Dental Hygienist – Everything Patients Ever Wanted to Know

Freida, the 40-year-old single mother of a teenage boy took off from the office on the pretext of taking his son to a dentist for the removal of stains from his teeth. On their arrival at the dentist’s office, they spent most of their time with a dental hygienist who not only removed stains, tartar and plaque but also gave valuable tips on how to maintain good oral hygiene. Before proceeding further, let’s understand who is a dental hygienist.

Dental Hygienist – meaning, roles, importance and how to select tips

Dental hygienist – Meaning and definition

A dental hygienist is an oral healthcare professional who is trained to provide preventive oral health care treatment to patients. A dental hygienist is an integral part of a dental office as he does oral cleaning and checks teeth for potential damages and abnormalities. He also suggests the kind of treatment to be given as per the findings of the assessment. He educated patients on how to keep their teeth and gum healthy.

What does a dental hygienist do?

You may have heard about dentist and their roles. But what does a dental hygienist do? The question intrigues many. Here we describe the roles and responsibilities of a dental hygienist.

They do dental cleanings

As the name suggests, a dental hygienist’s foremost task is to do dental cleaning. They are well trained for it. They know how to remove tartar, stains and plaque from teeth. They are well equipped with tools and techniques to make teeth healthy and shining once again.

They do dental X-ray

X-rays are now an essential tool for diagnosing oral health issues. X-rays help a dental hygienist in the early detection of diseases. With X-rays a dental health professional identifies signs of cavities, tumors and infection. After detection, treatment for such disorders can be started.

They ensure protection

A dental hygienist is also well trained in protecting the teeth. You might have heard about the role of sealants and fluorides in the protection of teeth. Fluoride helps protect teeth from acid erosion while sealants are helpful for children. A dentist is highly experienced in applying sealants and fluoride to ensure long-lasting protection to your teeth.

They assess patients

Assessing patients and knowing their oral health history is one of the important responsibilities of a dental hygienist. He assesses the patient on various counts like the patient’s previous treatment history, present medical condition, prescription medicines he has taken and medical emergencies he has been treated for.

Besides, he also examines patients for tooth decay and other diseases before the patients meet the dentist.

They educate patients

Right knowledge is the key to good dental health. They educate patients about how to take care of oral health. As they are trained professionals, they educate patients on how to brush and floss. They may guide patients on healthy dietary habits to ensure good dental health.

Documentation treatment and instructions

Apart from cleaning teeth and educating patients, dentists play a vital role as a link between patients and dentists. They prepare patients before taking them to the dentist. After assessing the patients, he documents his finding and gives his recommendation.

As the dentist treats the patients, he documents the instructions on the prescription. He also maintains the patient's records at the dentist’s office.

Difference between a dentist and a dental hygienist

Most of us on a visit to a dental office meet a dentist and a dental hygienist. So, many of us have queries like if both professions are one and the same. These professionals may be working in the same team but they are not the same. Here we differentiate between these two on the following counts.


When it comes to education, dentists and dental hygienists get different education. The basic education requirement for a dentist is DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or  DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) while it is an associate degree for dental hygienists.


When it comes to training, dentists and dental hygienist differ here too. The DDS program is of two years duration but can be extended to meet the students’ requirements. But before doing DDS or DMD they have to study science subjects in their undergraduate study program. On average, a dentist has to get 8 years of education.

For dental hygienists, there are two programs, an associated degree (2 years duration) and a bachelor's degree (4 years duration)

Roles and responsibilities

When it comes to the role and responsibilities of a dentist and a dental hygienist there is a difference. Here we list the role and responsibilities of both these professions.

Roles of dentist

  • He performs treatments like root canal, dental implants and dental crowns among others.
  • Most of dentists know how to use sedatives and anesthetics for disruption-free treatment.
  • He can take X-rays if technicians are not there.
  • He prescribes medicines for a speedy recovery.
  • He treats fractured or chipped teeth wherever required.
  • He takes impressions so that dentures of the right size can be built.
  • As most of dentists operate on their own, they might have to manage their team looking after the business side of the dental office.

Also Read

Qualities of a Dentist – 30 Qualities that Make Him Apart

Roles of dental hygienist

  • Taking the history of oral health issues before the dentist examines the patient.
  • He cleans the mouth for hygiene.
  • He removes stains, tartar and plaque from the mouth.
  • He suggests diet and lifestyle changes to patients for good oral health.
  • Identifies dental health issues like tooth decay, gum disease or other oral issues and communicates the same to the dentist.
  • He takes an X-ray and gives a background of the issue to the dentist.
  • He documents the instructions and prescription of the dentist and decipher it to the patient.
  • A dental hygienist is also a part of the office of emergency dentist where he helps patient get the treatment right.


Compensation is another factor where there is a marked difference between a dentist and a dental hygienist.

As per data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics the average median pay of a dentist in 2021 was $163,220 per year or $78.47 per hour.

On the other hand, the average median pay of the dentist hygienist for the same period was $77,810 per year or $37.41 per hour.

Job Outlook

As per US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for the dentist for 2021-31 is 6%.

On the other hand, the job outlook of dental hygienists for the same period is 9%, which is 3% higher than the of dentists.

Top Reasons to visit a dental hygienist

Why should I visit a dental hygienist? Is visiting a dental hygienist worth it? Is visiting a dental hygienist all that important? Here we give you the top reasons why should you visit a dental hygienist.

Want healthy gums? Visit a dental hygienist

Healthy gums and healthy teeth go together. But sometimes people get gum disease which is caused by bacteria. Gum disease is caused by plaque, a form of bacteria, and if left untreated it may lead to further complications and loosening of teeth sockets and finally loss of teeth.

Here a dental hygienist removes the plaque and tartar and saves you from further complications.

Want whiter teeth? Visit a dental hygienist

Some foods, beverage and tobacco products leave stains on teeth that diminishes our looks. But you don’t have to worry as these stains can be removed by scaling and polishing. A dental hygienist is experienced in doing this. Seek an appointment with a dental hygienist to get shining white teeth.

Upset with bad breath? Visit a dental hygienist

Bad breath is not only a menace to you but to everyone around you. Bad breath is a clear sign of bad oral hygiene. Sometimes pieces of food get stuck in small cavities of teeth. If these are not removed in time, the formation of bacteria starts resulting to bad breath. Your dental hygienist cleans your mouth, suggest medicines and educates you on how to keep away the bad breath.

Want early detection of oral disease? Visit a dentist

They say a stitch in time saves nine. The same applies with oral health issues. Here diseases if diagnosed in infancy can be treated and stopped from getting bigger. On a visit to a dental hygienist, you may expect to examine your teeth for early signs of cancer, tooth decay and ill-fit fillings.

Want to get rid of tooth sensitivity? Visit a dentist

Many of us suffer from teeth sensitivity that keeps us away from eating certain foods. A dental hygienist is better equipped to find the reasons behind it. it may be happening due to gum recession or tooth wear. A dental hygienist may advise you on how to brush and what to eat to keep the sensitivity in check.

 Top qualities of a dental hygienist

Today’s patients are wise. So, while visiting a hygienist, they look for whether they are competent or not. But how can you find them? There are certain traits that make a perfect hygienist. Look whether your dental hygienist has all or most of these qualities.

They are patient

As a dental hygienist, you have to deal with a lot of challenging people. There are patients who are afraid of coming to the office. Here as a dental hygienist, you have to make them comfortable so that the treatment can be completed without any disruption. A dental hygienist makes a patient comfortable by explaining to him the procedures.

They educate patients

Educating patients is one of the important qualities of a dental hygienist. A good dental hygienist has to educate their patient about how to maintain good oral health. He educates the patient about good dental habits and what to eat and how.

They are detail-oriented

A dentist requires to be very detail-oriented. As he has to work in a very small space, their attention to detail helps them work with precision. Even the smallest of error on his part can create further problems.

They have manual dexterity

Manual dexterity is one of the major traits of a successful dental hygienist. Because manual dexterity helps them work effectively while doing dental cleaning or whitening.

They should be hardworking

A dental hygienist has to perform a lot of functions like cleaning teeth, taking history, doing X-rays, and playing several other roles. So, a dental hygienist should be hardworking as he has walk throughout the day.

Also Read

Pediatric Dentist – How to Hire the Right Child Dentist


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