dental hygienist working

What does a Dental Hygienist do?

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Dental hygienists clean teeth, take x-rays, apply sealants, and give oral-care guidance. Basically, they work with patients during the entire dental process, from beginning to end. They also work closely with the dentist and assist as needed. Additionally, they document a patient’s information to ensure accurate records are kept. Watch a career video to learn what a dental hygienist does:

How to Become a Dental Hygienist

Most dental hygienists earn a two-year degree at a community college. Some states require a student to graduate from an accredited program in dental hygiene and pass a state exam. After completing these programs, they earn their associate’s degree. Most employers prefer applicants to have experience in dental hygiene and it would also be helpful to have some computer experience as well.

Job Description of a Dental Hygienist

dental hygienist working

A dental hygienist assistant works with patients under the supervision of a dentist. Among cleaning teeth, taking X-rays, and educating patients on oral care, they also sterilize dental instruments and prepare the treatment area by setting out required instruments or materials. Some dental hygienist assistants may prepare materials used for casting teeth or create temporary crowns.

According to each states’ regulations, the dental hygienist assistant may be able to do coronal polishing, fluoride application, sealant application and topical anesthetics application. He or she also sets up billing and payments for the patient. One normally would work in a dentist office on a full-time basis. A dental hygienist generally has a normal working week of forty hours.

Dental Hygienist Video Transcript

Dental hygienists provide dental care that promotes good oral health and helps prevent or repair problems with patient’s teeth. A typical day involves examining patient’s teeth and gums for cavities and disease, cleaning and polishing teeth, and teaching patient’s proper brushing and flossing techniques. Hygienists wear gloves, safety glasses, and surgical masks and follow strict safety procedures at all times. Most take X-rays of patient’s teeth. To be successful in this profession you must be detail-oriented and have the ability to work well with your hands. You can expect daily interaction with many different people from all walks of life.

While almost all dental hygienists work with dentist offices, about half work part-time. Since dentists often hire hygienists for a few days per week, some hygienists work for more than one dentist to reach full-time hours in the field. An associate’s degree in dental hygiene is required in this profession and usually takes three years to complete. All states also require dental hygienists to be licensed. In this career, you’ve got your patient’s back, or rather their teeth.

Article Citations

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Dental Hygienists.

National Center for O*NET Development. 29-2021.00. O*NET OnLine.

The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.

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