Who is the Dental Hygienist?
The dental hygienist is the member of the oral healthcare profession who provides treatment to prevent dental caries (cavities) and periodontal (gum) disease. Dental Hygienists are licensed professionals who must graduate from a nationally accredited educational program and successfully complete both a written national board examination and a state or regional clinical examination.
What Is the Education Preparation for Dental Hygienists?
Educational preparation for registered dental hygienists typically involves classroom study in subjects emphasizing basic sciences, dental sciences, dental hygiene theory (including pain control, nutrition, oral health education and preventive counseling) and periodontology, as well as supervised instruction in pre-clinical and clinical skills. Degrees include associates, bachelors and masters. Dental hygienists in New York State also have continuing education requirements throughout their career.
What Do Dental Hygienists Do?
Dental hygienists provide many services including cleaning teeth (prophylaxis); non-surgical periodontal procedures (deep scaling and root planing); applying chemo-therapeutic agents; taking x-rays; providing fluoride treatments; applying sealants; examining the condition of the mouth, teeth and gums; and educating patients to maintain optimum oral health.
Where Do Dental Hygienists Work?
While most registered dental hygienists practice in private dental offices, others provide services in hospitals; managed care organizations; federal, state and municipal health departments; primary and secondary school systems; private businesses and industry; correctional institutions; and private and public centers for pediatric (children), geriatric (elderly) and other groups with special needs. Dental hygienists work as clinical practitioners, educators, researchers, administrators, managers, preventive program developers and consultants.
Disease Detection and Oral Health
By taking medical and oral histories, monitoring blood pressure, conducting head and neck exams, and focusing on extensive oral exams, dental hygienists are gaining a reputation as experts in preventive intervention. They are alerting their patients to the possibilities that they may have a life altering systemic illness, and they are often doing so early enough to save lives.
Many dental hygienists consider it part of their job to detect the presence of illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension in their patients. Although dental hygienists don't make a diagnosis, they explain to the patient what they find and the possible causes.