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What Does a Dental Hygienist Do & The Importance of Their Role

What Does a Dental Hygienist Do & The Importance of Their Role


Dental Hygienists are dental professionals who help patients achieve and maintain healthy teeth and gums through the practice of dental hygiene. Aside from the traditional role of a dental hygienist, there are quite a few different paths within the dental hygiene field that can be taken.


Whatever path you decide to take as a dental professional, Safco Dental Supply is here to provide you with the best dental hygiene supplies and equipment. Unlike other dental distributors, dental hygienists can find and purchase the supplies they need. Today, we are breaking down everything you need to know about the role and importance of a dental hygienist.


The Importance of Dental Hygienists in the Health Industry

Dental hygienists are licensed dental professionals who are responsible for a number of things, including but not limited to:

  • Performing routine oral cleanings
  • Taking dental x-rays
  • Oral health screenings
  • Dental charting
  • Educating patients on proper oral hygiene practices
  • Applying protective fluoride sealants to the surfaces of the teeth


Dental hygienists work together with dentists to help patients achieve and maintain healthy teeth and gums. If any signs of decay or damage are spotted during a dental hygiene visit, the dentist is alerted, and a treatment plan will be put in place to render care. 


Likewise, if signs of oral cancer or gum disease are detected, the hygienist will immediately ensure that the dentist is made aware and steps are taken to make sure that the patient receives the specialized care that they need.


Educational Requirements for a Dental Hygienist

If you are interested in becoming a dental hygienist, you must first check your state requirements to make a plan for your education. Let’s take a look at the skills, degrees, and certifications that are typically required of someone interested in becoming a dental hygienist.


Degrees and Certifications

The educational requirements to become a dental hygienist vary from state to state, but most hygienists are required to earn their associate’s degree at a minimum. 


Accredited dental hygiene programs typically consist of topics and classes such as:

  • Anatomy
  • Medical ethics
  • Periodontics
  • Radiology
  • Pathology
  • Patient management techniques
  • Lab work


After a dental hygiene associate’s degree has been achieved, you will need to pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination and complete the licensing that is required by your state.


If you wish to take your career further and are interested in teaching or conducting formal dental research, you may wish to pursue your bachelor’s or master’s degree. This additional education can help open doors for various other dental hygiene career opportunities.


Necessary Skills and Knowledge for Dental Hygienists

Dental hygienists are skilled individuals who handle a myriad of tasks on a daily basis. Below are some of the most notable skills needed to become a dental hygienist:

  • Strong dexterity/motor function 
  • Communication
  • Strong teamwork/collaboration 
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem-solving
  • Compassion
  • Professional dental knowledge
  • Strong visual and auditory observation
  • Time management
  • Organization
  • Personal skills
  • Empathy


Daily Responsibilities of a Dental Hygienist

One question that many people have concerning dental hygiene is, “What does a hygienist do to your teeth?


The truth is that the daily responsibilities of a dental hygienist go far beyond simply “cleaning teeth”. Below is an account of the responsibilities that typically fall upon a dental hygienist on a day-to-day basis:

  • Review the medical and dental history of patients
  • Assess oral health risks
  • Conduct screenings for oral disease and/or decay
  • Remove plaque and tartar from the surface of the teeth
  • Take dental x-rays
  • Provide preventative care
  • Educate patients on proper oral hygiene practices
  • Document and record rendered care in patient charts
  • Communicate and work together with dentists to provide patients with the care they need
  • Apply whitening treatments
  • Recommend treatment plans for patients based upon findings


In-Depth Look into a Dental Hygienist’s Tools and Technology

Let’s take a look at some of the instruments and technology that dental hygienists typically use to provide their patients with the care they need.


Basic Dental Hygienist Instruments

Below are some basic dental hygienist instruments:

  • Curette: Used to remove plaque and tartar from the surfaces of the teeth and below the gumline.
  • Mirror: Allows the hygienist to view hard-to-reach areas inside the mouth.
  • Scaler: Used to remove plaque and tartar from the surfaces of the teeth. Differs from a curette in that it features a triangular head.
  • Saliva Ejector: Used to remove saliva and other liquids from the mouth.
  • Oral Evacuator: Used to remove pieces of debris or large amounts of liquid from the mouth that can not be removed with a saliva ejector.
  • Dental Probe: Used to measure pockets between the tooth and the gum. Helps hygienists diagnose the severity of gum disease.
  • Explorer: Used to detect cavities, plaque, and calculus.
  • Polishing Brush: Used to polish the surfaces of the teeth. Commonly referred to as a prophy angle.


Advanced Technology Used by Dental Hygienists

Below are some of the more advanced technologies that are used by dental hygienists:

  • Ultrasonic Scaler: Used to remove plaque and tartar rapidly through the use of ultrasonic vibrations.
  • Intraoral Scanner: Used to quickly produce digital three-dimensional models of the mouth.
  • Transilluminator: Used to detect carious lesions and calculus.
  • Oral Cancer Screening Tools: Used to detect signs of oral cancer. 


The Career Path of a Dental Hygienist

Contrary to popular belief, working as a dental hygienist is not a singular path that leads simply to clinical work in a dental office setting. 


Aside from working clinically with patients, the dental hygiene field includes career options such as:

  • Laboratory Instructor
  • Classroom Instructor
  • Educational Researcher
  • Dental Hygiene Program Director
  • Corporate Educator
  • Dental Office Manager
  • Dental Supply Sales
  • Pharmaceutical Sales
  • Community Clinic Administrator
  • University Professor
  • Product Researchers
  • Corporate Administrators
  • State Public Health Officer
  • Myofunctional Therapist


It is also worth considering that a dental hygienist is not simply confined to working in a dental office. Dental hygienists also work in community clinics, nursing homes, schools, university dental clinics, hospitals, and prison facilities.


The dental hygiene field is a diverse, interesting, and rapidly expanding field that provides a myriad of options. If you are considering any of the above dental hygiene career paths, do some research on the educational requirements within your state. 


Shop Dental Hygiene Supplies Online: Safco Dental

With the information you have learned here, you should be well-equipped to explore the career path of a dental hygienist. 


For high-quality instruments and dental equipment, place your trust in Safco Dental Supply. We provide a wide range of dental hygiene supplies and equipment to fit every need, with free shipping on orders over $250. 


We strive to get you your products as fast as possible. All orders placed before 4:30 pm CST (3:30 pm on Friday) are shipped out same-day.


Give us a call at 800.621.2178 to speak with one of our experts about professional dental hygiene equipment and supplies.

Are you looking for more informative dental content? Check out this piece on increasing your hygiene production, or this piece that covers evaluating hygiene product samples. Are you hoping to learn more about dental hygiene in general? Learn more about dental hygiene and National Dental Hygiene Month.

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