The Dental Hygienist: About the Profession

A dental hygienist is a licensed health care professional, oral health educator, and clinician who, as a cotherapist with the dentist, provide preventive, educational, and therapeutic services supporting total health for the control of oral diseases and the promotion of overall health.

The dental hygienist is the member of the oral health care team focused on preventing oral disease and identifying and treating oral disease while it is still manageable. Dental hygienists are primary care oral health professionals who administer a range of oral health services including prophylaxis, dental radiographs, sealant application, fluoride treatments, oral cancer screenings, oral health education, and in many states dental hygienists play an active role in placing restorations.

Registered dental hygienists are especially knowledgeable about the preventive aspects of oral care and view prevention as their central focus.

Generally, the dental hygienist may work in general and specialty oral health practices. Other areas of employment include programs for research, professional education, and community health; hospital and institutional care of disabled persons; federal programs, such as the armed services; or other health service locations as specified in statute or as authorized by the state board of dentistry