What is a Dental Hygienist?

Also known as: Registered Dental Hygienist, Hygienist.

A dental hygienist is someone who cleans teeth, examines patients for oral diseases such as gingivitis, and provides other preventative dental care. They also educate patients on ways to improve and maintain good oral health. Almost all dental hygienists work in dentists’ offices and work closely with dentists and dental assistants.

What does a Dental Hygienist do?

A dental hygienist uses many types of tools to do their job. They clean and polish teeth with both hand and powered tools, as well as ultrasonic devices. In some cases, hygienists remove stains with an air polishing device, which sprays a combination of air, water, and baking soda. They polish teeth with a powered tool that works like an automatic toothbrush, and use x-ray machines to take pictures to check for tooth or jaw problems.

Some other tasks of a dental hygienist include:

  • Removing tartar, stains, and plaque from teeth
  • Applying sealants and fluorides to help protect teeth
  • Taking and developing dental x-rays
  • Keeping track of patient care and treatment plans
  • Teaching patients oral hygiene, such as how to brush and floss correctly

Dental hygienists help patients develop and keep good oral health. They may explain the relationship between diet and oral health. They also may give advice to patients on how to select toothbrushes and other oral-care devices.

Sometimes patients are in extreme pain or mental stress, and the hygienist must be sensitive to their emotions. Dental hygienists must follow specific rules and protocols to help diagnose and treat a patient. In rare cases, dental hygienists work without the direct supervision of a dentist.

Dental hygienists must be good at working with their hands. They generally work in tight quarters on a small part of the body using very precise tools. Dental hygienists should be comfortable performing physical tasks, such as bending over patients for a long time. Dental hygienists must understand how to operate complex machinery, including x-ray machines and powered instruments.

Find your perfect career

Would you make a good dental hygienist? Sokanu's free assessment reveals how compatible you are with a career across 5 dimensions!

80% Match?
Take the free career test

What is the workplace of a Dental Hygienist like?

Almost all dental hygienists work in dentists’ offices, which are clean and well lit. They work closely with dentists and dental assistants.



Title Company Location Info

Further Reading

  • Dental Hygienist: Career Information careerplanning.about.com

    Dental hygienists clean patients' teeth and examine them for signs of disease and damage. They teach patients how to maintain good oral health.

  • Interview With Dental Hygienist, Julie Spaans www.careercolleges.com

    After 22 years in the field, Ms. Spaans has come to learn the career is about more than simply helping others keep their teeth clean. Career Colleges recently interviewed Ms. Spanns about why she loves her job, the unexpected connections she has made with her patients, and to discuss the day-to-day responsibilities of her position.

  • Pros And Cons Of Being A Dental Hygienist www.dentalhygienistsalaryjobs.com

    When choosing what career to enter there are many factors to take into consideration. It would be wise to learn as much as you can about being a dental hygienist and job shadow if possible before making a big investment on your education.

  • Dental Hygienist - Job Description www.ada.org

    In the dental office, the dentist and the dental hygienist work together to meet the oral health needs of patients. Since each state has its own specific regulations regarding their responsibilities, the range of services performed by hygienists varies from state to state.

  • Our Remarkable Role www.rdhmag.com

    The dental hygiene profession has dramatically changed in the last 100 years. When the profession was developed in 1906, the purpose of the dental hygienist was to provide preventive dental cleanings for patients. Today, the main purpose of dental hygiene is still to provide preventive dental care, however many more responsibilities have been added.

  • What Are Some Qualities A Person Should Have To Be A Good Dental Hygienist? work.chron.com

    If you’re patient, enjoy working with people, and care about their health, then this profession might be a good fit. It’s also a stable and growing field.

Similar Careers

Collections With This Career

Best Careers 2018
Our career picks exemplify what makes these careers so great: excellent job prospects, a great salary, and satisfying work. Read More
Careers for Moms
You’re a mom, and you just so happen to work (whether that’s a want or a need). Moms need more than a great salary to be fulfilled at work: They need flexibility and a company culture that values family. Read More
Most In-Demand Careers
Over the coming decades, some careers are expected to be more in demand than others. Occupations that are expected to have above-average opportunities are highlighted in this collection. Read More

Find your perfect career

Would you make a good dental hygienist? Sokanu's free assessment reveals how compatible you are with a career across 5 dimensions!

80% Match?
Take the free career test