Have you ever been to a dental clinic? If so then you must have met an individual who introduced themselves as a dental hygienist. A dental hygienist is a licensed health care professional who works together with dentists to provide preventive oral care. Although these individuals don’t identify and cure dental problems, they do provide valuable information and tips on sustaining good oral hygiene. You may wonder, what is the dental hygienist job description?

Dental Hygienist Job Description

There are three main types of services offered by a dental hygienist: prevention, education, and treatment. During a dental visit, patients are first guided to a dental hygienist who examines their gums and teeth for potential oral problems. A good dental hygienist often educates the patient on how to maintain good oral hygiene, such as how to floss or selecting the right toothbrush. They may even develop a care plan for the patient to take home. If necessary, the hygienist may be required to remove hard and soft deposits of stains, tartar, and plaque from teeth. In some cases, the oral care professional may also administer anesthetics, prepare and apply filling materials, and remove sutures. The dental hygienist works alongside dentists and nurses to provide the best oral care possible for the patient.

The job duties of a dental hygienist include:

  • Checking gums and teeth for oral abnormalities
  • Taking and developing dental x-rays
  • Educating patients on oral hygiene
  • Developing care plans for maintaining good dental hygiene
  • Smoothing and polishing metal restorations
  • Fluoride administration and sealant applications
  • Administering local anesthetic
  • Removing stains and plaque
  • Placing filling materials, temporary fillings, and periodontal dressings

How to become a Dental Hygienist

A high school diploma and college entrance test scores are usually required for admission to a dental hygienist program. The applicant must be at least 18 years of age.

The dental hygienist program, or Associate’s degree, is typically only 2 years. This program is the most common route taken by students. However, some students may choose a 4-year Bachelor’s degree, allowing them to expand their clinical expertise and advance more rapidly in their careers. Master’s degrees are also offered; this extra 2-year graduate program gives opportunities to students who wish to venture further into research.

Read More: Find a Dental Hygienist School

Dental Hygienist Training

During the dental hygiene program, students are required to complete a certain number of hours in a dental office, usually under the supervision of a licensed dental hygienist or a dentist.

Dental Hygienist Certification

For a dental hygienist to practice in the United States, they must first obtain a license in the state they wish to work. To apply for licensure, one must graduate from a dental hygiene program with an Associate degree, a Bachelor’s degree, or a Master’s degree that is accredited by the American Dental Hygienists Association. In addition, students are required to pass a written examination and a clinical examination before obtaining their license.

Read More: How Much do Dental Hygienists Make?

Dental Hygienist Job Description Summary

  • Provide preventative oral care
  • Work with dentists
  • 2-4 years of education
  • Must be licensed to practice
  • 33% employment growth by 2022