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What is a Dental Hygienist?

A registered dental hygienist (RDH) is a dental health specialist that promotes the prevention of oral and systemic disease, provides non-surgical periodontal therapy, and helps maintain the overall dental health of patients.

An applicant must complete pre-requisites college credits. They may then apply to an accredited  associate degree program which is the minimum education required to achieve licensure. Bachelor of Science programs are also available. To practice in the State of California, all registered dental hygienists (RDH) must graduate from an accredited program and pass a written and practical examination. For more information contact the Dental Hygiene Board of California (DHBC).

In California, a clinical RDH works under the general supervision of a licensed dentist and may be employed in a variety of dental settings including dental offices or in public health settings. With advanced training, dental hygienists can be researchers, educators, or join corporations providing education and sales support.

A clinical dental hygienist will evaluate a patient’s condition by accomplishing intra and extra oral assessments (including a screening for oral cancer and myofunctional disorders), take x-rays, provide a cleaning (prophylaxis), topical fluoride, sealants and offer patient-specific preventative and educational services that lead to good oral health. RDHs may take dental impressions for the construction of study casts and mouth guards. An Extended Functions RDH (RDHEF) may have additional duties.

A major role of the dental hygienist is to perform periodontal therapy, which includes periodontal charting, periodontal scaling and root planing (deep cleaning), and periodontal maintenance procedures for patients with ongoing periodontal disease.

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