Dental hygienists help people maintain healthy smiles and healthy bodies
The dental hygiene profession was founded more than 100 years ago, in 1913, and today there are more than 185,000 registered dental hygienists across the U.S. who provide professional oral health care to help people maintain healthy smiles and healthy bodies.
Dental hygienists are primary health care providers. Their role entails providing several health and oral health assessments and evaluations to determine oral health status and links between oral and systemic health. After the oral health assessments, the dental hygienist determines the dental hygiene diagnosis, and along with the dentist and the patient determines the best course of treatment to prevent or treat oral disease.
Preventive and therapeutic oral hygiene can include removing hard and soft deposits from teeth using hand instruments, ultrasonic tools, air polishers, and possibly lasers. Additionally, they may apply fluoride,sealants, anesthetic, nitrous oxide, and oral medications. Dental hygienists obtain radiographs (x-rays) of teeth and the surrounding bone to further determine oral disease such as dental caries, bone loss, and hard deposits below the gum line.
Dental hygienists help patients develop and
maintain good oral health by:
- Educating patients on how to care for their teeth.
- Helping patients to identify life style habits, such as soda sipping, that might be causing dental caries.
- Providing information and resources for patients to quit using tobacco or vaping products.
- Performing oral cancer screenings and educate patients on oral cancer risk factors, signs, and symptoms.
- Encouraging patients to adopt healthy eating habits.
- Providing referrals to allied health professionals and specialized oral health care as needed.
Dental hygienists educate, examine, and treat patients for oral diseases such as gingivitis, periodontal disease, and tooth decay.
- Work Environment
In 2014, almost all dental hygienists worked in dentists’ offices, and more than half worked part time. More opportunities are becoming available for dental hygienists to work in alternative settings. Learn more about the Work Environment
- How to Become a Dental Hygienists?
Dental hygienists need an associate’s degree in dental hygiene and are licensed by the state. Programs typically take 3 years to complete. Find a program here.
- Job Outlook
Employment of dental hygienists is projected to grow 19 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. Ongoing research linking oral health to general health will continue to spur demand for preventive dental services, which are provided by dental hygienists.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Dental Hygienists, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dental-hygienists.htm
Whether you are a student or a working professional, joining the largest professional organization representing the interests of dental hygienists is the right choice. As a member, you’ll enjoy support, professional discounts, educational programs and numerous opportunities for participation. With your support, we can carry out our mission to advance the art and science of dental hygiene, and to promote the highest standards of education and practice in the profession.