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Dental Hygienists


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a dental hygienist cleaning the teeth of a young patient Dental hygienists perform a wide variety of duties in the dentist's office or dental clinic, including cleaning teeth, administering fluoride treatments, examining teeth, noting issues and problems in records, and giving advice on preventative dental care such as brushing and flossing.  The breadth of work that dental hygienists are allowed to do varies by state; some states allow hygienists to administer anesthetics, perform temporary fillings, remove sutures, and apply periodontal dressings.  Dental hygienists use a wide variety of tools including x-ray machines, ultrasonic cleaning machines, and syringes.

Each state requires that dental hygienists are licensed to practice in that state.  In most cases, dental hygienists attend a two-year training program before taking the licensing exam.  Entrance requirements vary from school to school, with some dental hygienist training programs requiring that applicants complete a year of college, while others requiring that applicants have only a high school diploma.  High school students who are interested in becoming dental hygienists should be sure to take classes in biology and science.

Dental hygienists typically work in medical settings that are clean and well-lit.  They often spend significant amounts of time on their feet, and must wear gloves, masks, goggles, and other protective equipment as needed during some portion of the day.  Dental hygienists usually work 40-hour workweeks, though part-time work is available.  Some dental hygienists are required to work nights and/or weekends.

In addition to being licensed, and in most states graduating from an accredited dental hygienist training program, dental hygienists must be able to work well as part of at team, must have good bedside manners, and must be adept at calming nervous patients.  Because dental hygienists work inside the mouth with small tools, excellent fine motor skills are also necessary.

Job prospects for dental hygienists grow as the need for dental services expands.  The aging population, trends in certain areas of dentistry, and a growing focus on preventative care mean that there are plenty of job opportunities for dental hygienists.

For more information about dental hygiene careers, visit the American Dental Hygienists Association website.

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About Dental Hygienists' Job Responsibilities, Educational Requirements, and Working Conditions

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