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Job Description of a Dental Hygienist

By: CareerFactsheet editors- Updated: Jun 21,2017

When people think about dental care, the first person that comes to mind is the dentist. But then, dentists are not the only ones working in a dental office. There are the dental assistant and the dental hygienist who assist the dentist in most of his work.

What Does a Dental Hygienist Do?

A dental hygienist assists the dentist in his dental work. He performs various tasks as instructed by the dentist that includes bleaching and cleaning the teeth. Aside from these, a hygienist also checks a patient's gums and teeth to provide valuable insights about the patient's oral health. It is also his responsibility to instruct patients about the proper techniques in brushing and flossing the teeth.

A hygienist plays an educative role in the sense he helps the dentist teach patients about proper dental hygiene practices to avoid build up of plaque and various diseases associated with the gums and the mouth. Not to be confused with dental assistants, dental hygienists perform more specialized tasks than dental assistants who work chair side dentists – giving him instruments and maintaining the office.

The role of a dental hygienist
  • Teeth Cleaning. Because of the different kinds of food that you eat, it is inevitable for teeth to build tartar and stain deposits. These can also be brought about by too much alcohol consumption and smoking. These deposits are what hygienists are allowed to do apart from other dental tasks such as bleaching and polishing.
  • Taking dental images or x-rays of teeth. Hygienists are also tasked to take dental x-rays of patients' teeth in order for the dentist to make conclusive diagnosis about teeth, gums, and mouth problems that patients might have. This is crucial because some of these problems are not visible to the eye and can only be viewed through x-rays.
  • Supervision of lab tests for patients. Dental hygienists may request for lab tests and x-rays for patients even without a dentists approval – that is one of the tasks that sets him apart from other dental office personnel such as the dental assistant. In fact, in the absence of the dentist, a hygienist can provide and explain the x-ray reading to the patient himself.
  • Carry out minor precautionary treatments. Dental hygienists can now handle tasks that used to be performed by dentists as well and this includes application of fluorides, varnishes, and fissure sealants on patients' teeth.
  • Assessment of patient's oral health. Dental hygienists are like dentists in the sense they can now evaluate a patient's dental well being and provide diagnosis on diseases of the mouth and gums.

Apart from these general tasks, dental hygienists are also permitted to administer anesthesia and remove surgical dressings or sutures, but depending on the State they are practicing their profession.

Working Conditions and Schedules of Dental Hygienists

Dental hygienists work in well-lit dental offices with dentists and dental assistants. They usually wear surgical masks and gloves to protect against diseases brought in by patients. Likewise, because they handle x-ray procedures, they ensure to follow safety procedures for themselves and the patients' protection as well.

What hygienists like about their job is that they get to work with several dentists at a time. Because most dentists hire part-time dental hygienists, hygienists' work schedules are often flexible – from a couple of hours a day (about 4 hours), 3-4 times a week only. This schedule is what allows hygienists to work part-time for other dentists, too.

Working as a dental hygienist is something that you might want to consider. It not only offers financial stability for you, but you also get to help other people with their dental problems. If this is something you are considering as a career option, you must then finish a certificate course or associate degree course in dental hygiene to start you off in this lucrative career.

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