The dental team: Careers in the dental field, part 3

When you walk into a dental office there are various people who are involved in your care and treatment other than the dentist. This is our third and final article in this series in which we hopefully have been giving you some insight into the duties and responsibilities of your dental health providers. In this article we learn about the complex and multifaceted duties of the dental hygienist. Dental hygienists have many important responsibilities within a dentist’s office, and are an indispensable member of any dental office staff.

Dental hygentist

A dental hygienist is not a dentist; however, they are a critical member of the dental team. What do dental hygienists do? Well, the quick answer would be that they clean your teeth, but that would be only a small portion of what is actually involved in their duties. A more accurate description is that a dental hygienist is a licensed oral health professional who offers preventative dental care and teaches their patients care of their teeth and oral health.

Duties of the dental hygentist

Here is a list of things that they do and some of the services they provide:

During regular checkups, a dental hygienist will formulate your dental history chart to accurately record the conditions existing in your mouth so that they may be referred to at future visits.

They will conduct oral health assessments which include a number of things such as: reviewing your health history; taking blood pressure; taking dental radiographs (x-rays); and measuring the pockets between your teeth and gums to determine the bone level to assess your periodontal health.

A dental hygienist will constantly check your mouth for problems like periodontal (gum) disease, tooth decay, and perform oral cancer screenings.

A dental hygienist will remove soft and hard deposits of plaque and calculus (tartar) that have formed on your teeth. They may need to perform additional treatment, such as root planning or laser therapy, if periodontal disease is present.

Dental hygienists put on cavity preventive agents like fluoride and dental sealants. Fluoride strengthens the enamel and protects the teeth from acids produced by plaque. Sealants are protective coatings generally placed on the 6 and 12 year molars to cover the pits and grooves in the back teeth to avoid decay from starting.

Additionally, dental hygienists advise and educate patients about general oral hygiene techniques to maintain healthy teeth and gums. They teach basic behaviors that keep the teeth healthy, such as how to brush their teeth, the importance of flossing, and the purpose of mouthwash and fluoride. The dental hygienist will counsel you on proper nutrition ato maintain oral health as well as food and drinks that should be avoided.


The dental hygienist is a healthcare professional who is able to offer services after obtaining the proper licensing or credentials from the appropriate jurisdiction. To work in this field, you must graduate from an accredited community college, technical college, university or dental school. You will also need to pass a national written standardized exam administered by the American Dental Association’s Joint Commission of National Dental Examiners. Additionally, depending on the state you plan to practice in, you will have to successfully pass a practical clinical examination administered by either your state’s board of dental examiners or a regional board.

The role of the dental hygienist is continuously changing to meet the needs of our society and provide the highest quality of oral health care. Through collaboration with other health care professionals the goal of attaining and maintaining optimal oral health and wellness can be achieved.

Remember, don’t neglect your dental hygiene and see your a dental hygienist twice a year to keep your teeth and gums healthy and disease free.


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