Career Profile: Dental Hygienist
• Enjoy working with your hands?
• Enjoy working with people one-on-one?
• Want to learn more about teeth and oral health?
If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, then a career as a Dental Hygienist may be right for you!
What Is A Dental Hygienist?
A Dental Hygienist is a registered dental professional who specializes in preventative oral care and proper oral hygiene. Dental Hygienists typically offer three types of general services:
1. Preventative Services – to promote and maintain good oral health
2. Educational Services – teaching patients about the importance of maintaining good oral health and showing them ways to maintain their oral health
3. Therapeutic services – treatments to help stop diseases in the mouth
Specific job duties performed under these three services include:
• Assessment, Diagnostics, Planning, Implementing and Evaluating the individual needs of the patient (ADPIE)
• Scaling and root planning (cleaning)
• Polishing stains off teeth
• Fluoride treatments
• Taking and exposing x-rays
• Conducting oral cancer screening
• Making whitening trays and sport guards for patients
• Placing pit and fissure sealants on the grooves of the teeth
• Irrigating the tissues (gums) with therapeutic agents to help stop/prevent disease
• Educating patients about proper brushing, flossing, mouth rinse etc.
• Explaining oral health conditions with patients (such as gingivitis, periodontitis) as well as how to prevent such conditions
Where Does A Dental Hygienist Work?
A Dental Hygienist may work in a variety of settings:
• Private dental offices (general and specialized dentistry)
• Self-initiated Dental Hygienists can open their own dental hygiene practice in certain provinces such as Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia
• Public health offices
Some Dental Hygienists may also prefer to work:
• As teachers and administrators in Dental Hygiene Colleges and Universities
• In dental sales and dental research
What Is A Typical Day For A Dental Hygienist Like?
A typical day for a Dental Hygienist in a general dentistry dental office is to:
• Set up their work space for the day (stock up, place barriers, set up dental trays etc.)
• Review charts of patients coming in for appointments
• Take in patient – review their medical history, ask if they have any concerns with their oral health. Take any prescribed x-rays (optional)
• Follow ADPIE with patient
• Complete an assessment of their oral health – assess teeth, gums and surrounding tissues
• Diagnose problems or concerns and decide on a course of action for the appointment
• Implement action plan: begin to scale (clean) teeth, polish stains, administer fluoride or therapeutic agents (if required)
• Educate the patient on their oral health and on proper brushing and flossing techniques and other dental aids specific to their mouth
• Ask the dentist to perform an oral examination on the patient
• Record notes from the appointment in the patient’s chart. Dismiss patient.
• Disinfect the operatory between patients (place dental instruments in sterilizer) and set up operatory for next patient
How Do You Become A Dental Hygienist?
1. Attend a college or university (Western Canada) that offers a Dental Hygiene training program (preferably an accredited program).
2. Complete the Dental Hygiene program successfully.
3. Write the Dental Hygienist certification exam put out by the National Dental Hygiene Certification Board (NDHCB).
4. Pass the exam and register with the College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario (or province of work) and then become a registered Dental Hygienist or RDH.