A dental hygienist is a licensed dental professional who is registered with a dental association or regulatory body within their country of practice. They are a primary healthcare professional who works independent of, or alongside dentists and other dental professionals in a team to provide full oral health care. They have the training and education that focus and specialise in the prevention and treatment of oral disease. They can choose to work in a range of dental settings from independent practice, private practice, specialists practices to public sector; and can also work in residential aged care facilities.
Dental hygienists have a specific scope of clinical procedures they provide to their patients. They assess a patients condition in order to offer patient-specific preventative and educational services to promote and maintain good oral health. The use of therapeutic methods assists their patients in controlling oral disease, while providing tailored treatment plans that emphasize the importance of behavioral changes . In most jurisdictions, hygienists work for a dentist or dental specialist, and some are licensed to administer local anesthesia and perform dental radiography.
The major role of a dental hygienist is to perform periodontal therapy which includes things such periodontal charting, periodontal debridement (scaling and root planing), prophylaxis (cleaning) for patients with periodontal disease. In addition dental hygienists are able to perform examinations, make diagnosis, take intraoral radiographs, dental sealants, administer fluoride, and provide patient specific oral hygiene instruction. They are also able to work at an orthodontic clinic and can perform many tasks there. Such as selecting and sizing of orthodontic bands for dental braces, the removal of orthodontic appliances and are able to make dental impressions for the construction of study casts and mouthguards.
Dental hygienists work together with other dental professionals, with a higher number working at general practices with dentists, dental therapists and oral health therapists. A smaller number work at specialist practices alongside orthodontists and periodontists. They help with the contribution of an interdisciplinary approach, aiming to provide optimum oral health care to their patients. Dental hygienists also aim to work interprofessionally to provide holistic oral health care in the best interest of their patient.
Dental hygienists also offer expertise in their field and can provide a dental hygiene diagnosis, which is an integral component of the comprehensive dental diagnosis. Other areas that relate to dentistry that dental hygienists can be involved in are: • Research: They can carry out clinical studies and trials alongside specialists in teaching institutions. • Professional Education: They are able to provide education by teaching and training dental hygiene students and dental assistants. They can also choose to present research at a variety of different events and seminars within their industry. • Community health: They provide assistance and group talks in community dental clinics, residential care, hospitals and nursing homes.