A dental hygienist is a dental health specialist that ensures the prevention of oral and systemic disease, administers non-surgical periodontal therapy, and maintains the overall dental health of patients. A dental hygienist will assess a patient’s condition and offer patient-specific preventative and educational services to promote behavioral changes that lead to good oral health. Another major role of the dental hygienist is to perform periodontal therapy, which includes prophylaxis (a professional dental, preventive cleaning), periodontal charting, periodontal scaling, root planing, and periodontal maintenance procedures for patients with ongoing periodontal disease.
Dental hygienists also take and develop intraoral radiographs, and apply dental sealants, topical fluoride, and dental impressions for the construction of study casts and mouth guards.
Two years of college in an accredited dental hygiene program with an associate degree in dental hygiene is the minimum education required to achieve a dental hygienist licensure. Four-year programs are also offered to achieve a bachelor of science degree. To practice in the state of California, all registered dental hygienists (RDH) must also successfully complete the written and practical examinations. For more information contact the Dental Hygiene Board of California (DHBC).
In California, a dental hygienist must work under the general supervision of a licensed dentist and may be employed in a variety of dental settings to include independent, private, or specialist practices in the public health area. Dental hygienists can serve as a researcher or also – with a bachelor’s degree – as an educator of dental hygiene programs.