What Does a Dental Hygienist Do?
Working under the supervision of a dentist, dental hygienists perform many tasks related to dental health and hygiene. Dental hygienists have a lot of independence on the job and often fulfill roles normally done by a dentist such as screening patients, assessing a patient’s general oral health, reviewing a patient’s health history, performing oral cancer screenings and doing dental charting. Other specific tasks include:
- Examining teeth and gums for signs of problems;
- Polishing the teeth by removing deposits and stains, scaling tartar and cleaning beneath the margins of gums;
- Applying medications to teeth and gums to help prevent decay;
- Teach patients and community groups about oral hygiene;
- Cleaning, sharpening and sterilizing supplies and equipment;
- Keeping patients’ records;
- Placing and removing temporary restorations;
- Removing sutures;
- Administering local anesthetics.
How Do I Become a Dental Hygienist?
In Virginia, dental hygienists must be licensed. Most hygienists receive 2-year associate degrees from community colleges, although some earn a bachelor’s degree. Applicants for licensure as a dental hygienist must: graduate from an accredited school or program of dental hygiene; pass the dental hygiene exam of the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations before applying for a license; and complete the Board of Dentistry’s exam on Virginia dental hygiene laws and regulations.