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What Does a Dental Hygienist Do? An Overview of Their Duties

February 09, 2023 · 3 min read

A dental hygienist is an important member of a dental healthcare team, responsible for promoting oral health and preventing gum disease and tooth decay. Their role goes beyond just cleaning teeth and includes a variety of duties and responsibilities aimed at ensuring patients maintain good oral health.

The primary duty of a dental hygienist is to clean teeth and provide preventive care. This involves removing plaque, tartar, and stains from the teeth using various tools such as scaling instruments and ultrasonic devices. They also polish teeth to leave them smooth and clean. During the cleaning process, dental hygienists also look for signs of oral problems such as cavities, gum disease, and oral cancer. If any issues are identified, they will bring it to the attention of the dentist for further examination.

In addition to teeth cleaning, dental hygienists also play a key role in educating patients about good oral hygiene practices. They teach patients how to properly brush and floss their teeth and provide information about the importance of maintaining a healthy diet to prevent tooth decay. They may also provide custom mouthguards and other preventive devices to help protect against injury and tooth damage.

Another important duty of dental hygienists is to take and develop radiographs (x-rays) to help the dentist diagnose and treat oral health problems. They are trained to position patients properly, expose the x-rays, and develop the films for interpretation by the dentist. Dental hygienists also use computer technology such as digital x-rays and computerized charting to keep accurate records of patient treatment and progress.

Dental hygienists also play an important role in the administration of local anesthetics and nitrous oxide. They may also prepare patients for dental procedures by taking impressions, making temporary restorations, and applying topical anesthetics. Additionally, dental hygienists may assist the dentist during complex dental procedures, such as root canals, by preparing and cleaning the area.

Aside from their clinical duties, dental hygienists also have responsibilities in the business and administrative side of the dental practice. This may include tasks such as scheduling appointments, maintaining patient records, billing, and managing the inventory of supplies.

To become a dental hygienist, individuals must complete an accredited program in dental hygiene, which typically takes two years to complete. Upon completion, they must also pass a written and clinical exam to become licensed to practice. Continuing education is important for dental hygienists to keep up with the latest advances in technology and techniques and to maintain their license.

In conclusion, dental hygienists play a crucial role in promoting good oral health and preventing oral problems. They clean teeth, provide preventive care, educate patients, take x-rays, assist the dentist during procedures, and perform a variety of business and administrative tasks. With their expertise and dedication, dental hygienists help ensure that patients maintain healthy and beautiful smiles.

by Liza Sushko

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