one state to another. As part of dental hygiene services, dental hygienists may:

  • perform oral health care assessments that include reviewing patients' health history, dental charting, oral cancer screening, and taking and recording blood pressure;
  • expose, process, and interpret dental X-rays;
  • remove plaque and calculus (tartar)-soft and hard deposits-from above and below the gum line;
  • apply cavity-preventive agents such as fluorides and sealants to the teeth;
  • teach patients proper oral hygiene techniques to maintain healthy teeth and gums;
  • counsel patients about plaque control and developing individualized at-home oral hygiene programs; and
  • counsel patients on the importance of good nutrition for maintaining optimal oral health.

Information provided by the ADHA website.

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