Dental hygienists perform an important role in the dental office. Their tasks include removing calculus and stains, helping to prevent dental disease, applying preventive agents and taking radiographs (X-rays). Hygienists perform oral cancer screenings, take patients' medical history, take vital signs and educate patients on ways to improve and maintain good oral health.
Other job duties may include:
Dental hygienists find employment in private dental offices, corporate dental practices, hospitals, public health, higher education, the armed services, marketing and research fields. Roles of the dental hygienist include clinician, educator, researcher, administrator/manager and advocate.
Dental hygienists must be good at working with their hands in tight quarters using very precise instruments. They should be comfortable performing physical tasks, such as bending over or standing for a long time. Dental hygienists must understand how to operate complex technology, including X-ray machines and powered instruments.
A good dental hygienist:
Performs as a member of the professional dental team.
A dental hygienist is a professional licensed by the state and usually must have an associate degree. There’s a big difference in the scope of work, as well as salaries. The biggest differences between the two are the licensure to practice and that a dental hygienist often works one-on-one with patients performing independent tasks, while dental assistants are not licensed and primarily assist the dentist.
Need to get your feet wet before jumping all-in?Brookhaven, Cedar Valley, Mountain View and Richland College offer a continuing education Dental Assisting program, which can provide entry-level dental assisting experience.
Ready to take your first step toward a career in dental hygiene?