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Understanding the Role of Dental Hygienists

July 13th, 2008


As dentistry plays an important part in healthcare, so does the role of the dental hygenist.  Dental hygienists are commonly employed in dentists offices to perform roles that dentists do not generally perform.  Dental hygienists can be responsible for a number of common procedures as well as teaching patients how to practice good oral hygiene.   According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, dental hygienists are among the fastest growing occupations within the next several years, so it may be beneficial for candidates to know a little more about the tasks and procedures they are responsible for.
Dental hygienists are responsible for removing hard and soft deposits from teeth, as well as cleaning teeth, instructing patients on proper dental hygiene habits, administering anti-cavity treatments and advice, treating some diseases of the mouth and taking x-rays of patients’ teeth and mouth.  Dental hygienists use a number of instruments to conduct their daily procedures including x-ray machines, hand and rotary instruments, and ultrasonic devices.  Some hygienists also administer anesthetics, place temporary fillings and periodontal dressings, and remove sutures.  Dental hygienists are also responsible for informing patients on how diet can impact teeth health, how to select toothbrushes and brush teeth, and how to floss teeth.  Many hygienists also work along side dentists during treatments.
Dental hygienists wear safety glasses and surgical masks to protect themselves from infectious diseases.  They must also have excellent people and communication skills, as they often deal with clients who are in pain.  They must also show good manual dexterity, as they will need to be able to operate with various types of hand tools.  Additionally, all dental hygienists must have a degree from an accredited dental hygiene school and must be licensed by the state they wish to practice in to be considered for dental hygiene jobs.
The demand for dental services will continue to grow as the elderly will see need to replace teeth and treat problems, and the younger generation will be more concerned with taking preventive measures to avoid teeth and gum problems with more regular treatments and office visits.  Employment in dental hygienists is expected to grow by 36% by 2018, adding 62,000 jobs, according to the bureau.  Median annual wages of dental hygienists were $66,570 in 2008, with the middle 50% earning between $55,220 and $78,990.