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Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists are licensed health professionals who focus on the prevention and treatment of diseases of the mouth and gums.

Dental hygienists work under the direction of dentists and oral surgeons in private dental offices, schools, public health clinics, hospitals, managed care organizations, correctional institutions, and nursing homes. Each state has specific regulations controlling the range of services dental hygienists can perform. Services may include:

  • Providing oral health care assessments that include reviewing individual health histories, dental charting, and oral cancer screening.
  • Taking and processing dental X-rays.
  • Cleaning the teeth by removing plaque and calculus (tartar) from above and below the gumline.
  • Applying cavity-preventing solutions, such as fluorides and sealants, to the teeth.
  • Teaching proper oral hygiene and plaque control techniques.
  • Developing individualized at-home oral hygiene programs.

Dental hygienists are graduates of accredited dental hygiene education programs. They must pass written and clinical exams before they can practice.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Steven K. Patterson, BS, DDS, MPH - Dentistry
Current as of May 29, 2013

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 29, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.