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Dental Hygienist

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.

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